Wheat Harvest Disappoints

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Clay County farmers finished harvesting wheat two to three weeks ago and it was one of the worst crops Clay County Extension Agent Andy Vangilder has seen in years.

The wet conditions of the spring caused the wheat crop to lose yield. Vangilder said the average yield was 35 bushels per acre or less, compared to the normal average of 80 bushels per acre.

However, other crops seem to be doing better, even though traditional crops have decreased in acreage this year.

The "newest old crop", grain sorghum or milo, is flourishing across the county with an 800 percent increase in acreage compared to recent years. Vangilder estimated about 8,000 to 10,000 acres planted, and it's doing well. Vangilder calls it the newest old crop because at one time Clay County was the leading sorghum planter in Arkansas. The reason farmers got away from the crop was it began to not yield as well, but it seems to be making a comeback in light of prices at the beginning of planting season. Not only does the price range look good, Vangilder said, but the crop is good in areas where nematodes are present. Since sorghum is resistant to the pest, it also decreases the amount of nematodes in the field. "It's a good year for milo and profitable for farmers," Vangilder said.

Corn acreage is down across Clay County with 15,000 to 20,000 acres, compared to the normal 30,000, mostly due to excessive rainfall keeping farmers out of the field during much of the normal planting season. Vangilder expects corn crops to be through with irrigation practices in the next couple of weeks. "There has been some southern rust in the corn crops, but it is not widespread," Vangilder said, which helps the farmers' pocketbooks somewhat because the need to apply fungicide is low. Overall, corn is looking really good, he added.

Cotton acreage decreased from 35,000 acres last year to 20,000 this year. In years past Clay County grew 10 percent of Arkansas' cotton crop, but the state as a whole is seeing a dramatic decrease in cotton planted with 200,000 acres. Vangilder said the reason for the reduction is prices are so low it would take a very high yield to support any profit. As of July 10, cotton in the county is blooming, but Vangilder said blooms were a week later than he would like to see. Independent variables will dictate harvest, Vangilder added.

About 120,000 acres of soybeans were planted across the county. The maturity stages of the plants are all over the board from just emerging to blooming. Because of the wet weather in the spring, many farmers turned to the crop after it was too late to plant others. The major problem with beans this year is an overgrowth of weeds. Applying herbicides was very difficult in the spring, because of the rain.

Clay County Extension Agent Stewart Rusnick said rice acreage is down this year at about 80,000 acres. The crop is doing well with maturity stages all over the board.

"Most was planted in the two-week period we didn't have rain in May," Runsick said. The main problem with rice now is stink bugs -- because of the concentration of mature rice heading the stinkbugs are concentrated to those areas. Pesticides may need to be applied in cases of infestation.

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