Spring Rains, Summer Heat Challenge Arkansas Crops in 2015

December 21, 2015 08:00 PM

Agriculture officials say Arkansas farmers generally produced crop amounts in 2015 close to previous levels despite a wet spring followed by a hot and dry summer, with the exception of winter wheat.

Heavy rains in April and May delayed planting of crops such as rice, cotton and wheat, and then heat during the growing season affected both the yield and quality, according to agronomists with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

Nearly 1.3 million acres of rice, the state's leading crop, will be harvested this year, according to rice agronomist Jarrod Hardke, down from 1.5 million acres and a record-tying 168 bushels per acre in 2014.

The current Arkansas average yield reported by U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistic Service is 164 bushels per acre.

"At this point, that 164 bushels per acre seems high and we will likely see adjustment when the final numbers come out in January," Hardke said in a release. "The number likely belongs no higher than 160 bushels per acre and may actually belong somewhere between 155-160."

The rain delayed planting and then the heat affected the quality of the crop, Hardke said.

Bill Robertson, extension cotton agronomist, said about 205,000 acres of cotton were harvested in Arkansas in 2015, down from 330,000 in 2014.

"The planting window was narrow because of excessive rain. We had a really wet May and only a couple days in April when it was warm enough to plant," Robertson said in a release.

Still, the USDA-NASS reported that average yields for Arkansas cotton was 1,124 pounds per acre, just under the record average of 1,145 pounds per acre in 2014.

Flooding and rains significantly impacted the winter wheat crop, according to Jason Kelley, extension wheat and feed grains agronomist.

"March, April and May were very wet," Kelley said in a release. "Any time we have a wet spring, oftentimes we'll have lower yields, just because of poor drainage in many fields. We also lost several acres to flooding along the Arkansas and Red Rivers."

Approximately 350,000 acres of winter wheat was planted in Arkansas during the fall, down from 465,000 acres last year, with total production of 13.44 million bushels — just more than half the approximately 24.89 million bushel total for 2014.

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