Striking weather bad for rice crop

Lightning strikes in rice fields can lead to patches of dead, blackened plants. The shape of the affected area depends on the water in the field. (Special to The Commercial/University of Arkansas System Division)

When it comes to diagnosing problems in rice, farmers have a lot to choose from including disease, drought, flood, insects, soil health and weeds. However, Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division, is adding a new possibility to the list: lightning.

In his "Rice and Advice" episode on YouTube and Instagram, Hardke showed an oddly shaped patch of young row rice that seemed to be more cracked and bare soil than rice, according to a news release.

"Right off the bat, you can see the rice in this area definitely has a problem," he said. Pulling closer and pointing to some blackened plants, he said, "This rice pretty much looks like a crispy critter."

Hardke said the irregular shape of the affected area "can be explained by the lightning hitting it when the water is on the field."

Often when a lightning strike happens in a rice field without water, the resulting pattern is "more of a circular appearance overall to the affected area. Right at the center, there will be maybe a one- or two-foot circle that just looks like a burnt little hay-filled spot in the middle of a bullseye."

But if it hits standing water, "there's no telling which direction it's going to go," he said. "Flood depth and a lot of other factors are going to change the impact on the rice and everything surrounding it.

"It's really just one of those oddities," Hardke said.

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow the agency on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension.