Clay County Crop Update
Spring has sprung and Clay County row crop producers are getting ready for the 2017 production season. With this in mind, I wanted to give an update on what has taken place so far and provide a projection on acres for 2017.
The fall of 2016 was dry and warm, allowing for much of the field preparation to be completed. Corn and soybean beds were pulled and some pre-plant fertilizer was applied. Due to unseasonably warm temperatures in February, it appeared as if we would get an early jump on planting. That quickly changed with the freeze March 15, and the recent rainy pattern we are now in. Normally, any time after March 20, corn would be going in the ground. It is in many parts of the state, however it's still cool and wet here. To my knowledge, no corn has been planted in Clay County yet. The main activity recently has been applications of burndown herbicides.
In 2016, Clay County corn producers planted 30,812 acres, up 24 percent from 2015. I expect corn acres to fall in 2017 back to around 20,000 acres. With current prices of corn and soybeans, the soybeans appear to be more profitable in 2017 so acres are likely to switch from corn to soybeans in 2017.
Rice acres will be down considerably as well. Last year Clay County rice acres were 82,534 acres, up 18 percent from 2015. I would expect rice acres to return to around 70,000 acres due mainly to a shortage in planting seed and dismal rice prices. If rice prices increase, and we have favorable planting conditions this spring, acres could increase slightly. It appears right now that soybean and cotton acres will both increase in 2017.
You may not be aware of this, but Clay County is the third largest cotton producing county in the state. Mississippi County is number one, followed by Craighead and then Clay with just over 30,000 acres last year.
The recent freeze we had threatened the wheat crop. Wheat freeze damage from the morning of March 15, is becoming more evident across eastern and Northeast Arkansas. Overall, the level of damage appears to be less than anticipated given the low temperatures and growth stages. I have not seen any fields or heard of reports of fields with what I would consider having severe damage. But, the full extent of damage will become clearer in the coming days and weeks. Leaf burn is the most common and most easily recognizable injury symptom that is being seen. Head damage is also being seen on a limited basis.
The mild winter of 2016-2017 will likely mean Arkansas producers -- especially those in the state's southernmost counties -- will face renewed pressure in soybeans from two pests that only recently appeared in Arkansas. Kudzu bugs, which reached damaging levels in Arkansas for the first time in 2016 in one small area in Phillips County, are expected to show an increased presence in the state this year. Similarly, redbanded stinkbugs, which appeared in the southern tier of Arkansas counties several years ago but were confirmed as far north as Marianna in 2016, are expected to be a much bigger problem in 2017. We found kudzu bugs in Clay County, near Piggott, for the first time last year.
Lastly I want to remind all producers to "Flag the Technology." The "Flag the Technology" process is a quick and inexpensive method to prevent misapplication of pesticides and warn of technology that is sensitive to potential off-target drift. Recent herbicide tolerant crop introductions have provided new options for controlling herbicide resistant weeds. However, the herbicides used in these programs can have detrimental effects on non-tolerant crops. To avoid problems, flags should be placed in a location clearly visible to applicators upon entry into the field.
Those wanting additional information may visit our web page at https://www.uaex.edu/publications/pdf/FSA-2162.pdf
Additional information may also be obtained by contacting the extension office in Piggott at 870 598-2246 or in Corning at 870 857-6875.
The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.