Impact From Flooding Could Have Been Worse
For local farmers, weather can have the biggest impact on their livelihoods. In early May, a lengthy period of rain threatened crops across Clay County. With summer starting it is important to understand where farming in Clay County stands.
Stewart Runsick, staff chair of the University of Arkansas's Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service, broke down the impact the flooding had and how the local area has recovered.
"As far as actual crop loss, we didn't have a lot of issues with loss. Fortunately, when we did get the rain and flooding it was cool and the temperatures were low, and most of the crops survived," Runsick said.
"We estimated there was about 5,000 acres of rice affected, that includes levies, ponds and fields, and those types of things that caused farmers to have to plant late. Other than that, there was not a lot of damage to corn or soybeans, we had probably about 1,500 acres of cotton that was affected."
Runsick said cotton along the Saint Francis River on the east side of Clay County was the worse affected having had some planting problems due to water seeping in from the levies.
With the severity of the flooding some damage is to be expected, but even with the rain delays were kept at a minimum.
Runsick said most of the crops have been planted with cotton and rice all but complete. Currently some farmers are still in the process of finishing planting for soybeans due to the delays caused by the flooding.
As of right now, soybeans are currently the most popular crop with over 120,000 acres planted according to Runsick.
"Our acreage fluctuates by year, this year we're going to have more soybeans than in the past," said Runsick.
According to Runsick the changes in acreage is due to price and demand. This year soybeans have a better chance for profit. Because of this, rice acreage down this year, with numbers dropping from 85,000 acres of rice last year to around 70,000 acres this year. Corn acres are also down according to Runsick, but cotton acres are up. Cotton acres are close to 35,000 which is a significant increase from last year's approximately 20,000 acres.
The minimal losses from the flooding can be attributed to the relatively low temperatures at the time of the flooding according to Runsick. He said since the temperature stayed below 70 most of the rice and corn survived unscathed.
"For the most part the flooding issue was early enough, end of April, first of May, that farmers still had time to get in the fields and get their crops in," said Runsick.
The timing of the flooding is important. If the flooding had occurred later in the year, around fall, damages and losses to crops would have been impossible to replace in time for harvest. Another important factor was the location of the more severe areas of flooding.
A large portion of the more severe flooding occurred near the Current and Black rivers. A large portion of this area had yet to be planted resulting in minor losses.
Overall the flood caused several delays to local farmers, but efforts to recover have been effective.
So far rice is entering its middle season with the flooding only delaying fertilizer application, in some cases up to three week, in many fields.
The cloudy conditions and cooler weather slightly delayed corn development, but it is now growing well and nearing the tasseling stage.
Soybean planting was delayed in some areas due to flooding, and is still being planted in some areas, but soybeans planted before the flooding are starting to bloom.
Cotton is currently growing strong, but is facing potential insect pressure, and wheat is in the process of being harvested.
Runsick commented on the state of farming in Clay County and gave some important advice for farmers in the coming months.
"Everything is still dependent on the weather, but it looks like now the rainy, cloudy period is over that we're starting to get some sunshine and warm weather to start growing in," Runsick said.
"We do feel like we're going to have a bad insect year. We're seeing a lot of insect pressure this year. We had a mild winter, we didn't have a very good winter chill on the insects so we're seeing insect pressure about a month earlier than normal."
While efforts from farmers have assured recovery from the flooding is all but complete it appears farmers need to keep an eye out in the coming months for the threat of insects.
Those wanting more information about the impact of last month's flooding or the future of farming in Clay County, may visit the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service website at www.uaex.edu