Farmers Hurry to Beat "Delta

Growers in the Mid-South Delta are hustling to beat “Hurricane Delta.”
Row crop producers across Arkansas are joining in the scramble to harvest as many of their fields as possible before the storm’s expected heavy rains batter their fields.

The National Hurricane Center forecasted on Oct. 8 that Delta would be at least a Category 3 hurricane when it makes landfall in Louisiana Oct. 9. Damaging winds and up to 1 foot of rain is probable for some areas of the Arkansas in the second weekend of October.

As of Oct. 4, only 8% of the state’s soybean crop had been harvested, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Corn was at 86% harvested while rice was close behind at 70%.

“When you have a hurricane forecasted during harvest season, growers work extra hard to get as much of their crop out as possible before excess rain can cause damage to seed and make field conditions so wet that machine harvest becomes difficult,” said Trent Irby, with Mississippi State University.

“This time of year, the soil and plants won’t dry out as fast as they do in August and September. Some fields could be difficult to get into until next year if we get a major rain event now,” he said.

Because hurricane tracks are notoriously hard to predict, Arkansas farmers are working late into the evening and even the night to harvest as much rice as possible.

Soybeans in Arkansas have set and filled pods, changed color, and many fields are dropping leaves. Soybean maturity is almost exactly the same as the five year average for the crop. The Arkansas cotton crop is behind its five year average, with only 5% harvested versus a five year average of 13%, and the heavy bolls are particularly susceptible to damage. According to the NASS, 98% of Arkansas cotton bolls are opening.

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