Every week Arkansas farmers hope to put the devastating storms of late April and early May behind them, and every week, nature brings another round of heavy rains, high winds and hail.
Memorial Day weekend was no exception, leaving crops flooded and flattening others. Then came more storms, some with high local rainfall totals, on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Flash flood warnings were issued Monday morning for Independence, Izard, Sharp, Jackson, Craighead and Mississippi counties. In some spots, radar indicated totals reached 6 inches. A flash flood watch was issued for Lawrence, Greene, Craighead, Poinsett and Mississippi counties through Monday evening.
Flooding over the last few weeks in Jefferson County forced farmers to replant about 250 to 300 acres of corn and rice, said Anthony Whittington, Jefferson County Extension agent.
High winds with the storm also caused corn or lean, or “lodge,” or flattened plants to the ground. In some cases, the stalk breaks -- a condition called “greensnap” -- and, in some cases, the corn dies.
Jefferson County was not the only county affected.
The storms have delayed production and planting in Poinsett County, said Craig Allen, Poinsett County Extension agent.
“It’s just been so wet after the previous floods. We’re trying to get the ground dried up and levees pulled back,” Allen said.
Desha County had flooding that stunted the cotton and bean crops, said County Extension Staff Chair Chuck Capps.
“I think we will see some yield loss at the end of the year,” Capps said. “Could be 5 to 10 percent off of five-year average.”
Lucky so far
Other counties had little to no damage to their crops.
“Phillips County has been lucky so far this spring,” said Robert Goodson, Extension agent for the county.
Goodson said there was a little flooding, but it affected less than 1 percent of crops and did not damage anything because they are protected by levees. “Everything is fine, except for those few with water damage.”
When there is damage to crops, there are extra costs that come into play, said Eric Wailes, a University of Arkansas distinguished professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness. Those costs include repairing damage to fields and structures; having to purchase additional seed for planting and redoing fertilizer and weed control applications.
In late May, the Division of Agriculture estimated damage from April’s storm effects at $175 million, and offered a caveat that the figure was expected to climb as receding flood water revealed more damage. (See http://bit.ly/2ro6lrM)
“It’s more of a bind on farmers than there already was,” Allen said.
If a crop is planted late, which is the case for replanting, it is outside of the optimal planting season, so the yields will be lower, Wailes said.
There are costs that are associated with lower production and then lower amounts of crops that are processed.
“It has an additional impact on the value added for the state,” Wailes said.