September 23, 2009 Edition

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Rains disrupt harvest

Ben Stone of Cox and Stone Farms watches as his father, Ray Stone, cuts rice on Monday. The muddy field in the background is evidence of the rainy weather that has been hampering harvest efforts.
TD Photo ~ Shantelle Prater
Shantelle Prater
Staff Writer

Rain continues to complicate harvest for farmers in Lawrence County. Of the 106,000 acres of rice planted in the county, only an estimated eight percent has been harvested.

According to Herb Ginn, Lawrence County Extension Agent, rice farmers are not only worried about the rain, but about wind and cooler temperatures, too.

"Two of the concerns are shattering and lodging," said Ben Stone of Cox and Stone Farms, who has grown up around farming his entire life. Shattering occurs when heavy rain or wind knocks the grain from the rice stalks onto the ground, while lodging occurs when the entire rice stalk is knocked down.

In addition, farmers are worried cooler temperatures will continue to prevent some rice from maturing.

Farmers such as Ray Stone and Tori and Joe Hicks began harvesting rice on Monday, once the fields were dry enough. Combines could be seen in the fields as late as midnight in some areas as farmers raced to beat the rainstorm promised during the overnight hours. Other farmers have been forced to wait for dryer weather.

Soybean farmers are also being affected by the tremendous amounts of rain.

Don Plunkett, Jefferson County extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, said soybean growers and consultants are also complaining about weather-related problems.

"One is that the rain stopped harvest," he said. "Second is that the rains have prevented timely fungicide applications as well as insecticide applications.

"A third problem is soybeans are splitting along the suture of the pod and beginning to sprout. These split pods also allow infections."

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, only five percent of the soybean crop had been harvested in Arkansas, some of which was affected by soybean rust and an infestation of aphids.

Unfortunately for Lawrence County farmers, rains are forecast through Sunday.

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