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Wet weather may promote record cotton, rice yields

Fast Facts:

    • Arkansas rice approaching 2013 record of 168 bushels per acre
    • Statewide cotton yield average estimated at 1,137 pounds per acre

(506 words)

LITTLE ROCK  -- As the 2014 rice and cotton harvests draw to a close, a mild summer and fall, coupled with heavy rainfall throughout the state, appear to have delivered surprisingly high yields for both rice and cotton.

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, Arkansas’ cotton crop was 98 percent harvested, ahead of the five-year average of 93 percent, and rice harvest was complete, just 1 point ahead of the 99 percent five-year average. Soybeans were near completion at 96 percent.

Jarrod Hardke, an extension rice agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture based at Stuttgart, said record low temperatures in June, July and August in some areas of the state were a strong force in shaping the 2014 crops.

“That really had a significant impact on our overall rice crop, and ultimately, our yields,” Hardke said. He said significant temperature drops can affect rice crops in different ways depending on when they occur in the plants’ growing cycle.

“If those very stressful, low temperatures occur just after mid-season, that’s actually the time when those plants are determining how many grains they’re going to attempt to create to begin with, and how many branches will be on that panicle,” Hardke said. “If those conditions occur when we begin to head, and at pollination, it can affect or inhibit pollination — you have a fertility problem and you can get blanks. There will be kernels that don’t pollinate, and don’t fill at all.”

 The typical window for planting rice throughout the Arkansas Delta region spans from late March until mid-June, although some fields in 2014 were planted as early as March 10 and as late as July 8, Hardke said. Rice harvest is heavily temperature dependent, and can range from mid-August to early October, or even beyond, he said.

Despite several periods of unusually low overnight summer temperatures, the ag statistics service has estimated that the state’s 2014 rice yield at 167.3 bushels per acre, just shy of 2013’s record-breaking 168 bushels per acre average. Hardke said final harvest numbers released by NASS in January will reflect any last-minute changes in processing.

Surprising cotton

Like rice, the state’s cotton crop may also be headed for another record year in 2014. Extension Service cotton agronomist Bill Robertson said harvest throughout the state is nearly 100 percent complete, with a state-wide average yield estimated at 1,137 pounds per acre.

“It’s a little surprising,” Robertson said. “We had a rough start, with a cold winter last year, followed by a cool spring, and we got off to a late start.”

Robertson said heavy rain throughout some areas of the state early in the season diminished the state’s overall yield, although some fields had produced between 1,500 and 2,000 per acre.

“We had an extremely good, kind of dry fall, and that really took away the penalty we usually have for having a late crop,” Robertson said. “A really good fall makes up for a lot of misfortunes through the year.”

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By Ryan McGeeney
Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126

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