Heavy July rains were viewed as a curse or a blessing across the Arkansas Delta, with soybean producers in the northeast citing brutal conditions since spring, while the precipitation was described as “very timely” in parts of Chicot and Desha counties in the southeast corner.
Randy Chlapecka, Jackson County Extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, said producers in the Newport area “were nailed big time.”
Heavy spring rains made it difficult to plant and some growers didn’t get their crops into the ground until July. Chlapecka estimated that 10 percent of the projected soybean acreage in Jackson County was not planted. Most of the soybean acreage in Jackson County has suffered some damage from being waterlogged.
Craighead, Jackson and Poinsett counties were the hardest hit, according to Extension personnel.
“We need a late fall, a good fall, a dry fall,” said Rick Thompson, Poinsett County Extension staff chair. “We’ve got so many areas that have drowned,” that plants are “literally dead from water standing. It’s just field after field.
“I know some people who have planted four times and they still don’t have a good crop,” Thompson said, adding it’s too late to try again. “It’s over with.”
Cotton in Poinsett County has small bolls — a contrast to the larger bolls normal at this time of year. Even so, Thompson noted there were still some growers who had decent crops in the field.
Wes Kirkpatrick, Desha County Extension staff chair, saw the rains in his area as “a mixed blessing,” helping the soybean crop more than cotton producers.
He voiced concerns about insect pressure and disease on the crops as a result of the heavy rains. “This has been an unusual year,” said Gus Wilson, Chicot County Extension staff chair. The rain helped most of the soybean acreage in his area, while some late planted beans suffered.
While a number of producers said most of the crop damage occurred north of Interstate 40, Don Plunkett, Jefferson County Extension staff chair, disagreed. This has been an “absolutely horrible year” for producers in his area.
With the bayous backing up, there is no place for the runoff to go, Plunkett said, leaving fields under water. One producer was quoted as saying he saw a carp swimming across turn rows in one of his fields. Plunkett noted the producer was known for his dry sense of humor, but said: “It’s that wet. This rainfall has been unprecedented in my 28 years with Extension.
“If the old adage ‘if it rains on the first day of the month it will rain 15 days that month,’ stands up, then we will be in even worse shape,” he said.
Still, Plunkett was surprised how much drainage had occurred by Aug. 5.
Several Jefferson County producers said they have seen evidence of boll rot, with the potential for weed and fungus growing almost daily. Southern rust has been spotted in several cornfields, along with sheath blight in stands of rice.
Bollworms, webworms and armyworms have been reported in a number of eastern Arkansas cotton and soybean fields, with some square loss in cotton. A warm September will help the cotton crop and yields will likely improve.
Rainfall across the Arkansas Delta during July was well above normal, with National Weather Service gauges showing Arkansas County up 12 inches above normal, Craighead up 13 inches and Jackson County recording 44.17 inches, up from the normal 28 inches. It was the fifth-wettest July on record in Arkansas, the weather service said.
Arkansas farmers planted 3.3 million acres of soybeans, down from 3.4 million acres last year. Producers planted about 1.58 million acres of rice this year, up from 1.4 million acres in 2008.
While the problems translate into harvests below 2008 levels, Extension personnel and producers said it will take two weeks of dry conditions to evaluate the full impact of the heavy rains on the crops. A fast-moving storm system rolled across southeastern Arkansas Aug. 5, dumping more than an inch of rain and compounding the water woes.
Rice producers in the Grand Prairie area of the state, where the higher ground had surrendered moisture from the spring rains, apparently fared better than most of state’s rice farmers.
Rainfall last week kept many field activities to a minimum, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service crop progress report for the week ending Aug. 3, but some producers managed to apply herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers.
The corn crop reached 100 percent in the silk stage by week’s end. Corn in the dough stage increased 88 percent from 75 percent, the same as in 2008, the report indicated. Slightly less than one-half of the acreage was rated good to excellent.
Cotton squaring reached 100 percent, the same rate as in 2008 and the five-year average. Cotton setting bolls was a week behind at 89 percent, 8 percent behind last year and 7 percent behind the five-year average. Sixty-three percent of the crop was rated good to excellent.
Fifty-five percent of the rice crop was reported good to excellent, the report said, with 30 percent headed. There were a few reports of fungicide applications for blast and sheath blight, the USDA report noted.
Soybean blooming was 78 percent, while 50 percent of the crop was setting pods. Fifty-two percent of the crop was rated good to excellent.
Sorghum heading reached 94 percent during the past week, while sorghum coloring was at 39 percent, the report said.
Pasture and hay crops were rated fair to good, with farmers waiting on dry weather conditions to cut and bale hay.