Arkansas ranks first among rice-producing states, accounting for more than 40 percent of U.S. rice production -- primarily long and medium grain varieties. Rice production is concentrated in the eastern half of the state, stretching from the Louisiana to the Missouri borders. Arkansas rice is known for its versatility, and can be used in a wide variety of cuisines. It is enjoyed in the U.S. and throughout the world.

History

In the 1800s, growers in the prairie lands of Arkansas were in need of a dependable, profitable crop, and rice became a contender almost by accident, when W. H. Fuller ventured southwest to Louisiana in August of 1896 on a hunting trip. It was there he first saw rice growing, which ultimately led to the development of a leading agricultural industry for the state. Fuller, along with his brother-in-law John Morris and John’s wife Emma, are generally credited with founding the Arkansas rice industry. By 1910, rice production, research and milling were established in the state. Today the Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie in Stuttgart showcases the history of this major center for U.S. rice production.

Rice fact

Arkansas Rice Facts

Arkansas has been the nation’s leading rice producing state for over 50 years, and produces nearly half of all rice grown in the U.S. 

2021

2022

2023

Planted Acres

1,211,000

1,104,000

1,436,000

Harvested Acres

1,188,000

1,080,000

1,417,000

Yield (lbs/acre)

7,630

7,410

7,550

Total Production (cwt)

90,680,000

80,051,000

106,968,000

 

Rice is a semi-aquatic annual grass that is cultivated for it’s edible seed or grain. Arkansas is a great place to grow rice because of the climate, soil type, and water availability. 

Farmers often use land leveling equipment to grade fields for the most effective and efficient way to flood fields. When fields are drained, many farmers use tail-water recovery systems to store the water in reservoirs. 

Rice is planted in the spring, with planting beginning near the end of March and continuing into early June. 

Rice seed germinates best when the temperature is between 70 and 97 degrees Fahrenheit. 

When the rice plants have reached the proper growth stage, fields are flooded. 

Rice plants grow to a height of three to four feet over an average of 120 days.

Rice is a self-pollinating plant. Most of the grains that are fertilized will fill-becoming rice seed. It takes about 35 days for the grain to ripen. 

The fields are drained and allowed to dry somewhat before the rice is harvested with combines which separate the grains from the plant material. This process begins in late July and continues through November. 

The rice is then dried further to prepare for milling. 

Rice directly from the field is in a tough hull. That is called rough rice or paddy rice. 

The milling process removes the inedible outer hulls, which are often shipped to other parts of Arkansas to be used as poultry bedding. 

Removing the hull leaves brown rice—the grain is still covered in the bran layer. Removing the bran results in white rice. Rice bran is frequently used in animal feeds.

U.S. rice mills use state-of-the-art technology like laser sorters that separate broken, discolored, or immature grains and remove them from the whole grains during processing. 

During the winter, rice fields provide food and foraging for migratory and wintering fowl. It is estimated that in Arkansas, rice fields provide 35% of the food resources available to migrating waterfowl. The birds help increase soil nutrients and reduce weed and insect pressure.

 

Rice fact 2

For more information on Arkansas rice, visit the Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board website.