June 5, 2013 Edition

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Rains prolong planting season


Shantelle Prater
Staff Writer

Once again, rain has forced farmers to prolong the planting season in Lawrence County.

On May 21, the National Weather Service reported half an inch to one and one half inches of rain in the county, followed by two to two and a half inches of rain in the county on May 31.

"Farmers are having a real challenge this year," said Lawrence County Extension Agent Herb Ginn. "Planting is the issue. Seems as soon as the fields have dried out enough to plant, the rain hits and we get another two to three inches."

According to Ginn, Lawrence County is normally in the top three rice-production counties in Arkansas.

"Lawrence County typically has more than 100,000 acres of rice planted and this year we aren't even close," Ginn said.

Due to the significant rainfall in mid and late May farmers have been forced to decide which crop will be the best decision financially, rice or beans.

"This year the only difficulties we are having is getting crops planted," joked Lawrence County farmer Dennis Bullard. "It's hard working two days a week and then it rains."

Many farmers have planted their rice by air this year, as planting rice in late May and early June brings a lot of variability into final yields, according to the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research and Extension service.

"We want rice in the ground during March and late April if we can, but we have had a lot of rice planted in May this year," said Ginn. "Rice planting is done in the county, what little we could get in."

Lawrence County farmer Mike Wright, who farms with his father and brother between Portia, Clover Bend and Hoxie, stated that Wright Farms Partnership has planted a little over 500 acres of rice this year, close to their normal 700 acres planted.

"We aren't having any issues in the field yet, but we don't have any levees pulled," Wright said.

Because of the rainfall, farmers such as Bullard have chosen to plant their rice by air, while others like the Wrights have decided to plant soybeans.

"Right now we have 60 acres of soybeans planted but we are going to try for close to 900 acres if we can get it planted," said Wright.

Bullard has planted 140 acres of his rice crop by air, and hopes to plant about 3,000 acres of soybeans.

"We haven't planted any soybeans yet and I don't know what we will do if it keeps raining," Bullard said, who farms within a three-mile radius of Minturn. "A lot of our fields that we plan to have soybeans in haven't even been worked because of the rain. It's going to take a lot to get the fields ready."

Based on research conducted by the Extension office, soybeans start to show slight yield losses when planted after June 15, and the loss increases after July 1.

"In the past we have had some farmers plant beans at the end of June but we would rather see them in the ground in April and May," Ginn said.

Although farmers are facing challenges getting their crops planted, Ginn says it could be worse. "It's bad, but we aren't as bad as we could be, and we are better off than Southeast Arkansas," said Ginn.

Other crops affected by the rains include the corn and peanuts. Farmers have faced flooding in their cornfields, and peanut acreage are down from last year.

"Normally peanuts are planted during the first and second week of May and some farmers plant peanuts during the last week of April but this year around 4,000 acres of peanuts have been planted compared to last year's 5,500 acres," Ginn said.

Weather trends always impact the planting and harvest seasons in Lawrence County. In 2011 farmers endured up to 20 inches of rain in April, which caused major flooding, and in 2012 farmers dealt with a major drought.

"It has been a challenge this year, that's for sure," said Ginn. "We need some really good weather but we are never happy with the conditions during planting or harvesting. We either need more rain or less rain."

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