Arkansas: Planters Race Storm Systems to Get Crops in the Ground

    Arkansas farmers have been hitting the fields hard, trying to plant before the next two storm systems, county extension agents with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture said Thursday.

    “Craighead County farmers are going full bore, with some working through the showers this past Monday,” said Branon Thiesse, Craighead County extension staff chair said.

    In southeastern Arkansas, Desha County Extension Staff Chair Wes Kirkpatrick said that “where fields are dry enough to plant, planters are running full throttle.

    “There are a lot of fingers crossed hoping we miss this first round of rain,” he said. “If the rain does come, there will be a lot of lower lips poking out.”

    In fits and starts

    Planting has gone along in fits and starts this spring, as farmers tried to dodge winter’s long grasp and spring’s frequent showers.

    “With most of April behind us, I have had calls from growers this week that are looking at Plan B now on intended corn acres,” said Scott Stiles, extension economist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “With November soybeans now over $12, that is fast becoming Plan B on what was formerly deemed corn acreage. In my view, corn is most in jeopardy of losing some acreage due to the planting delays.”

    Stiles said he hasn’t yet seen any panic on rice acres.

    “I visited with one grower this morning that still has 1,000 acres of rice he’d like to plant,” he said. “As of last Sunday, the National Agricultural Statistics Service indicated we only had 29 percent of the rice crop planted.  Normally, we’d be at the halfway mark.  We’ve made some headway this week though.”

    Aided by technology

    Ron Baker, Clay County extension agent, said that in northeastern Arkansas, “many of our fields for both corn and rice were not dry enough to plant before this past weekend, but a large amount of both crops has gone into the ground within the last five or six days in Clay County.”

    Technology has been a boon to farmers dealing with wet weather.

    “Our fields and equipment are developed to the point today that extraordinarily rapid planting progress can be made within a week of good planting days,” he said.

    “A lot of our fields in Clay County are precision-leveled, enabling them to drain out rapidly when it does rain,” Baker said, adding that cleared fence rows and removal of any obstacles in mid-field means “they can get across the field very rapidly. In rice, they are using 40-foot grain drills, or 12-row planters in the case of corn, and you can cover a lot of ground.”

    Wet forecast

    The National Weather Service was expecting two rounds of storms on Thursday, with severe storms expected with damaging winds. Forecasters were not ruling out an isolated tornado.

    More severe weather is expected for Sunday afternoon and evening with damaging winds and large hail possible. Rainfall with Sunday’s storms could range from a half-inch to 1 inch in the western part of the state and range from 2-4 inches in the eastern part, the National Weather Service said.

    With the upcoming storms, “looks like planters will be parked for a few days if we get rain tonight and another round Sunday and Monday,” Stiles said. “Much cooler temps are following the rain Monday and that will slow drying.”

    According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, for the week ending April 20:

    • Corn was 52 percent planted, compared with 37 percent the previous week
    • Cotton was 1 percent planted, with zero planted the previous week.
    • Rice was 29 percent planted, up from 17 percent the previous week
    • Sorghum was 12 percent planted, up from 5 percent the previous week
    • Soybeans were 7 percent planted, up from 4 percent the prior week.

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