As of April 25, Arkansas growers trying to finish spring planting will be playing a waiting game amid forecasts for flooding in the coming weeks.
“We have about a third of the rice in the ground,” says Rick Wimberley, Cross County Extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. “Anticipated rainfall will put us about a month behind in rice planting.”
To the south and east, counties along the Mississippi have already had a taste of high water and are bracing for more.
“A couple of weeks ago, the Mississippi River at Helena-West Helena crested at 44 feet-plus, and the forecast is for it to go to 51 feet-plus,” says Robert Goodson, Phillips County Extension agent for the Division. “Flood stage is 44 feet.”
That’s bad news for growers up river, he says.
“When the Mississippi backs up, then the St. Francis backs up and the L’Anguille backs up,” Goodson says.
“The St. Francis Floodway is forecast to reach ‘catastrophic’ levels,” Wimberley says. “Crops planted in the floodway are predicted to be underwater for two weeks. To say the least, farmers here are not very cheerful right now.”
There isn’t much farmers can do, other than move livestock and farm equipment to higher ground. “For those with land on the backside of the levee, their only option is time,” Goodson says.
Just weeks ago, some growers were wondering if they’d get enough moisture to plant. “My Dad would always say, ‘It’s either too wet or too dry; it’s impossible to please the frogs and scorpions at the same time,’” says Lonoke County Extension agent Keith Perkins, whose county is just east of Little Rock.
“All planting has come to a grinding halt except some acres of rice that are water-seeded,” he says. “Since rice is an aquatic plant, most acres that were planted will survive without many problems.”
Rice was 54 percent planted (April 25), up from the past week’s 45 percent and behind the 51 percent five-year average.
Source: University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.