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Published October 19, 2010, 11:06 AM

Higher temps good for Arkansas cotton, not rice, soybeans

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The hot and dry summer of 2010 has damaged Arkansas’ crop of rice and soybeans.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The hot and dry summer of 2010 has damaged Arkansas’ crop of rice and soybeans.

Cotton, on the other hand, has thrived under the conditions. U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts show the crop appears to be one of the best in recent memory.

George Willoughby, who farms both rice and cotton in Marked Tree, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette he hasn’t had any rain at his farm since July 29, and for cotton, that’s a good thing.

“The cotton that I’m picking right now doesn’t know what rain is,” Willoughby said. “It’s never been rained on. And when that happens, it makes the grade of the cotton and the value of it, most of the time, it makes it good.”

He said his rice yield is only slightly below normal, but he was docked money at the mill because the heat damaged the quality of the crop.

Unrelenting heat, day and night, put the plants under constant stress, said Rick Thompson, the Poinsett County extension agent. As a result, heads were smaller and there were many “blanks,” where grain did not fill into the kernel, Thompson said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects the rice yield to be 6,400 pounds per acre, the lowest since 2001 and 400 pounds smaller than last year.

Carl Frein, a rice broker with Farmers Marketing Service in Brinkley, said that for most of the summer the rice crop looked exceptional.

“It looked great in the field. But you just don’t know until you get a combine in it. It just completely fooled everybody,” he said.

The weather also brought down high hopes for the state’s soybean crop. A little more than half of the crop had been harvested as of Oct. 10, and production is forecast to be down 11 percent from last year’s crop.

In addition to the lower yields on beans, the dry conditions have made it difficult to harvest the crop without causing more damage because the beans have become brittle.

“We started on a good foot in the spring,” said Monty Malone, an agronomist with Hornbeck Seed Co. “The expectation set us up for disappointment as much as the weather did, I think.”