Tuesday, July 28, 2015

TOP STORY >> Hoping for best, farmers worried

Leader senior staff writer

After unseasonal rains kept farmers out of fields and, in some cases, forced a change in planting crops, many are now irrigating their way through another hot Arkansas summer and worry about making a profit.

“We’re finished planting all the soybeans,” Lonoke County Chief Extension Agent Jeff Welch said Monday afternoon.

“Rice looks pretty good. Corn is approaching or has gone by black layer and just has to dry out,” he said. “Our soybeans look good at this point, but the late beans will have a reduced yield. He said the crop can still be a good one if the nights will cool down.

“We’re almost through irrigating corn, but still watering milo,” he said. Welch noted that the sugarcane aphids are getting busy in the milo and that “it’s going to be a battle in a couple of weeks to maintain control.”

The insects are getting worse, especially on late beans.

In some pastures and hayfields, armyworms are moving in. If they aren’t caught in time and controlled with pesticides, they can take a pasture down to the ground in days.

The worms can attack by the millions, he said. “It usually takes 35 or 36 days from eggs back to maturity and adulthood” — probably by mid-August. “They can take 8- to 10-inch Bermuda grass down to ground, with no pasture left.” Welch said they consume the entire leaf surface.

“Armyworms are starting to be a problem almost every year,” Welch said, and they started early this year.

Armyworms can be treated with pesticides environmentally friendly to cattle, birds and people.

Welch said a good farmer will look at his pasture once or twice a day.

“It cost a whole lot less to treat if you get on top of it,” he explained.

Commodity prices are falling, with most of the production costs already locked in.

“It’s going to be a tight year,” Welch said. “We have to do everything we can to control costs. If we make it through the winter, we have to rely on marketing skills to glean some profit.”

He said that, so far, farmers are barely breaking even if they are not under water. “Our only hope is that we receive increased prices through the winter,” Welch said.