Arkansas Farmers Make Out OK in Harsh Weather Year

By Curt Hodges | November 2, 2011

“It’s about over, except for the shouting,” said Craighead County Extension Agent-Staff Chairman Branon Thiesse about the 2011 crops.

“I don’t know how much shouting there will be, but there should be some because overall, based on the year, things were not as bad as they started out and certainly in most cases not as bad as they could have been,” he said.

Clay County Agent Andy Vangilder and Poinsett County Staff Chairman Craig Allen agreed that this year’s crops were better than most expected.

Allen said growers in Poinsett County are mostly through with all crops and yields were mostly good and prices favorable, which helped to make the high cost of seed and other inputs more palatable.

While no statewide yield figures have been released yet, the Extension officials said the indications are that for the most part this year’s crops were good, but not bumper.

“We saw our biggest yield drop in corn,” Vangilder said. He said overall the Clay County corn crop was off 25 to 30 bushels, largely due to storms early in the growing conditions. Following closely behind were dry conditions that made irrigation difficult and extreme heat that probably had a negative effect on pollination.

Overall though, Vangilder and Allen, like agents across the state, said yields were pretty good considering the kind of growing season the state’s farmers experienced.

The 2011 crop year was kind of a mixed bag beginning in the spring with too much rain and flooding and ending up with not enough rain and too much heat which placed a strain on growers not only in Arkansas, but across the nation.

Rice harvest in Northeast Arkansas is pretty much wrapped up, and Thiesse said yields didn’t appear to be too bad, considering everything that happened, including higher prices for all crop inputs.

Corn is done, cotton is nearing the end, and late soybean harvest is beginning, he and others around the area noted. There are still soybeans in the fields, but most of those could be in the bins by early next week, the Extension officials said.

“Our cotton verification plot yielded two to two and a half bushels per acre,” Thiesse said. “That’s pretty good, and considering that many growers make that kind of yields and that cotton brought upwards of a dollar a pound, things weren’t too bad, I don’t think.”

Vangilder said Clay County cotton was around two to two-and-a-half bales per acre, irrigated. Dryland was less, he added, but still somewhat better than expected.

Thiesse noted that additional pressure has been placed on irrigation for the past two years, both of which have been fairly dry in Arkansas. Difficulties were more pronounced in critical groundwater areas in Northeast Arkansas and the rest of the state as many growers just didn’t have the volume of water coming out of their wells to take care of their crops in the hot and dry conditions.

“Water management was and has become one of the more important, and sometimes critical, aspects of farming,” he said.

A little wheat is being planted around Northeast Arkansas, but the Extension officials said lower prices at this time have caused some to reconsider.

“I talked to a farmer Sunday night who told me he was not going to plant any wheat this year,” Thiesse said. He said low prices were the reason.

The one thing missing for 2011 has been any mention of Asian soybean rust, a fungus disease that has caused a lot of concern in the South for the past few years. Drought conditions have played a major role in keeping the disease in check, officials said, and none has been reported to date in Arkansas this season.

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