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Published September 28, 2010, 11:17 AM

Northeast Arkansas wheat farmers facing shortage of seed

JONESBORO, Ark. — Arkansas wheat farmers plan to increase their wheat acreage this year and would have planted more had they been able to get as much seed as desired, crop consultants and agriculture officials said.

JONESBORO, Ark. — Arkansas wheat farmers plan to increase their wheat acreage this year and would have planted more had they been able to get as much seed as desired, crop consultants and agriculture officials said.

“It’s hard to estimate how much wheat we’ll plant this fall,” Arkansas Extension Service small grain specialist Jason Kelley told The Jonesboro Sun. “On one hand prices are good and people want to plant more, but on the other hand, seed is in short supply.”

The rise in wheat prices came shortly after seed producers and seed companies, believing wheat acres would be short again this fall, released wheat seed into the grain market. When wheat prices shot up in July, that seed was already gone.

The farmers who got the seed they wanted are the ones who made arrangements in June.

Kelley noted that in the past few years — 2009 in particular — the number of wheat acres planted in Arkansas have dropped from about 1 million acres in 2007 to 400,000 in 2008 and less than 200,000 in 2009.

The harvest for the 2010 crop season has been far ahead of normal thus far, as much as three or four weeks ahead, Cooperative Extension officials said. This will pressure some producers to plant their wheat early, but Extension specialists said that would be a mistake.

Craighead County Agent Staff Chairman Branon Thiesse said the ideal window for planting wheat in northeastern Arkansas begins about Oct. 1, but some farmers have already begun planting.

“There’s no moisture out there,” Thiesse said. “I hope it comes up.”

Keeping people from planting early will be a challenge in other parts of the state as well, said Charles Denver of Denver Crop Consulting at Watson in south Arkansas.

“Half of our crops cotton, rice, soybeans and corn were out of the field by the middle of September, something I’ve never seen here before,” he said.

“Growers will be tempted to jump in and plant wheat right away,” he said. “But wheat does best here if you don’t start planting before mid-October.”

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