After mild January, February ice and March rains expected to impact only the earliest of planters
- Mild conditions in January allowed for extensive field prep across state
- Earliest plantings for corn, milo and some other crops likely delayed
LITTLE ROCK — Despite heavy statewide snowfall and ice during the second half of February, as well as heavy rains the first week of March, most Arkansas row crop farmers will not likely face delays in the 2015 planting season, University of Arkansas System agronomists said.
Jarrod Hardke, the Cooperative Extension Service’s rice agronomist in Stuttgart, said the low temperatures and snowfall in February will have a limited effect on Arkansas rice growers and other farmers, because a relatively mild January allowed many Arkansas growers to complete much of the field preparation for a wide variety of crops.
“January was particularly kind to our growers. It was very dry, and abnormally warm to an extent, and there was a significant amount of field work that occurred over the course of that month, and well into February, too,” Hardke said.
Bill Robertson, a cotton agronomist with the Cooperative Extension Service in Little Rock, said the amount of “field prep” growers were able to accomplish early in the year was unusual.
“It’s great to be able to do it, but we never can budget any of that through the early, early spring, because everything’s typically so wet,” he said.
February brought drastic mid-season changes, transitioning into harsh winter conditions in a matter of days, said Marty Trexler, senior meteorologist for the National Weather Service station in Little Rock.
“We went from a daytime high temperature of 75 on Feb. 14 to a daytime low of 19 degrees, five days later,” Trexler said. “We had quite a degree of change, and just tremendously cold temperatures in a matter of days.”
From Nov. 1, 2014 to Feb. 15, 2015, Arkansas received approximately one-tenth of an inch of snow, according to data from the National Weather Service. But as winter storms engulfed Canada and the Northeastern quarter of the United States in mid-February, Arkansas daily temperatures plummeted. The NWS service pegged the month as the 8th coldest Arkansas February on record, and recorded total snowfall of 11 inches in Pulaski County from Feb. 16 – March 5.
Late-winter rains caught up with the state in March, repeatedly saturating much of Arkansas. Robertson the rains helped to replenish growers’ “water savings accounts,” which often proves essential as the growing season stretches through summer and into fall, especially in years that prove dryer through those seasons.
“With corn, cotton and soybeans in Arkansas, with our irrigation and soil, we rely on deep moisture to finish our crop off,” Robertson said. “There gets to be a point, with our center pivots and even furrow irrigation, where, if we get behind, it’s just very difficult to catch up on irrigation.”
Hardke said the rains will, however, delay the earliest of the anticipated planting in rice and some other crops.
“Some of the very earliest planters — the guys who like to get out there super early — are probably going to get pushed back to the end of the month,” Hardke said. “Certainly early corn plantings are out — that’s probably part of what will take the largest hit at this point. There’s probably going to be quite a bit of desire with our grain sorghum acreage increase to get that crop in the ground.”
Jeremy Ross, a soybean agronomist with the Cooperative Extension Service in Little Rock, said soybeans are unlikely to be affected by 2015’s early weather, with planting still two to six weeks away.
“Whenever they start getting some warm conditions, the guys in the southern part of the state will start planning April 1, or whenever they start getting some warm conditions, depending on how dry it is,” Ross said.
Arkansas growers have produced state record soybean yields the past three years, the last two of which have had above-average rainfall, Ross said. He said that although a rainy season can mean a shortened planting window, the use of modern planting technology has helped farmers seed their fields within that frame.
“We can move across fields pretty quick, and get planted at a fairly rapid pace now, compared to where we were 10 or 15 years ago, when we had much smaller equipment,” he said.
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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service