Icy cores in winter wheat mark freeze

It will be a few days before the damage to the Arkansas wheat crop can be assessed, but based on the record low temperatures the state had, it appears some farmers may have significant damage, said Jason Kelley, wheat specialist with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

“From Clay County to Rohwer in Desha County, we’ve got a lot of wheat in a pretty sensitive stage of development. But it will take a few days before damage shows up.

“I looked at a wheat field today (April 9) in Lonoke County, and the crop looked perfectly fine, but then you look on the ground around it, and the bermudagrass is black,” Kelley said.

“In north Arkansas, where it got 25 degrees, I’ve gotten three reports today where producers split open stems and found ice formed inside. That’s definitely not a good situation,” Kelley said.

He said the losses to the state’s 830,000-acre crop will vary from field to field and according to temperature, variety, stage of development and topography. He said it wouldn’t have been so bad except the crop is 10 days ahead of normal development.

Dave Freeze, Mississippi County, Ark., Extension agent, said farmers can’t fight Mother Nature. “They have to take their punches when they get them, and that’s what farmers have always had to do. The sad thing is farmers had finally gotten a decent price for their wheat.”

Steve Culp, a Craighead County, Ark., Extension agent, said the fate of the 15,000 to 18,000 acres of wheat in his county is a big question mark. “It just got too darn cold. I don’t think there’s any doubt we’ll take a hit,” he said. “For some individual farmers, it could be a big loss. A lot of them have contracts and some might be in danger of not producing enough wheat to meet their contract terms.”

He said the cold also killed off the corn and rice that had emerged. “The cold pretty well smoked anything that had emerged. But most of the rice and corn is below ground, so the majority of those crops will come back,” he predicted.

He said pecans in his county were in bloom and they’ve turned black.

In south Arkansas, Chad Norton, Lincoln County agent, said his telephone had been ringing off the hook since 8 a.m., Monday. He said 30 and 32 degree temperatures had “hurt us, but how much I have no idea. I feel like we’ll have some yield loss.”

Ken Adams in Arkansas County said it got as low as 28 degrees over the weekend at the UA Rice Research and Extension Center near Stuttgart, Ark.

“I’ve had lots of calls about it. I’m telling farmers that all they can do is wait and check it in a few days,” he said. He said he would expect the wheat plants, if damaged, to fall over.

He said he has also had numerous questions about the rice crop. He said corn and rice planted in March are limp, indicating damage, but he doesn’t think farmers will have to replant.

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