Hurricane Laura’s winds and rain damage crops

Hurricane Laura brought driving rain and wind into Arkansas, and the damage left in her wake is still being assessed. Heavy rain over the weekend is sure to add to the damage totals with flooded crops and lodged plants.

Photos taken by extension personnel show swaths of flattened, or “lodged” plants in the heart of rice country. Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist, said Friday that in an early round of assessments, it seems “rice damage is luckily minimal.”

“The damage appears worse in the south and lessens as you move north,” he said. However, “the closer to harvest the field is, the worse the impact, but cultivar, seeding rate and fertility are all impacting factors.”

With additional rains forecast, Hardke said “lodging will worsen with time and rain.” Matthew Davis, extension staff chair in Jackson County, said soybeans in his county seemed to have been the hardest hit.

“Soybeans have a lean to them,” he said. “Some that were 4 feet tall are around 2 feet tall now.” Jeremy Ross, extension soybean agronomist, said “What I’ve seen are fields with tall soybean plants that have a severe lean — they’re not completely flat.

“These fields should stand back up, but not completely,” he said. “They will have a lean the rest of the year. There shouldn’t be any yield impact, but they will be impossible to scout.”

In White County, Extension Agent Jan Yingling said she found roads covered with water and patches of fields leaning, but “my farmers have told me that most everything is still standing and they feel like they were spared.”

In Ashley County, along the Arkansas-Louisiana border, extension county chair Kevin Norton said that about 90 percent of the county’s cotton and soybean acreage had “some degree of lodging.”

“Cotton seems to be the hardest hit,” Norton said. “Corn is all over the board. I would estimate that 60 percent of corn acreage has some degree of lodging, ranging from 5 to 95 percent.” Cross County Extension Staff Chair Rick Wimberley, said rice and corn in his county was still standing for the most part, but soybeans were hit hard.

“I saw a lot of fields laying down. Don’t know if they can stand back up or not,” he said.

In Randolph County, extension staff chair Mike Andrews said Laura destroyed a farm shop near Biggers, flattened a field of soybeans and flipped a few peanut vines out of the soil. Even so, Andrews said “I think we made it through way better than I thought the crops would.” Bill Robertson, extension cotton agronomist, said that “wind did push cotton over, especially the taller cotton, but I hope a lot of it will stand back up.” He also noted some plants had become entangled with one another.

The circular nature of Laura’s winds across the state left clues in the patterns of field damage; which was dependent upon how the rows were oriented.

“Where the wind was blowing across the rows, there were more issues,” Robertson said. “In Lee County, the winds were more from south, so north-south rows fared better. In Lonoke County, winds were more from the east, so east-west rows looked better there.”

Perhaps the bigger issue is the rain forecast for the next week. The Cache river is already at flood stage and many soybean fields in Northeast Arkansas were already flooded with irrigation water. If downed cotton plants don’t get dry weather, the bolls will begin to rot on the plant.

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