The first Arkansas crop condition report of the 2010 season shows winter wheat in mostly fair condition, with rice and corn plantings ahead of last year, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Most of the winter wheat, 53 percent, was rated fair. Thirty-six percent was good and 7 percent was considered in excellent shape. Four percent was rated poor or very poor, the statistics service said.

Corn was 21 percent planted, compared with 11 percent last year, but behind the 31 percent five-year average. Rice was 1 percent planted, ahead of zero percent last year and behind the 2 percent five-year average.

Wheat got off to a late start thanks to the nearly continuous rainfall in 2009.

“We couldn’t harvest summer crops because it was too wet. There was no wheat planting in October because the fields were too wet, a condition which has persisted almost until today,” said Jason Kelley, wheat and small grains agronomist for the Division of Agriculture.

“This year, we may be behind in development because of the late planting and the cold weather,” he said. “We may be a few days later at harvest.”

The good news is “you’d have to hunt to find any disease,” Kelley said.

In some of the poorer fields, wheat “looks better from the road, but once you walk out in it, it is thin and small and poorly tillered,” said Rick Cartwright, Extension plant pathologist for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. “It looks about a month behind on development.”

Harvest for winter wheat won’t start until the end of May for southern Arkansas and later for northern fields.

One annual that is going strong is ryegrass, a pest for both wheat and soybean growers.

“Some of the newer herbicides are doing a fair job, but not controlling it all,” Kelley said. “There will be enough plants surviving to make seed and that it’s going to be a problem for next year’s crop.”

Arkansas wheat producers were planning to harvest 210,000 acres in 2010, down from last year’s 430,000 acres.