Recent heavy rains challenge local farmers

Saturday, June 21, 2014
A farmer was busy working in a field near Blytheville Saturday as smoke billows from a nearby field.

Recent heavy rains have put a damper on local crop harvests and preparations, but Mississippi County Extension Service agent Ray Benson said with a little cooperation from the weather area farmers should still see good crops at season's end.

It's a busy time for local farmers, many of whom are currently working on this year's wheat harvest, along with planting double-crop soy beans, fertilizing and irrigating cotton, irrigating corn and flooding rice. As irrigation needs for corn and cotton reach their peak, a day or two of rain can be a major help. But the flood-like rains the area saw for more than a week earlier this month has certainly done more harm than good.

The recent heavy rains affected different types of land in different ways, according to Benson, who serves as an agriculture agent for the University of Arkansas' Mississippi County Extension Office. The biggest overall impact the rain had on current crops is a delay in the wheat harvest, he said. While the recent heavy rains may have had some light negative affects on wheat itself, which grows best when it's dry, the long stretch of rain caused many farmers to miss out on some very crucial, time sensitive working days.

"The problem with trying to get wheat out now is we're needing to irrigate corn and clean up cotton, start applying herbicide to cotton or soy beans. So the delay in harvest is going to push farmers back and cut into the time they spend working these other crops," Benson said.

One of the biggest issues farmers are facing, according to Benson, will now be controlling the weeds, particularly pig weeds. Farmers typically have only a small window, sometimes just two or three days, to apply necessary herbicide to crops before weeds get out of hand. The recent rain caused many farmers to miss that window of opportunity which Benson said could cost some farmers a significant amount of time and money.

"The biggest thing we have to deal with now is going to be weeds," he said. "I don't think the rain itself was too detrimental, but the delay in applying herbicide could cost some guys a lot of money. Those weeds can be tough, especially pig weeds which is what we're going to be dealing with. So a lot of them are going to have to spend extra either on treatment or bringing in extra workers to get out there and chop weeds. That's a big concern in cotton, really."

But the recent rain was in no way a crop killer for local farmers according to Benson, who said if the weather follows good patterns throughout the rest of the season farmers could still see good yields from their crops.

"In times like this it's really about what happens next, not what already happened," Benson said. "If the weather cooperates and holds out from here on out we can still see some good crops. But it's all about what happens in the coming weeks. If we get a lot of rain, then we may be in some real trouble, but if it holds off I think we're looking good."

While the effects of a poor crop can be felt immediately by farmers, Benson said he imagines it affects the entire community in ways some people might never have considered.

"I think it'd be interesting to see just how big of an impact it's have on this community if the yields were down this year. Not just farmers, but furniture stores and clothing store and even Wal-Mart," Benson said. "I'm sure someone is looking into that, and I may even have that data around here somewhere and just haven't gotten to it yet, but I imagine it'd have a big impact on this entire community."

For now farmers are working diligently to get the wheat harvested and are doing their best to find ways to still produce a high-yielding season.