Soggy farmland dries out; corn irrigation begins; winter wheat harvest close

HELENA-WEST HELENA — Arkansas’ corn producers are nearly done with planting as harvest time approaches for the state’s winter wheat crop.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service showed 99 percent of the corn crop planted as of the end of last week, with 97 percent emerged. All of the wheat was headed, the NASS said.

It wasn’t a few weeks ago that farmers were having a hard time planting because it was so soggy.

“We’re starting to irrigate corn over here,” said Robert Goodson, Phillips County extension agent for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “It’s getting dry.

“It is a little early for irrigation, especially since we had all that rain earlier;” he said, “however, more than one farmer has turned on the water at Marvell. Some of this irrigation is being used for herbicide activation and some for the corn’s water needs.”

In far southeastern Arkansas, “we started irrigating corn last week,” said Gus Wilson, Chicot County extension staff chair. “It’s not too terribly dry, but we could use a nice inch of rain about Monday or so to give us another boost.”

Wilson said growers in his county were still getting rice and soybeans planted and overall, “things are looking better. The crops have really turned around in the last seven to 10 days.”

Chad Norton, Lincoln County extension staff chair said that in his county, firing up the irrigation “is very normal. Most of the corn is on sandier, higher ground and loses moisture faster, and the corn is beginning to use more water” as it grows.

In Lonoke County, corn hasn’t needed any irrigation yet, said Keith Perkins, county extension agent for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

“We will be to the point of needing to irrigate corn next week if we do not catch the rain this week, but we have not missed any rains this year,” he said. “My dad would say, ‘when it stops, it stops for good,’ but that may not be the case this year.”

The best chances for rain are on Saturday, with thunderstorms likely Saturday night, the National Weather Service at Little Rock said.

Meanwhile, high winds accompanying the movement of various powerful lows have created problems for growers trying to apply weed control.

“The wind is playing havoc on spraying herbicides to clean up corn and rice fields of weeds,” said Brent Griffin, Prairie County extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “This is the case for both air and ground application.”

Winter wheat is 100 percent headed, and in Phillips County, “we’re probably seven-eight days from wheat harvest,” Goodson said. Griffin was expecting a June 5 start to wheat harvest in Prairie County.

Corn and wheat plantings were expected to each 1 million acres each in Arkansas in 2013.