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Published July 06, 2010, 01:55 PM

Northeast Arkansas farmers say rain needed for crops in area

JONESBORO, Ark. — Farmers in northeast Arkansas say slightly milder temperatures are helping their crops, but what they really need is rain.

By: Curt Hodges, Jonesboro (Ark.) Sun

JONESBORO, Ark. — Farmers in northeast Arkansas say slightly milder temperatures are helping their crops, but what they really need is rain.

“We haven’t had a rain in the Cash area since May, and it is really taxing our ability to pump water,” Bono farmer Cleo Watkins Jr. said.

“Our rice is in good shape, and most of our soybeans look good,” he said. But with crop prices falling and diesel fuel prices rising, some of the profit from the 2010 crop is evaporating, he said.

Watkins said he has seven pumps drawing water from ditches and a nearby river.

Poinsett County growers are having difficulty getting enough water across some fields, county agent Rick Thompson said.

In Craighead County, rice looks good in most places and is starting to head, said Branon Thiesse, county agent staff chairman. “At least the cooler temperatures are making things more bearable.”

Thiesse was checking moth traps Friday and finding 50 or so per trap, indicating numbers are building. He and other Extension Service officials urge growers and crop consultants to watch for insects and worms.

All of the crops in Northeast Arkansas are advancing rapidly with the hot temperatures.

Cotton is blooming and setting bolls, rice is heading, early soybeans are blooming, and corn is approaching maturity quickly.

“In my 26 years doing this, this is the earliest I have seen rice heading,” Thiesse said.

Corn still needs plenty of water, as do soybeans and cotton, he said. Rice requires a flood be kept for a few more weeks.

“This cooler temperature has really made things better” for crops and farmers, Thiesse said.

But upper 80s and lower 90s with temperatures into the 70s at night is good almost ideal weather for cotton and other crops.

The Arkansas cotton crop continues to mature ahead of the 5-year average for this time of year, according to the weekly report from Extension entomologist Tom Barber, the state cotton specialist. By the end of last week about 82 percent of the cotton crop was squaring, and about 1 percent was blooming.

“By the first of next week most of the crop will be squaring, and blooms should be prevalent in most fields by the end of next week,” Barber said.

The increased heat for June coupled with very few cloudy periods during the day has allowed the crop to develop rapidly. This is one reason water is so critical during periods of rapid development under hot and dry conditions, Barber said.

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