Tuesday, August 09, 2011

TOP STORY >> Rainfall showers savings on fields

Special to The Leader

Rain on Monday and Tuesday may have saved Lonoke County farmers about $2.4 million in irrigation costs alone, according to Jeff Welch, the county’s chief agricultural extension agent.

“The rain will save on irrigation” in soybean and cotton fields, he said, and estimated that county farmers had about 124,000 acres of beans, 27,000 acres of corn and about 6,500 acres of cotton.

Irrigation costs about $15 an acre in fuel, Welch pointed out.


“We have a lot of late-planted beans and the rain and lower temperature helped them survive,” Welch said.

“It’s going to help on a lot of different levels,” he added.

He said hot nights slowed plant growth and also inhibited growth of the cotton boll.

“We’re having a worm run in the soybeans,” he said. “We’ve sprayed quite a few acres on boll worms and have pretty good control.”

In cotton, there is some worm pressure, he said.

“That’s the way its going to be until mid- or late August. We have a delayed crop because of the heat,” he explained.

“When it cools down, (the plants) will respond. High night-time temperatures delay the head,” Welch added.

Farmers don’t make as much rice in a hot year.

They also are having problems with panicle blight again this year in several varieties.

“We’ve started to harvest the earliest corn, but we’ll have a 10 percent to 15 percent decrease,” Welch said. “Even with irrigation, the heat will impact the yield.”

He said corn yields would probably be about 170 to 180 bushels per acre, off from 190 to 200 bushels in a good year.

The weather “clipped us a bit, but we’re still profitable with good prices,” he said, even though farmers are having to spend a lot of money on the crop.


Larry Odom, owner of Holland Bottoms Farm near Cabot, said he got about three inches of rain Monday, only the third rain since May.

Odom is a niche farmer who grows fruits and vegetables, selling most of them from his roadside stand.

He said Tuesday that the new rain means he won’t have to irrigate for a week or 10 days.

“We irrigate everything we grow,” he said. “The heat doesn’t bother us as much as some.”

He has a 60-acre pond left from his rice farming days and uses it to irrigate.

Odom, who just celebrated his 65th birthday and 25th wedding anniversary, says it hasn’t been all roses this season though.

“We lost most of our peaches to a late freeze in March,” he said, and the strawberry plants from California weren’t mature enough to set fruit this year.

But with his irrigation set up, he’s made good crops of purple hull peas, cucumbers, zucchini, melons, cantaloupes, tomatoes, grape tomatoes, sweet onions, okra and eggplant.

He sells nearly everything from his roadside stand, which is open 79 hours a week, cutting out the middle man.

“We try to control our market destiny,” he said. “We’re a niche farm.