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75,000 Acres of Arkansas Farmland Flooded

The areas that were hardest hit by weekend heavy rain include: Prairie, St. Francis, Woodruff, Monroe and Cross counties.
A flooded farm in Prairie County. Photo courtesy: Cooperative Extension Service U of A System Division of Agriculture.
A flooded farm in Prairie County. Photo courtesy: Cooperative Extension Service U of A System Division of Agriculture.
LITTLE ROCK, AR (News release) - At least 75,000 acres of row crops in five counties were under water following record rain last weekend, according to estimates compiled by the Arkansas Agriculture Department. 

According to estimates sent to Gov. Beebe’s office and the U.S. Agriculture Department on Tuesday by state Agriculture Department: 
  • Prairie County had 5,000 acres of soybeans and rice flooded
  • St. Francis County had 15,000 acres flooded -- mainly soybeans, some cotton, corn and sorghum 
  • Woodruff County had 15,000 acres of soybeans flooded
  • Monroe County had 15,000 acres of rice, beans, and corn flooded
  • Cross County had 15,000-20,000 acres of soybeans flooded.
For many farmers, it’s wait-and-see to learn the fate of crops buried by water. 

Soybean struggle
“The soybean crop is taking the brunt of the flood,” said Brent Griffin, Prairie County extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. Griffin was among the county extension agents helping the state Agriculture Department assess the damage. 

Soybeans can normally withstand up to 24 hours of flood, he said, “but anything over 24 hours will likely not survive.” Although soybean fields in higher elevation areas are likely to survive, the chance is very low for the ones in lower areas. Griffin said the growth stages range from “just planted to knee-high beans.”

Griffin added that the summer heat and humidity also could factor in the loss of soybean plants because hot temperatures cause “scalding”, meaning a lack of oxygen in the root zone. 

Growers are deciding whether to replant, and it’s late in the planting season, Griffin said. “July 1 is the general cut off date for planting.”

Research has shown that soybeans planted after June 15 lose 1 bushel per acre of production per day of potential average yield and 2 bushel per acre per day after July 1.

The age differences between beans could create problems for growers trying to time future irrigation, application and harvest. Replanted beans also tend to be more prone to diseases, insects and frost. 

Producers that have crop insurance will likely file claim for planted acres failed due to the flood, he said. “Those without insurance will likely … cover the initial loss knowing that they will likely only produce 50 percent of normal yields under ‘good’ growing conditions.”

Extension Soybean Agronomist Jeremy Ross said there is not a lot that can be done right now. It’s hard for fields to drain because the rivers to which they drain are still full.  Field-by-field approach is the best way to go about doing this, he said.

Corn and grain sorghum
Jason Kelley, extension wheat and feed grains agronomist for the Division of Agriculture, said that corn and grain sorghum aren’t as affected as badly as soybeans. He said, “At this late in the season, no corn or grain sorghum will be replanted.” 

Not all bad news for cotton
Bill Robertson, extension cotton agronomist with the Division of Agriculture, said with good drainage, cotton can survive. “I think it will recover.”

It’s critical that water drain from the fields, he said, adding that producers were quick to make sure drainage pipes were clear to let the water out as quickly as possible. While plants need moisture, they also need oxygen, he said. When the soil is saturated with water, they are deficient of oxygen because the soil air spaces are replaced by water.

The worst areas were in St. Francis and Lee counties. 

Not all fields are troubled with the recent rain. Robertson said this is good news for fields in the northeastern part of the state, such as Poinsett County and Mississippi County, since they only received 2 to 4 inches of rain, which was needed. 

Rice levees washed out
The 4-8 inches of rainfall that hit the southern half of Jackson County washed out rice levees and damaged soybeans significantly, said Randy Chlapecka, County extension staff chair for the Division of Agriculture.

“The washing out of rice levees at this stage is obviously a major problem,” he said. “Much of our earlier rice has reached the reproductive stage and it would be very damaging to suffer drought stress at this stage.”

Rice farmers will be trying to repair the rice levees to hold or maintain flood for plant growth and to avoid future drought stress. Right now, the ground is too wet to get any equipment in the field.  

The 7.5 inches of rain that fell at Augusta in Woodruff County and 4.75 inches of rain that fell at Des Arc in Prairie County set records for highest 24-hour rainfall, according to meteorologists with the National Weather Service in Little Rock. 

Story by: Kezia Nanda (Cooperative Extension Service U of A System Division of Agriculture)

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