Arkansas: Early Planting Surges Ahead, Even as Rain Makes for Some Slow Spots

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    Even as the rains of late winter and early spring still kept field work at a standstill through some parts of Arkansas, corn and rice growers around the state managed to make headway, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. 

    By March 25, 18 percent of estimated 2018 corn acreage had been planted — double the 5-year average for this point in the season. Rice growers had seeded 4 percent of acreage, twice what was completed by this time last year, and four times the 5-year average.

    Robert Goodson, agriculture agent for the Phillips County Cooperative Extension Service office, said that while some growers stayed out of the fields, suspecting excessive rain on the way, growers collectively planted more than 3,000 acres of corn and 1,000 acres of rice throughout the county.

    Goodson said that most growers in his county have finished their pre-emergence pesticide applications, using either aerial or ground rigs.

    “There’s still some prep to do, but we’re in good shape. If we can have four or five days of dry weather and a little breeze, we’ll be back on schedule,” Goodson said.

    In Cross County, rains not only stalled field preparations over the past several weeks, but may have occurred additional costs, Cross County extension agent Rick Wimberley said.

    “We were seeing a lot of tractors go in the field last week, doing some tillage work,” Wimberley said. “But now, because of the rains, they’re going to have to go back in there and scratch the field up again. You’re adding $12-15 an acre to your production cost right there, in fuel and labor.” 

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    Remaining ahead of the planting calendar, however, has kept growers in a reasonable mood, he said.

    “With rice and beans, we’re nowhere near being behind the optimal planting date — we’re still in good shape there,” Wimberley said. “Nobody is really surly yet, but if this keeps up, they’re going to get that way.”

    Progress in much of Perry County, however, remained stalled as rains kept soil saturated, nearly to the point of flooding in some areas. Kevin Lawson, Perry County agricultural agent, said that while pasture managers were finally able to apply pre-emergent pesticides, row crop farmers were in a holding pattern.

    “But nobody’s gone to ‘plan B’ yet,” Lawson said, as far as planting intensions. “It’s too early for that, in our neck of the woods. Everyone’s still on track.”

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