Wet Arkansas winter eerily similar to last year

While many people hope for milder winters temperature wise, few hope for the heavy rains that often accompany them. A second consecutive year of continual rain and saturated soils have Arkansas growers hoping for a dry window to begin field work for the 2020 planting season.

Jarrod Hardke,rice agronomist for the University of Arkansas, says one bright if ironic spot may be that the mass of prevented planting in the 2019 growing season did at least leave some fields prepared for planting in 2020.

“If you see a field ready for planting right now, chances are, that happened last summer,” Hardke said.

The wet weather has also made it more difficult and time consuming to provide accurate soil amendment recommendations based on soil sample tests.

“A large percentage of the samples that came into the soil testing lab this year were pretty muddy,” Hardke said. “A big concern with a wet sample is that it’s harder to be precise in your depth. The process also takes longer, because those samples take longer to dry out before they can be tested.”

Year after year of heavy winter rains have also stressed levee and other flood control systems across the natural state. Kevin Lawson, Faulkner County Cooperative Extension chair, said growers throughout the Arkansas River Valley are particularly
concerned about the flooding potential that has increasingly reared its head and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in crop losses.

In late May of 2019, the Arkansas River flooded, causing a major levee break near Dardanelle. Other levees were topped by water, but managed to hold.

“It won’t take another flood like last time to come over that levee,” Lawson said. “People are concerned about it.”

While soybeans typically present a reliable planting alternative to rice, continually depressed commodity prices have made them less attractive in the MidSouth.

The signing of the Phase 1 trade agreement with China has raised hopes for a revitalized export market for the Aransas’ No. 1 crop, but markets have fallen on reports that the spreading coronavirus may reduce China’s overall demand for agricultural products. Lawson said that while growers will naturally gravitate toward the best market prices when making planting decisions, he advises them to stick with their regular crop rotations for the sake of long term viability.


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