UACES Facebook Flood-related damage estimates decline, thanks in part to low temps, growth stage during inundation
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Flood-related damage estimates decline, thanks in part to low temps, growth stage during inundation

July 21, 2017 

By Mary Hightower 
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast facts:

  • Latest flood estimate lower than previous
  • Lower temps at flood time helped more of crops survive
  • Cost of replanting would have outweighed cost of keeping surviving plants

(670 words)

Download Word version. 

(Newsrooms - with updated flood charts ,  with file art of flooding at  

STUTTGART, Ark. – A plot twist where meteorology and plant physiology intersect may script a slightly better ending to the story of Arkansas’ flood-afflicted growing season.

“As difficult as it is to use these words when we still lost hundreds of thousands of acres – it could have been much worse,” said Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. 

Acres impacted
Revised flood damage estimates. 

As they scouted fields in the weeks after the April and May flood waters receded, Hardke and fellow extension agronomists and agents were surprised at what they found: some plants buried by water for days – even weeks -- survived. Relatively low temperatures when the flood waters came helped slow the plants’ metabolism and thus the deterioration that might otherwise be expected, he said.  

“Many frequently comment how hardy rice is and how long it can survive under water; however, this year displayed an extreme outside the norm,” Hardke said. “With lower temperatures, the floodwaters do not exhaust available oxygen as quickly and enable plants to survive longer as a result. This is also true for soybeans and corn.”

Hardke said “another positive factor was that the abnormally cool conditions had most of the crop relatively small when it is more tolerant to some of these types of stresses.” 

“Larger crops, submerged for shorter periods of time under much warmer conditions have been devastated in the last few weeks from heavy rains,” he said. “Timing and weather conditions are everything to crop survival, and in many cases this year we were extremely fortunate.”

Dollar estimate declines

Those instances of survival are what brought about lower numbers in the latest estimate of flood-related damage from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. Figures collected during June put the damage at $156.25 million, a figure that includes $3.65 million in infrastructure damage. The previous estimate, released May 16, pegged the damage at $175 million with 977,800 acres affected by flooding. (See:   

Vic Ford, interim associate director-agriculture and natural resources-extension for the Division of Agriculture, said the infrastructure damage reports came from six counties and was largely to grain storage bins and irrigation pumps.

“With minor changes from our previous damage estimates, farmers have responded in a manner that was anticipated,” said Eric Wailes, Distinguished Professor of agricultural economics with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “While this final estimate does not include the subsequent damages associated with dicamba, it does reflect a significant monetary loss to the Arkansas crop economy.”

What changed

Since the May estimate, surveys found a decline in the number of lost crop acres in all crops except cotton and sorghum, and a rise in the number of crop acres affected but surviving.

  • Rice acres lost, down to 111,250 from 181,450
  • Soybean acres lost, down to 108,900 from 121,800
  • Corn acres lost, down to 31,650, from 40,150
  • Cotton acres lost, up to 13,650 from 13,000
  • Wheat acres lost, down to 2,850 from 4,250
  • Sorghum acres, up to 1,790 from 1,000

The total number of acres affected by flooding declined to 910,530 from a previous estimate of 977,800.

And while plant survival was better than originally expected, the crops weren’t expected to resume the kind of productivity expected in unstressed plants.

“There is a trick to the numbers – while many more acres survived enough to justify keeping, those acres are going to be negatively impacted from a grain yield and possibly a grain quality standpoint,” Hardke said. “Our numbers represent a conservative estimate of loss across crops; however, the potential exists for extremely lower yields in many instances coupled with increased production costs as they need to be more delicately managed than normal, ‘babied’ if you will. 

“We’ve had a whirlwind 2017 with continued regular heavy rainfall now into July – with six of the first eight days having measurable rainfall,” he said. “There are many factors going on right now to bring down overall grain yields from the flooding to the overcast conditions.  Hopefully we’ll get lucky on the latter end of the season to help bring a positive close to the year.”

For more information about crop production, contact your county extension office or visit

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons 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 System Division of Agriculture
(501) 671-2126

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