LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Harvest of a 720,000-acre Arkansas wheat crop is nearly complete.

Yields vary from as little as 40 bushels an acre in some northeast Arkansas fields to as much as 80-plus bushels in the Grand Prairie region, according to Jason Kelley, wheat specialist with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

“Farmers have essentially completed the harvest in the eastern part of the state,” Kelley said. “In the southwest and Arkansas River Valley areas, there is still some wheat to be harvested. Harvest for some farmers has been delayed by persistent rains. Grain needs a couple of days to dry out, and some farmers can’t get a break.

“Statewide, the harvest is still ahead of schedule. Some of the wheat remaining to be harvested has been ready for three weeks or more. If we had good weather, the harvest would have been over quickly.”

Farmers in western Arkansas aren’t the only farmers affected by rains. Arkansas farmers in Jackson, Woodruff, Independence and White counties lost an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 acres of wheat from flooding early in the spring. Many farmers in the northeast region were looking forward to a really good crop but continued rain from flowering through grain fill took a toll on the crop, Kelley said.

“Wheat harvested early had good quality. Average test weights were 59 to 61 pounds per bushel. The standard everyone shoots for is 60. But wheat harvested late because of rain suffered quality problems. Test weights plummeted.”

Farmers in the northeast were expecting 60 to 70 bushels an acre, but they harvested only 40 to 50 bushels an acre in many instances. Kelley said farmers probably would break even, at best, with a 40- to 50-bushel yield.

He estimated this year’s statewide average yield will be 50, just average. The 10-year average is 50, and the record, set in 1999, is 56. The lowest yield ever recorded in Arkansas was 4 bushels in 1878.

“If lower-than-expected yields experienced by northeast Arkansas farmers weren’t dragging yields averages down, we might be close to a state record.”

Generally, yields and test weights in southern Arkansas were excellent, Kelley noted.

On the disease front, Arkansas wheat farmers generally dodged the bullet in the spring when it came to diseases.

“Leaf rust and stripe rust were common in many areas. Leaf rust appeared earlier than normal. Weather conditions prevented both diseases from becoming an epidemic.

Prices farmers receive for their wheat have come down in recent weeks, but they have been a little better than last year’s prices, according to Kelley.

Meanwhile, Kelley expects wheat fields in the university’s Wheat Research and Verification Program to yield 10 to 15 bushels more per acre than the statewide average. A dozen farmers across Arkansas participated in the program this year.

Lamar James is an Extension communications specialist with the University of Arkansas.