September 12, 2007 Edition

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Rains slow beginning of rice harvest

Gloria Wilkerson
TD Staff

Lawrence County farmers are busy with the fall harvest, though recent rains following a long dry spell have slowed them down the past few days. Heavy rains over the weekend, with some farmers receiving up to four inches or more, was too late to help a lot of crops. The weekend rains brought the first measurable rainfall since July 10.

According to Herb Ginn, Lawrence County Extension Agent, 80 to 90 percent of the county's grain sorghum has been cut. Overall, the yield has been pretty good, he said. The county raised 4,700 acres of grain sorghum this year.

Approximately 98,000 acres of rice was planted in Lawrence County with 20 percent of it being harvested at this time. "These yields are also looking pretty good," Ginn said.

The county's corn acreage almost doubled this year with about 5,000 acres being planted compared to last year's 2,500 acres. Yields for corn also look good with 50 to 60 percent of the crops already harvested.

Soybeans that have been irrigated look good, but some of the non-irrigated fields are not looking very promising. Just under 90,000 acres of beans were grown in the county this year and are not yet ready to cut.

"The Easter freeze we had significantly reduced yields of wheat," Ginn said.

Ray Stone told The TD that he has cut about 175 acres of hybrid rice so far, and the yield looks good, maybe a little better that average. "Our biggest concern right now is shattering." Shattering occurs when a heavy rain or wind knocks the grain off the rice stalks and leaves it on the ground making it impossible to harvest.

He said lodging occurs when rice stalks are knocked down by heavy rain or high winds. Saturday's rain did cause some shattering and lodging in Stone's rice. The rain can also cause Asian rust in soybeans, according to Stone.

"The Lord sends rain when He's ready. I think He was ready for a big rain," Stone said.

Farmers are now harvesting rice in wet fields. The equipment causes ruts on the wet ground and it will cost to repair them.

"Rice quality is a concern. When temperatures in late July and early August are in the 100 degree range, particularly at night, it's not good for rice because it is heading then. This year's heat will probably degrade the quality and mill yield," said Stone.

He said they concluded their last soybean irrigation before Saturday's rain, and the beans look exceptionally good, but it's too early to tell about bean quality.

"Prices for rice and beans are holding pretty well; they seem to be solid," he said. "But the cost of fuel is up, and the price of Urea, the fertilizer used on corn and rice, has almost doubled. To make matters worse, a large percentage of the fertilizer price is a huge tariff on imported fertilizer, and almost all of the fertilizer we use is imported. Good prices for our crops is offset by these rising costs."

Bruce Manning, who farms between Hoxie and Sedgwick, said he got four inches of rain over the weekend and has just started harvesting rice. He had about 10 percent lodging from the rain. "The rain was too late to help our soybeans," Manning said. "The non-irrigated beans are not doing well."

Hunter Burris, along with several other farmers, hasn't started to harvest rice yet. He said the rain will benefit the late soybeans planted, and his rice field received no damage over the weekend.

"We're still combining corn, and I'm pleased with the yield so far."

Farmers are hopeful that the weather will cooperate for the remainder of the harvest season.

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