Arkansas Agriculture

A new report says flooding that began in late June will lead to millions of dollars lost in crop value for Arkansas farmers.
 
 The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports farmers in 10 Arkansas counties are expected to lose more than $35 million in crop value. The University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service study says the full extent won't be known until after harvest.
 

Delta Plastics Irrigation
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Delta Plastics and a consortium of agricultural interests in Arkansas have launched a new water conservation software initiative that leaders say could reduce water usage by 20 percent by the year 2020.

"This initiative is the most important conservation effort we have ever launched," said Dhu Thompson, Delta Plastics Chairman. "‘Preserving our farmland’ has been our company slogan for nearly 20 years. But conservation and sustainability is so much more than a slogan for us. It is a principle that has driven every major operational decision that we have made."

An Arkansas agriculture professor is using a kite to take aerial photos of soybean fields in his research to develop more drought-tolerant plants.

The Southwest Times Record reports University of Arkansas professor Larry Purcell is using the kites to get around a federal agency's rules on flying remote controlled aircrafts for commercial purposes.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has made disaster declarations for farmers and ranchers in 10 Arkansas counties who suffered losses due to storms that began in the affected areas June 29.

Vilsack issued disaster declarations Wednesday in response to flood conditions in Cross, Independence, Jackson, Lee, Lonoke, Monroe, Prairie, St. Francis, White and Woodruff counties.

Arkansas Sec. of Agriculture Butch Calhoun
aad.arkansas.gov / Arkansas Agriculture Department

Arkansas farmers are working to salvage the current growing season, but losses in some areas are expected to be huge.

"I've seen estimates as high as over $200 million just on soybeans," said Arkansas Agriculture Secretary Butch Calhoun.  Corn and rice were also hard hit when 10 inches of rain fell in east Arkansas on June 29.  Repeated rainfall since has further complicated recovery efforts.

Calhoun says many growers are replanting, but that it's risky at this point.

Heavy weekend rains left many farmers in east Arkansas with flooded fields, and the water is so deep in places the ground won't dry out soon enough for them to replant.

A little more than 10 inches of rain fell in parts of the eastern half of the state, where farmers were still assessing damage Monday.

The National Weather Service issued flood warnings along the Cache River near Patterson, the White River near Augusta and on the L'Anguille River at Palestine.

Arkansas soybean growers are facing a challenge from a pest that's new to the state -- the pea weevil.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture said Wednesday that the weevil appears to have come from Europe and found its way to Phillips County in eastern Arkansas.

The pest has been found so far only in several fields near Marvell - but it has also surfaced in Louisiana and Washington state.

UA system entomologist Gus Lorenz says immature weevils feed on soybean roots and mature pea weevils eat the leaves.

Federal officials plan to tour several projects in eastern Arkansas that are reducing water and nutrient pollution in the Mississippi Delta.

Officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will join state and local leaders on a series of tours Tuesday. The officials will visit farms in Stuttgart and also stop by the 5 Oaks Duck Lodge and Hollowell Reservoir at Bayou Meto.

At each stop, farmers and experts will discuss strategies to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that reach waterways and the Mississippi Delta.

After enduring a battering of torrential rains over the weekend, Arkansans may now have to bundle up as a cold front moves through the state bringing the likelihood of freezing weather Monday night. The state rarely feels temperatures drop below freezing in mid-April, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Tabitha Clark, who says a cold front moving in from Canada is causing the mercury in the thermometer to drop.

Up and down temperatures across Arkansas may affect Arkansas fruit trees and a wet spring could delay planting of row crops in the state.

Benton County extension agent Neal Mays says northwest Arkansas went through "brutal" temperatures recently with several nights of temperatures at or below zero. Mays says it will soon be known just how much damage was done to fruit crops and said he expects at least some fruit buds were killed.

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