Cotton producers are moving ahead full tilt, while rice growers are playing a waiting game as floodwater continues its slow retreat in Arkansas.
Most of Arkansas has seen a streak of dry weather for nearly two weeks that has allowed farmers to get back into the fields. The National Agricultural Statistics Service said growers had nearly 10 full days suitable for fieldwork in the last two weeks to do some serious catching up.
“With our hot, dry forecast, all our cotton planting will finish in the next couple of days,” Dave Freeze, Mississippi County extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, said Wednesday. “The exception goes for some fields next to the Mississippi River levee that are still too wet. They may go into cotton if it dries out enough in the next 10 days.
“We aren’t recommending cotton at this point, but ginners want all the acres they can get,” he said.
Cotton growers don’t plan to slow down as long as the sun is out, said Tom Barber, extension cotton agronomist for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.
“Cotton producers will plant until May the 41st,” he said with a chuckle. “That’s what they’re telling me.”
Monday’s crop progress report from NASS showed that:
• Corn was 99 percent planted for the week ended May 29, on par with the five-year average and 1 percentage point off last year’s pace.
• Cotton was 86 percent planted, compared with 80 percent the previous week, but behind the 94 percent five-year average.
• Rice was 93 percent planted, up from 84 percent last year, and near the 96 percent five-year average.
• Sorghum was 94 percent planted, up from 89 percent last year and nearing the 96 percent five-year average.
• Soybeans are still lagging, with 48 percent planted, up from 39 percent the previous week, but well off the 64 percent five-year average.
• Winter wheat harvest is gaining momentum, with 8 percent harvested, up from 2 percent the previous week and just off the 7 percent five-year average.
Meanwhile, rice growers’ race against time is coming down to the wire.
“Prairie County will be down 20,000 acres of rice due to the high water of White and Cache rivers,” said Brent Griffin, Prairie County extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. “There is the potential for 50,000 acres to not get planted due to slow or no fall in the river stages.
“Once the water gets off the fields, the heat and wind will rapidly dry to a crusting or baking of the soil surface,” he said. “The old adage of ‘too wet before lunch and too dry after lunch’ comes to bear.”
The National Weather Service forecast for the Little Rock area shows a 20 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Otherwise, the forecast calls for hot, sunny days with highs in the 90s.
Said Griffin: “Send sunscreen!”