Arkansas’ crop planting is in high gear, from pines in Calhoun County to sweet potatoes north in Cross County, Extension agents for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture said.

Water is an issue in southern Arkansas – with parts being rated in “severe” and “extreme” drought in the March 17 map from the U.S. Drought Monitor. However, farmers are moving ahead with their crops.

“Planting is in full swing, said Gus Wilson, Chicot County Extension staff chair. “I would say that by the end of the week, Chicot County should be 95 to 98 percent completed.

“We have corn that is up to a good stand – corn was planted in the last week of February in the south part of the county near the Louisiana state line.”

Soybeans will wait until the first week of April if a rain comes and rice and cotton will wait until April 10 or 15, Wilson said.

In nearby Lincoln County, Extension staff chair Chad Norton said producers “got started planting corn this week, and a lot of other fields are being worked in preparation for other crops.

“Cotton acreage will be higher this year, and we’ll probably be down on rice acreage, soybeans and corn will be about the same. Glyphosate-drift-on-wheat calls are starting to rev up, as usual.”

In Jefferson County, in southeast Arkansas, Extension staff chair Don Plunkett said corn is going into the ground. “As dry as we are and as fast as this ground dries after being worked they need to get something planted soon. Corn planting will be up some as will be our cotton acres. But many grain bins have been built and our soybean and corn base will be pretty stable. Rice will be down from last year but should be average acres for us I think.”

With reservoirs and lakes low, producers in Jefferson County “will need to make energy and water efficiency measures now to conserve what water we have.

“Thankfully we can use the Plum Bayou system off the Arkansas River as well as a number of streams and bayou's in the county,” Plunkett said.

In Calhoun County, in south-central Arkansas, plenty of pine timber is being planted, said Jaret Rushing, county Extension agent. “We’ve been seeing pine trees planted here since January. Most timber companies just finished up about two weeks ago.”

Rushing said he estimated about 30,000 acres of pines had been planted in the county.

On the Mississippi River, Phillips County Extension agent Robert Goodson said producers “were running ahead of the game with soybeans and some corn.”

Although the county was just past its average last freeze date, and a cold front was expected to drop overnight lows in the 40s, Goodson said the 68-degree soil temperature probably wouldn’t be affected.

Brent Griffin,Prairie County Extension staff chair, said he’s getting a bumper crop of phone calls now that growers are getting their crops off the ground. “Growers are in the fields preparing for planting this week. We do have a few corn planters rolling where the soil has dried enough. Rice planting has also began on a small scale, mainly the innovative guys who like to push the extremes.”

Water is a concern in the Delta as it is in southern Arkansas. Drought is moderate to severe across the central portion of Arkansas.

“We are still very short on surface water,” Griffin said. “Farmers are pumping underground water into the reservoirs to help build supply.

“Rice acres will be down 25 percent due to price and water limitation here. Acres are going to grain sorghum and soybeans.”

Faulkner County Extension staff chair Hank Chaney said most of the producers in the county “are getting their fields ready for planting up to this point.

“I think there is a chance of wet cold weather returning to the state and planting should start immediately after soil dries up. Soil moisture is adequate but with the high winds and increased temperature, it could get very interesting.”

Chaney is expecting soybeans to have the biggest increase followed by corn. “Rice acreage will be down considerably due to carryover issues and projected low price. We’re still wondering what the earthquake in Japan will do to the commodity situation.”

In Lonoke County, Extension agent Keith Perkins said corn was being planted and rice was on its tail. “Sunny dry weather means we have hit the ground running and will not slow up until it rains us out of the field.”

Northern Arkansas, while still rated “abnormally” dry in the latest map from the U.S. Drought Monitor, is not as dry as central and southern parts of the state.

Rice planting is beginning in northeastern Arkansas,” said Stewart Runsick, Extension area agronomist for rice based in Jackson County. “Much of the ground was worked last fall and the lighter-textured silt loam soils are ready. The clay soils are still wet this week.”

In Clay County, Extension staff chair Andy Vangilder said work is just starting. “We are in the process of spraying burndown herbicides and just beginning to work ground. We have a few acres of corn planted and expect corn planting to increase next week and basically the same with rice.”

Rick Wimberley, Cross County Extension staff chair, said “soil moisture is excellent to surplus. Cross County will have approximately 2,500 acres of rice planted by (March 25). We are working around the wet spots.”

Additionally, producers have about 10 percent (or 400 acres) of corn planted and cotton growers are prepping for about 2,000 acres. There are also “about 1,500 acres of sweet potatoes,” Wimberley said. “They have started planting their seed stock.”

In Boone County, on the Missouri border, there are clues to a sea change in a livestock heavy county.    

“There are rumors that potentially 300-plus acres will be planted corn this year,” said Mike McClintock, Boone County Extension agent. “This is unsubstantiated, but it would not be unprecedented.

“Back in the ‘old days’ it was very prevalent. Most of this grain will go to livestock feed.”

For more information on crop production, visit www.uaex.edu or contact your county Extension office.