Rain Impacting Spring Planting Schedule

Thursday, May 4, 2017
Wind-driven waves lap the shoreline of what was a rice soil fertility test in Greene County. A strong storm system laid down flooding rains between April 28-20 leaving many fields still flooded. (U of A System Division of Agriculture photo by Dave Freeze)

Arkansas row crop farmers who awoke Sunday to lakes where their newly planted fields had been will be enduring a nail-biting week to see how fast the water recedes, and how much new rain might fall Wednesday.

So far, the storms are blamed for five deaths in the state. On Sunday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared a state of emergency for Arkansas. Northern Arkansas was hard hit and many river gauges were at major flood or even record stages.

During the weekend, extension agents and faculty with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture used social media to show the power of the Friday-Sunday storm system. There were full rain gauges, highways that looked like muddy rivers and fields whose fledging crops were buried by water.

The National Weather Service at Little Rock reported that 24-hour totals through 7 a.m. Sunday included “a whopping eight and one-half inches at Savoy (Washington County), over seven and three-quarter inches at Guy (Faulkner County), and nearly eight inches at Georgetown (White County).”

“Here in Clay County rainfall totals from both of the systems that came through averaged anywhere from five to six and one-half inches,” noted local farmer Terry Pollard. “We received five and one-half total inches from the two systems combined.”

More rain is expected Wednesday and Thursday, with amounts ranging from one-half, to one and one-half inches, the weather service said Sunday night.

Heavy rain in Missouri and along the Ohio River Valley is expected to cause more flooding as it drains along various tributaries of the Mississippi River. The St. Francis, Current, Black, Cache, and Little Black Rivers are all out and past flood stage as well as many others. As of Monday afternoon the majority of these rivers have not crested yet. As a result, many roads are closed as well as schools.

Getting to the field

Right now, many people across Arkansas aren’t able to get out and assess damage because of flooded roads, and downed trees or powerlines. Many sheds that housed irrigation sheds were blown away and lots of crops were affected. Several fields may have to be replanted, but we won’t be able to tell until the water recedes and we can get in the fields to check on condition of the crops.

Thousands of acres of rice and corn here in Clay County will be impacted. Many corn fields have water standing on the bottoms of the fields, so replanting might be necessary depending on the amount of time it takes the water to get off and the temperatures.

“We had the best stand of corn I’ve seen in many years,” said Stewart Runsick, Clay County extension staff chair for the Division of Agriculture. “The corn all came up perfect with very uniform stands”.

“Essentially all of our corn had been planted due to the relatively good planting conditions in March and April of this year,” said Jason Kelley, wheat and feed grains agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “We have or will have a considerable amount of corn that will have flood water or standing water on the fields.”

He indicated there will be several kinds of damage on corn, “the most obvious being the flooded fields and the quicker the water gets off the fields, the better,” he said. “A small corn plant can handle flooding for a short time, but if the flood stays on the fields for a week or more, it is going to be tough for the corn to make it.”

“On the other hand, If the water recedes in a couple days, we have a much better chance for a normal corn crop,” Kelley said. “We are also seeing considerable soil erosion in some fields, exposing the corn root system, which may make the plant more prone to late season lodging.”

The worst flooding has occurred in the Success area in West Clay County. “Success had to be evacuated on Monday. There is rice completely submerged over in that area as well,” Runsick added.

It’s a painful prospect in a spring that saw Arkansas farmers putting seed into the ground at rates much higher than the five-year averages for some crops.

Luckily, there wasn’t any cotton planted in Clay County yet and there were only a few soybeans planted. Rice and corn are the main two crops impacted so hopefully the water will go down quickly so that we can assess damage and see what needs to be done.

We are not sure how long the water is going to stand on some fields. All we can do is evaluate the stands once the water recedes.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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