NEWPORT, Ark. - In the flooded area around Arkansas’ White River – in some areas, the worst since the 1980s – assessments of damage are still not completed. However, a picture is emerging of crop damage. As suspected, rice is faring better than other crops.

“When this flood hit, we had rice anywhere from just planted to just out of the ground,” says Chuck Wilson, Arkansas Extension rice specialist. “If the plants emerged prior to flood, the field will probably be okay. Cool weather helps flooded rice survive. If it hasn’t emerged and has been underwater for a week or so, the field won’t fare as well.

“As of last week, Jackson County had approximately 5,000 acres of rice underwater at some point. That was before the latest rains this past weekend. We got an inch of rain at my house in south Arkansas County. I don’t know how that’s affected the flood zone.”

In Jackson County, “the good news,” says Extension agent Randy Chlapecka, “is the water is going down. We’ve got thousands and thousands of acres that have been – or still are – under.

“Friday, Jason Kelley (the Extension wheat and corn specialist), came over and we looked at quite a bit of corn. Most of it was done for. Luckily, most of what we saw hadn’t had atrazine put down so soybeans can be planted.

“Of the 1,000 acres-plus we looked at, about 90 percent was worthless. Corn plants ranged from being stone dead to being able to point the growing out, a rubbery feel to the plants and other things. There were just a bunch of things that made us feel uncomfortable about keeping the crop.”

Between Newport and Oil Trough and between Newport and Possum Grape, things remain “flooded and rough,” says Chlapecka. “That triangular area is the worst hit. But there’s troubles all over – the Black River got a bunch of acres, the Cache River got some more. The Cache is always the last river to fall out.”

The White River has to get below15 feet before it fully recedes from Jackson County banks. On May 2 it was still at 22.8 feet. The forecast for the end of this week has the White at 18.5 feet.

“So we’ll still have wet fields more than a week after the rain quit,” says Chlapecka. “It’s hard to figure how many acres have been affected. I’ll say this: 10,000 acres affected is a very conservative number.”

Even if the water is off their cornfields, agents say farmers in the flood zone are very worried about “crazy top.”

“You just can’t say for sure whether that will pop up later in the season,” says Eugene Terhune, Woodruff County agent. “It’s a risk and some farmers won’t be taking it.”

Stan Carter, Independence County Extension agent, echoes Terhune: “Corn is the crop that was up and growing – at the most critical stage – when the rains hit. At least 25 percent of our corn was underwater for up to 3 days. The weather looks good for the next week, though. Maybe we can go ahead and get these fields dried out.”

e-mail: dbennett@primediabusiness.com