Despite isolated rains, Arkansas growers have strong planting streak for rice and corn
By Ryan McGeeney
U of A System Division of Agriculture
April 15, 2016
- Arkansas rice & corn experience a strong planting week, boosting them ahead of 5-year progress average
- Clear weather key; moderate rains still needed to prevent crusting.
LITTLE ROCK — For a brief moment a few weeks ago, it looked as though Arkansas rice growers might be looking at 2015, all over again.
Last year’s anomalous growing season made a mess of agricultural predictions, with a cool wet spring followed by pockets of outright flooding in the summer. Planting throughout much of the state was delayed well past the date that any agronomist thought could produce near-optimum yields.
For a number of rice growers in central and northern Arkansas, 2016 planting began in mid-March under cool, clear conditions. But then, around April 4, a miraculous thing happened: The clouds broke; the sun appeared. In the space of one week, the amount of rice planted in the state rocketed from 11 percent of the 1.6 million acres predicted for planting in 2016 to 33 percent — exceeding not just the abysmal amount planted during the same period in 2015, but beating the 5-year average by 10 percentage points as well, according to the weekly Arkansas Crop Progress and Condition Report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said that the period of April 4-10 “really represented the first time that the entire eastern half of the state was able to make planting progress.”
Hardke said that much of the rice planted in March through the first week of April was planted on larger farms and on high ground. He said many smaller growers tend to delay their rice planting somewhat because they may not have the resources to replant if heavy rains or other weather factors ruin initial plantings.
“In rice, the early season issues we’re most concerned with are erratic soil temperatures leading to uneven emergence, or lack of germination and emergence,” Hardke said. “Seedling disease leading to stand loss, and soil crusting — which is something we’re concerned with at the moment.
Much of the rice planting and growing season is something of a tightrope between too much and not enough rain. Thursday evening of this week, Hardke tweeted photos of emerging rice in Stuttgart, with the message, “Need some heat this week & rain to prevent crusting.”
“Seeds only have so much pushing power to make it out of the ground,” he said. “And some of our soils, when they dry out, have a tendency to form a crust that’s nearly impenetrable. If the plant can’t make it out, it will eventually turn down and lose the ability to emerge.”
Corn also saw substantial gains during the week of mild weather, as growers planted an additional 30 percent of an estimated 790,000 acres, bringing the state to about 61 percent complete for corn planting.
Jason Kelley, extension wheat and feed grains agronomist for the Division of Agriculture, said several heavy rains earlier in the month may result in crusting issues for corn growers.
“We’ve got a lot of corn planted, but we’ve also got a lot of corn that’s struggling to emerge, because the soil’s so hard,” Kelley said. “That last rain, it came very hard and fast. A lot of this soil doesn’t have a lot of organic matter in it, so a hard rain can beat it down, and then it dries out rapidly. That top inch is very hard, it’s almost like concrete.”
As of Friday morning, the National Weather Service predicted low probability of rain in eastern Arkansas over the weekend, with increasing chances into the middle of next week.
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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service