Farmers in the nation’s top rice-growing state aren’t wasting any time getting this year’s crop into the ground, according to the April 17 report issued by the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Rice was 75 percent planted, well up from last week’s reported 49 percent and the 26 percent five-year average. Rice was 30 percent emerged.

“While recent cool conditions have slowed emergence and development a bit, the Arkansas rice crop is off to a very early and promising start, perhaps the best potential in years,” said Chuck Wilson, director of the Rice Research and Extension Center in Stuttgart, Ark.

Though planting is rolling along, some acres are still being decided as the heavy price of one fertilizer weighs on growers.

“Urea, currently a ‘four-letter word’ with growers, is still problematic, with prices ranging from $650-$830 per ton retail in the Arkansas Delta,” Wilson said. “Most experts do feel that the urea situation will straighten out about May and in the meantime, where possible, growers are switching to soybean planting intentions and away from corn and rice, although it’s too late in much of the Mid-South to change.”

The weekly report said:

  • Corn was nearly all planted at 94 percent, up from 84 percent the previous week and the 64 percent five-year average.
  • Cotton was 7 percent planted, up from just 1 percent a week ago. Two percent has emerged compared to zero last week, which is also the five-year average.
  • Sorghum is 78 percent planted, up from 58 the previous week and well above the 30 percent five-year average.
  • Soybeans nearly doubled in a week with 19 percent planted, up from 10 percent the previous week. The five-year average is 7 percent. Seven percent has emerged.
  • Nearly all the winter wheat has headed at 93 percent, up from 73 percent the previous week and the 27 percent five-year average.

Other issues that have Arkansas growers wrinkling their brows are insects and weeds.

“The big story remains armyworms in emerging rice and corn fields,” said Extension entomologist Gus Lorenz. “These fast-moving and voracious feeders can destroy plant stands in areas before you realize it, so you must stay alert and watch fields daily.”

Lorenz and his colleagues have also been keeping an eye on stinkbugs in wheat. “Population of these insects was high but recently they moved out of wheat and disappeared for the time being,” he said. “We do not know where they go or their potential for problems later at this point, but it makes us uncomfortable for the rest of the growing season.”

In addition to precocious pigweed, producers are seeing sprangletop, which has “risen to Number Two in the state due to difficulties in consistent control,” said Bob Scott, Extension weed scientist. Nutsedges are also an issue. Nutsedges are tough weeds that are now showing resistance to some herbicides.

“We need to stay ahead of this development,” Scott said while urging producers, consultants and agents to report any nutsedge that’s proving hard to kill.

Pastures were still looking good with 67 percent in good condition and 9 percent rated excellent.

To learn more about crop production contact your county Extension office, or visit www.uaex.eduor Arkansas-crops.com.