Soybean and peanut harvest slow going in Northeast Arkansas

by George Jared ([email protected]) 468 views 

JOHN DAVID MERCER/Staff Photographer Arthur Maye, a worker at Mullek Farms, makes his way through a peanut crop late last summer. PUBLICATION DATE: 06/15/2003

Soybean and peanut farmers still have thousands of acres to harvest in Craighead County, Craighead County extension agent Branon Thiesse told Talk Business & Politics, adding that constant rains in recent weeks have hampered efforts to finish the harvest in Northeast Arkansas.

The late harvest is impacting the quality of the soybean crop in the county, but hasn’t yet had a significant impact on the county’s peanut crop, he said.

“It’s screeching to a halt right now,” Thiesse said. “Every time it rains it gets worse.”

In one soybean field, the damage rate was about 2% and then following a rain, the remaining soybeans in the field had a more than 5% damage rate. Cooler temperatures have helped, but this will still go down as one of the worse soybean crops in the county in recent years, he said.

Craighead County farmers planted about 10,000 peanut acres in 2018, and about 4,000 acres still need to be harvested. This is the latest the peanut harvest has extended since the crop was reintroduced to the region about seven years ago, but there doesn’t seem to be any quality issues, Thiesse said.

Arkansas was a peanut producer up until the early 1980s. Peanut production shifted to other states like Georgia, Oklahoma, and Texas. Growing conditions and soil were two main reasons why the legume grew better in other states. It takes peanuts about five months to grow, and the plant prefers sandy soil. At the end of the process, peanuts have to be “turned” in the field, exposing them to wind and sun. This helps to dry the nuts before the harvest.

Northeast Arkansas has sandy soil in some areas, especially in Lawrence, Craighead, Mississippi, and other counties, but farmers were leery about fall weather in the region. It often turns cold in the area during the peanut harvest which can hurt yields. During the turn process rains can damage the crop and it’s a concern for farmers.

The weather will be a mixed bag for regional farmers in the coming days, according to the National Weather Service. There was a 90% chance of rain on Monday (Nov.12), and it was predicted to be sunny but cold on Tuesday and Wednesday. There’s a chance for rain or snow on Thursday and then there will be several sunny days in a row.

Unrelenting rains in August and September slowed corn and rice crop harvests, and in turn slowed soybeans. The rains kept fields wet allowing for mold, mildew, and fungus to spread in the fields before the soybeans could be harvested.