Arkansas: Ike adds insult to growers’ injuries

Hurricane Ike delivered a fresh blow to Arkansas producers trying to pick up the pieces left by the remnants of Hurricane Gustav. “We need some sun,” said Scott Monfort, Extension plant pathologist for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. Rice, corn and some soybeans are ready to be harvested, but Ike “is doing nothing but slowing that down.”

Hurricane Ike was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it hit Arkansas Sept. 13-14, but it still packed a punch with bands spawning five confirmed tornadoes that hit parts of Garland, Hot Spring, Lonoke, Saline and Perry counties. As the storm raced northeastward, later bands brought high winds and heavy downpours.

“Lafayette County producers did not escape damage from Hurricane Ike,” said Joe Vestal, Extension staff chairman. “Several producers from the Bradley area reported as much as one-quarter bale per acre of cotton lost as a result of the high winds Saturday.

“One corn grower has several fields that were blown flat,” he said, adding that about half of the county’s 13,000 acres of corn were yet to be harvested.

Doug Petty, Miller County Extension staff chairman, said Ike just added to farmers’ woes. “It has delayed and hurt the yields of an already bad soybean harvest,” he said. There was a “good bit of wind damage to homes and crops.”

However, “overall, we have been hit worse,” he said.

In Saline County, hay producers are still licking the wounds inflicted by Gustav, which included flooded and debris-ridden pastures, drowned tractors and tree-shattered fences.

Ron Matlock, Saline County Extension staff chair, estimated the loss of hay in his county at about $90,000. “Most people don’t realize that after you have flooding like this, you have all the silt that remains in the field,” he said. When the hay eventually dries, “you just have a bunch of dustballs.”

Hay producers faced another problem last week in Saline County: armyworms. “They moved in and if you’ve got a field that you put this expensive fertilizer on, you hate to lose it to an armyworm,” he said, adding “and that’s the field they seem to find.”

By Tuesday, it appeared the armyworms moved to a less voracious phase in their life cycle.

Garland County was hard hit by power outages. Extension Staff Chair Jimmy Driggers said there was a lot of fence damage and a few reports of trees on barns. “There were no lost crops or animals, just lots of power outages,” he said Tuesday. “A lot of the poultry houses are on generators and some of them are still out.”

Growers may get their wish. The National Weather Service on Tuesday was forecasting sunny skies and mild weather through next Monday.

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