Planting hectic as weekend rains loom
By Ryan McGeeney
U of A System Division of Agriculture
April 29, 2016
- Heavy rains forecast throughout Arkansas this weekend
- Many growers approaching end of rice planting, start of soybeans
- Rains, wet fields mean delays
LITTLE ROCK — As afternoon rains began to fall over Newport and elsewhere in northern Arkansas on Wednesday, Jeremy Ross, extension soybean agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, was working as fast as he could to finish the last of three test plots.
While the rain that fell in across much of Arkansas mid-week proved to be relatively light, growers around the state are rushing to get as much planting done as possible ahead of weekend rains expected to be much heavier, Ross and other Division of Agriculture experts said Thursday.
“We’re just getting into the first of the soybean planting window,” Ross said. “A lot of guys have been concentrating on trying to wrap up corn and rice. In some areas, rice is practically done. In some other areas, you’ve got a little to go. We’re just now starting to get into everybody wrapping up these other commodities and getting into soybeans.”
The National Weather Service has forecast heavy rains for much of Arkansas over the coming weekend. Ross said a soaking rain could delay soybean planting for three to seven days as fields dry out. Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist with the Division of Agriculture, said rice growers in the southern end of the state were coping with wet conditions and a slower-than-usual planting season.
“I think the southern one-third of the state has had about all the rain they can stand at this point,” Hardke said. “They’re currently doing all they can right now to hop from dry field to dry field, just finding anywhere they can to plant anything.”
An April 25 crop progress report, published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, estimated that 75 percent of the state’s projected rice acreage had been planted as of Sunday. Hardke noted that growers in the northern half of the state were about 90 percent complete with rice planting, while growers in the southern half were only about halfway there — unusual for Arkansas, where the southern counties typically enjoy earlier planting windows due to warmer temperatures.
Gus Wilson, staff chair for the Chicot County Cooperative Extension Service office, said some growers in his county have significantly reduced their planned corn acreage due to wet conditions, and are behind in planting other crops as well.
“A lot of corn that was going to be planted didn’t get planted because during the optimal window of planting, [growers] couldn’t get in the filed,” Wilson said. “We’re behind in rice, we’re behind in soybeans. It’s just been too wet.”
Hardke said the timing of the potential storms — during a week when many growers are hoping to get the last of their rice planted and begin with soybeans — could create a domino effect for the rest of the spring.
“With a lot of the soil in the southern part of the state, below the prairie, there’s a lot of ground best suited for rice,” he said. “A lot of zero-grade fields with heavy soil that are set up for rice production. Many of these guys had the ground prepped and ready for rice, and they’re probably going to go with rice just because it still ‘pencils out’ better at this point, even with the recent soybean rally.
“But as soon as we get past the first week of May, we start seeing a drop-off in yield potential for rice,” he said. “So, by the middle of May, we start seeing a 15 percent reduction in yield potential from the optimum. So that starts to become a serious concern.”
“And the other part for those guys on that heavier ground, is they don’t want to get pushed too late to plant because in the fall, trying to get it mature and harvested before rains set in can be difficult,” Hardke said.
Hardke said that over the next few weeks, some growers in the southern third of the state will need to weigh the benefits of following through with original acreage plans, verses substituting another crop with a later planting window.
“We’re at what is usually a tipping point,” he said. “Once we’re in May, folks will still be planting rice, but every day that passes, beans keep looking better.”
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service