Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Arkansas: Fair Weather Speeds the Plow

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Arkansas’ rice is being planted at the fastest pace since 1981, according to the first crop progress report of the season issued Monday by the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service, or NASS, is part of the U.S. Agriculture Department. Monday’s report reflects figures for the week ending April 1.

“Looking back on April 1, 2007, the rice crop was 17 percent planted,” Scott Stiles, extension economist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture said Monday. “That’s the highest percent planted I could find going back to 1981 and that year was the highest state average yield on record: 7,230 pounds per acre.”

It’s quite a start for a crop that was expected to see its lowest number of acres in Arkansas since 1989. And the fast pace was not just in rice.

“Generally, NASS will wait until the first Monday in May to track soybean planting,” he said. “A few times they’ve started around the 20th of April. The agency may have to make an exception this year.”

The agency did, showing Monday that soybeans were 4 percent planted, compared with 1 percent last year. The five-year average was zero percent.

Corn’s 59 percent current planting rate didn’t quite match the record-yielding 2007 season, when 70 percent of the crop was planted by April 1. That year, the state average yield was 169 bushels per acre. “There again, early start equals record yield.

“If all continues well weather-wise, we have the right start for a record year,” Stiles said.

The NASS report showed:

Corn was 59 percent planted, ahead of last year’s 42 percent and the 36 percent five-year average.

Rice was 18 percent planted versus 7 percent this time last year, and compared with the five-year average of 6 percent.

Grain sorghum 26 percent planted, versus 13 percent last year and compared with the five-year average of 8 percent.

Arkansas winter wheat was 35 percent headed compared with 4 percent last year and the 4 percent five-year average.

Cotton acreage was not reported this week, though some cotton acres have been planted, extension personnel reported.

“All of the crops that have been planted for seven days are emerging and growing off very well,” Brent Griffin, Prairie County extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said Monday. Unfortunately, so are the weeds.

Rain in the forecast would be welcome, Griffin said. “We will need this shower Tuesday or Wednesday to activate the pre-emergent herbicides, weeds starting to emerge before being activated.”

The report had upbeat news for the state’s livestock producers, whose pastures burned to a crisp during last year’s hot, dry summer.

The report showed 72 percent of pasture and range to be in good or excellent condition.

“The mild winter, and now an early spring, has been a life saver for some cattle producers who were marginal on hay supply after last summer’s devastating heat,” said Berni Kurz, Washington County extension staff chair.


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