South Arkansas — especially Chicot and Ashley counties in the extreme southeast — has had “buckets of rainfall in August,” says Jason Kelley, Arkansas Extension corn and grain sorghum specialist. Some growers don’t know exactly how much rain they got “because their gauges overflowed but, in spots, it was at least 15 inches.”
The first part of the month, it wasn’t uncommon for fields to get 8 to 10 inches of rain. Then, “in the last hoorah out of Hurricane Fay, they got another inch or two. These conditions have seemed to drag on for a few weeks.”
Now in the last days of August, the rains have ceased. Still, many operations are too wet to harvest.
“We should have been harvesting corn wide-open in south Arkansas two weeks ago. Instead, growers have been sitting and waiting this wet period out.”
Several problems are beginning to show up. “Some of the (inundated) corn had weak stalks to begin with. Rainfall and warm weather are ideal for stalk issues to develop and there are fields where corn is starting to go down.
“Another issue is in some of the looser-shucked hybrids hit with all the rainfall. The corn matured and then water ran into the shuck. That’s led to some sprouting.”
The sprouting is not happening everywhere, says Kelley. And even where it is, all isn’t lost.
“I spoke with a grower this morning who’d gotten at least 15 inches of rain. He was concerned that at the base of the ear it’s kind of like a bucket — water was collecting there. That caused some sprouting but he didn’t think it was bad enough to cause dockage.”
Thankfully, south Arkansas skies have finally cleared off.
“We’ve got at least a few days before the next round of storms. I know everyone is hoping (Tropical Storm Gustav) veers away from us. If that hits, it would be bad news.”
How was the south Arkansas crop looking before the rains hit?
“Overall, it looked good and I think it’ll still be good corn. Will it be as good as last year? I don’t think so, but there are still 200-plus bushel cornfields out there.”
Regarding current harvesting efforts, “there are two camps. Those with bins and the capability to dry grain on-farm are harvesting hard, right now. For the guys with 18 percent moisture and planning to haul it to a terminal or dryer, they may wait a little. At that moisture level, they will be docked. I just wouldn’t wait too long.”
How’s the state’s grain sorghum looking?
“It’s in the same boat as the corn. The crop is behind schedule because of the spring conditions and being planted later. We didn’t have a lot of March-planted milo. It was mainly April-planted.
“And, again, with all the rains, there are pockets — especially in grain sorghum that was mature — where there’s some sprouting in heads.
“Also, stalk rots — fusarium, charcoal rot — are showing up in grain sorghum. In many instances, growers are more concerned about the crop going down than about sprouting.”
How are the crops north of I-40, specifically?
“Some of the northeast Arkansas corn is probably as good as it was last year. There are some strong fields there. They didn’t get the same rains as south Arkansas.”