Rain Continues to Impact Harvest

Thursday, September 27, 2018
Before the rains came, producers were busy harvesting rice, beans, cotton and corn--or choosing which crop to dedicate their time.
TD photo/Tim Blair

What started out as a potential breakthrough year for Arkansas cotton may pivot to a profound disappointment as late summer and early fall rains continue to saturate crops here in the northeastern corner of the state.

In early September, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service revised the state’s projected cotton yield to 1,150 lbs. per acre, approaching last year’s state record, with 485,000 acres planted. But rainfall in the intervening weeks will likely affect both the yield and quality of those acres for the worse.

While harvest effectively stalled for nearly all crops throughout much of the Delta over the weekend, cotton is particularly vulnerable to sustained moisture and delayed harvest at this point in the farming cycle, experts with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture said Monday.

“All of this rain is hard on the open cotton. In fields where the bolls are open, rain can cause the lint, or fluff part of the boll, to become matted, hard and discolored, or can cause the lint to fall out completely,” noted Allison Howell, Clay County Agent for Agriculture. “Another problem is the possibility of seed germination inside the open bolls. All of this rain could lead to decreased fiber quality and value of the crop at harvest. In bolls that haven’t fully opened, water from frequent rainfall for downpours can infiltrate the small cracks in cotton bolls, causing them to ‘hard lock.’ This is a condition where the lint begins to rot inside the boll. Once the boll opens, the lint does not fluff out. Instead, it forms a hard mass and shatters to the ground when the picker runs through the field.”

She noted better conditions as the week progresses would be ideal. “Hopefully the rain will move out and it will be warm and sunny with a slight breeze to help prevent some of these things from happening,” she concluded.

State experts said many cotton contracts settled in early September were in the 80-85 cents-per-lb. range. Discounts from discoloration of lint and degraded fiber quality could cost growers five to seven cents a pound—which could equate to $50 an acre.

As far as the other crops, the rain has also hampered the harvest effort to different degrees.

Clay county rice producers made a big push last week and harvested a lot of acres, noted Clay County Extension Chair Stewart Runsick. “Riceland was operating at maximum capacity last week and announced they were going to shut down over the weekend to get caught up. I would say that more than 60 percent of the rice in Clay County has been harvested. Yields have been outstanding especially with hybrid varieties, while inbred lines have been about average.”

Runsick also reported some of the beans have been cut, although many farmers chose to harvest their rice first.

“A few soybean fields have been harvested. There are a lot of beans ready to harvest,” Runsick added. “Most producers were focused on getting the rice out first. I anticipate lower than expected soybean yields, and so far early yield reports have been average or below.”

Much of this year's corn crop also remains in the field as October approaches.

“We are behind on corn harvest. I would estimate that 50 percent of the corn acres in Clay County are still in the field,” Runsick surmised.”Again most producers were focused on rice,, although some have finished rice harvest and moved into the corn.”

On the bright side, the forecast is good. “Corn yields have been excellent, over 200 bushels per acre in most fields,” Runsick added. “Hopefully producers can get back in the field soon.”

Those wanting to learn more about row crop farming in Arkansas, contact their local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.edu

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons 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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