Rain-delayed growers make late-inning rally to plant crops

Arkansas’ cotton, rice and corn growers are making a late-inning rally after a spring-long rain-and-cold delay that kept them from planting their crops.

The brightest number in the latest crop report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, showed 4.5 days suitable for fieldwork.

“This week, we’re seeing cotton and rice planting really break loose,” said Scott Stiles, extension economist with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “This is the first week of the year it seems, that our growers have really had more than a day or two a week in which they could get into the field. The temperatures are finally where they need to be as well.

“The Delta, as well as the Midwest, has struggled with planting to the point that original planting intentions have been changed somewhat,” he said.

“We’ll see more soybean acres planted than growers indicated in March. Plus, the delays from the cold and wet weather are adding a modest yield and production concern to the corn and rice markets,” Stiles said. “Rice growers are really concerned at this point. A number of factors determine yield, but historically speaking, the state average has dropped in years with planting this slow.”

Monday’s NASS Crop Progress report showed 93 percent of the corn crop planted, 3 percent below the five-year average and 7 percent behind last year. In other crops:

• Cotton was 13 percent planted, 78 percent behind last year and 42 percent below the five-year average.

• Rice was 60 percent planted, 39 percent behind last year and 18 percent below the five-year average.

• Sorghum was also at 60 percent, 39 percent behind last year and 21 percent behind the five-year average.

• Soybeans were 19 percent planted, 50 percent behind last year and 19 percent below the five-year average.

• Winter wheat was 93 percent headed by week’s end, 7 percent behind last year and 5 percent below the five-year average.

“Arkansas rice growers still have 40 percent of the crop left to plant,” Stiles said. “Normally, they’d be about 80 percent planted at this point. This year’s rice planting pace is the slowest since 1993.”

Similar to rice, cotton planting in the state well behind the norm of 55 percent planted. This year marks the slowest cotton planting pace in Arkansas since 1991. Continued strength in cotton prices, which have recently traded at the mid-80 cent level, and an open window for planting this week may boost cotton acres slightly above March intentions of 270,000 acres.

The National Weather Service does have a 30-50 percent chance for rain in the forecast on Wednesday and Thursday, tapering to 20 percent by Friday.