High winds aid harvest after Hurricane Gordon; cotton boll rot becoming an issue

by George Jared (gjared@talkbusiness.net) 179 views 

Hurricane Gordon churned in Arkansas late last week dumping inches of rain on row crop farmers working to harvest rice, soybean, corn and other crops. The deluge hampered harvest efforts, but high winds have helped to dry fields, rice agronomist Jarrod Hardke said.

The winds coupled with dry weather are needed to save many crops in the field that were in danger last week, he said.

The rice harvest jumped from 20% complete to 33% complete last week as farmers tried to get as much crop out of the field before Gordon struck. Heavy rains from the storm started on Wednesday (Sept. 5) and slowed progress in parts of the state south of Interstate 40, but farmers further north were able to harvest into Friday, Hardke said.

Hardke said he hadn’t received any reports of rice sprouting in the field, “but that may change as downed rice waits to be harvested. With the cooler temperatures and a slight breeze, many growers are back in the fields yesterday and today ‘mudding’ the crop out.”

The continued moisture is a concern for the state’s cotton growers.

“We just need sunshine and dry weather,” said Bill Robertson, extension cotton agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “Boll rot is moving up the plant. We are losing ground now, trading our bottom crop for the top crop.”

Robertson said he was surprised to find growers south of McGehee in sodden southeastern Arkansas, applying harvest aids. Up to 3 inches of rain fell in places further north such as Forrest City, and farmers hope to have their equipment in the fields later this week, he added.

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the state’s cotton harvest has not yet begun. Soybean harvest is just getting started, Jeremy Ross, extension soybean agronomist for the Division of Agriculture said. Ross has received some reports about splitting pods with sprouting seed, but it’s a very percentage in fields affected, he said.

“Just need some dry weather to continue harvesting. Another two weeks and we will be rolling.”

The weather may cooperate during the next week through most of the state. The National Weather Service predicts it will mostly be sunny during the next seven days with almost no chances of precipitation in the Arkansas Delta, where the majority of crops are grown. Highs will range in the low to mid-80s.

Arkansas is the country’s leading rice producer, with about half the nation’s rice being grown in the Natural State. Arkansas rice farmers planted and estimated 1.4 million acres this year. Soybeans are the state’s top crop with about 3.6 million acres planted, and cotton farmers planted and estimated 480,000 acres.