Tuesday, June 10, 2014

TOP STORY >> Weather hurting farmers

Leader senior staff writer

Parts of Lonoke County got as much as six inches of rain over the past few days, and high winds have blown down corn on some farms, according to Lonoke Extension Agent Jeff Welch. Early soybeans are in the ground and doing well, but the fields are too wet for tractors, and only about half of the regular season beans are in, Welch said.

“We’re still assessing the weather,” he said. While some corn was just flat blown down by 50 and 60 mph winds that came through Thursday night, more seems to have suffered green snap, where fast-growing corn can be injured at the joint. Welch said a little sun and dry weather will put most of that corn right. The corn will grow toward the sun, he said.

“We have a potential problem with wheat,” Welch noted. The grain heads had dried down, and it was ready for harvest. Now there is sprouting in some of those heads, which can affect the quality. Farmers could be docked.

“Kenny McFarland of Carlisle hasn’t put a bean in the ground yet,” Welch said. “He’s glad he hasn’t.”

The McFarlands are the Farm Family of the Year.

As soon as farmers can get a few dry days, they will be going into high gear. They will need to harvest wheat even if the equipment ruts up the fields. But they can’t plant more beans until the fields dry out some.

“We do have all the rice planted and milo and corn planted,” Welch said. “We’re in good shape on those.”

Cotton continues to make a cautious comeback, with maybe 1,000 to 2,000 acres more planted this year than last year.

“If the water stays on the field too long, it will hurt the cotton,” Welch said. So can hail. “So far we’ve avoided them both.”

Last year, three Lonoke County producers harvested at or near 100 bushels per acre in test fields, Welch said. That’s not out of the question for some this year. But Laudies Brantley said he’d rather average 85 bushels per acre across 60 acre fields.

The same weather that has plagued farmers has flooded roads, blown over trees and downed power lines in Lonoke County, according to County Judge Doug Erwin.

He said he’s had road crews cleaning up debris across the roads, cleaning out drainage ditches and culverts.

He said the Woodlawn community received the worst of it.

“As of right now, it’s all passable,” he said Monday, crediting crews that worked late into the night.

Erwin said he hadn’t heard of any injuries from the high winds, but that some grain bins were damaged. Power and telephone poles were down, too.