“The White River alluvial region from Des Arc to Batesville is the worst damaged. Aerial evaluation shows more damage than previously reported,” Johnson notes. “In addition, the upland areas (Grand Prairie Region) extending from Des Arc to Dewitt contain significant water damaged wheat.”

Johnson estimates that 100,000 acres of wheat will not be harvested “and 150,000 acres of wheat will have yield reductions of up to 25 percent. The overall state average wheat yield will likely be between 45 and 48 bushels per acre.”

With the exception of 1997, Arkansas producers have averaged between 52 and 56 bushels per acre, says Johnson. Estimated loss to Arkansas farmers could exceed $27 million.

“With extreme economic difficulties occurring at the farm level, these losses will likely result in extreme economic impact,” he noted.

The latest USDA crop report (released April 1) rates 4 percent of the Arkansas crop as very poor, 21 percent poor, 34 percent fair, 34 percent good and 7 percent excellent.

“Typically, Arkansas has crop ratings of 60 to 70 percent good to excellent at this point,” says Johnson.

And there’s trouble brewing on another front.

“In 2000, Arkansas was impacted by one of the largest outbreaks of stripe rust. In that growing season, 300,000 acres of wheat were treated with a fungicide costing $3.6 million,” Johnson said. “In the past five days, stripe rust is being reported all across the east central areas of Arkansas.

“The significance of these reports is we are about two weeks ahead of the epidemic that occurred in 2000. Thus, there is potential for a larger epidemic of this disease to occur in 2002,” says Johnson.

email: dbennett@primediabusiness.com