Reached Thursday morning, Chuck Wilson, Arkansas Extension rice specialist, could offer only a preliminary assessment of the damage done to Arkansas’ rice crop by Hurricane Gustav. But “things don’t look good” for much of the rice in the southern half of the state. Among Wilson’s comments:

On the worst-hit areas…

From I-40 south, things are shaky for our rice. In a band down through the Grand Prairie — say from England to Stuttgart to DeWitt and then south towards Lake Village — maybe 30 to 40 percent of the rice crop is on the ground.

Rice around Helena, West Memphis and into northeast Arkansas wasn’t hit nearly as hard. Maybe 10 percent of the rice is down in some of those areas.

I spoke with a grower around Corning and there’s very little rice down. They only got about an inch of rain out of the whole system.

How was the crop prior to the latest rains?

Gustav came at the wrong time. We’re just getting ready to harvest. The rice that’s ready to cut will really suffer.

Before the storm, the crop was looking good. I don’t think we’d have made the record crop USDA was projecting — but it was still good.

Now, though, any hope of a record is shot.

Lodging is a serious problem. Harvesting is so slow in these conditions — the combine will go, at best, one mile per hour instead of three. That means a lot more diesel used, a lot more wear and tear on the combine, a lot more straw running through the machine, a lot of rice lost to shattering.

Implications for next year’s crop…

We’re already a week delayed due to this one storm. If we can get some sunshine, harvest may resume next week. The problem will be the fields will be wet and that’ll lead to a lot of ruts.

Rutting those fields will cause problems for next year’s crop.

It’ll be more expensive to put rice in. Growers won’t be able to go with much no-till. Also, it’ll mean increased costs for land prep to get the land back in shape.

e-mail: dbennett@farmpress.com