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Arkansas harvest: rice, soybeans and Asian soybean rust

Now at the tail end of the harvest season, Arkansas’ rice yields are a bit disappointing and its soybean yields surprisingly strong.

“Thankfully, after the off rice harvest we had, most of our soybeans are maturing out pretty well,” says Randy Chlapecka, Jackson County Extension agent. “We have seen some isolated parts of fields acting strange, staying green and popping out buds (see story on Page 5). The University of Arkansas lab has some samples for evaluation. I understand the problem — and some people say it’s probably tied to insect feeding and/or a virus — is more prevalent in other parts of the state.”

Unfortunately, “like everywhere else,” Jackson County rice yields were down. “Most farmers say they’re off 15 or 20 bushels, with some reporting more than that. Rice took it on the chin.”

The drop in Prairie County rice yields from last year are “on average, at least 10 to 20 bushels,” says Hank Chaney, Prairie County Extension agent. “A lot of that loss had to do with the weather. In July, it was hot and dry and we were worried about having enough water to finish out the rice crop — especially on the southern end of the county — never mind finishing out the bean crop.”

Then a cool, wet August rolled around. Growers began harvesting corn “but it wouldn’t drop down in moisture level. Those with batch dryers basically dried everything down to get the corn out.

“After that, the rice moisture would hang around anywhere from 20 to 22 percent and didn’t drop like it typically does in August and September. Normally, when growers enter a rice field and the day progresses, the moisture tends to drop. But it didn’t do that this year.”

Some growers put out salt trying to dry the crop. Even then, “the moisture wouldn’t change much and the crop wanted to stay green.

“On top of that, the commodity prices are dipping. Everyone is hoping they bounce back with the yields being off. It’ll be interesting to see what this does to everyone’s 2009 plans.”


In early November, the state was about 80 percent finished with soybean harvest.

“Growers are hot and heavy getting after it — combines are moving well,” says Jeremy Ross, Arkansas Extension soybean specialist. “If the weather holds for another week, we should be nearly done.”

The full-season beans being harvested are anywhere from 12 to 17 percent moisture. “There aren’t a bunch of moisture troubles. Some of the late-season beans are still about a week or 10 days, or so, away from being ready for harvest. Those fields will be the stragglers.”

The recent frost in the eastern half of the state “helped a lot of the crop to mature out and finish desiccating.”

What about yields? “I’m hearing mixed results, although overall I expect a good crop. The overall quality has been good and that was a real concern with the planting problems we had. Seed growers and dealers I’ve spoken with say the quality has been excellent.

“That’s really welcome news. I was very concerned in July with how hot it was. The cooler conditions from then on probably saved us. The beans that were stressed early were given a second chance.”

Many farmers are “very happy — several have said this is the best they’ve done in the past four years. Others are disappointed and yields are off — there’s a pocket of growers around DeWitt saying that. Some in the northeast say the same. But there are other guys averaging 60-plus bushels across their whole farm.”

Ross says no one has yet hit the magic 100-bushel-per-acre mark. The closest has been a field that cut 94 bushels.

Back in Jackson County, “soybeans are cutting pretty good,” says Chlapecka. “About a third of our acreage has been harvested, so far. Believe it or not, that’s not too far off the norm. We’ll be 40 or 50 percent done at the end of October. That’s not nearly as late as our rice crop was — and, actually, there’s still a good amount of rice still to be harvested around here.

“We expected some decent yields with the wetter, cooler weather in July and September. The other crops may not have liked it, but the beans did.”

Soybean rust

Asian soybean rust continues to be found across the Mid-South. John Rupe isn’t surprised. “It was expected,” says the University of Arkansas plant pathologist. “It seems the Mid-South gets a late rush of symptoms just before the soybean season shuts down.”

That’s probably a function of the pathogen, says Rupe. It has to build up early in a favorable location and begin providing a lot of innoculum. Until it’s able to do that, the disease doesn’t seem to move very well.

“I was looking at the (ASR alert map) this morning and it’s now in Illinois. So it’s really moving on up the map. We know from spore-trapping studies done in Minnesota that the pathogen is capable of really traveling. Last year, soybean rust was found in Ontario.

“But it doesn’t seem to be getting to the level needed to really take off early in the season. Now, if there’s a year with a wet spring and it stays wet and things are right, this pathogen can build up along the Gulf Coast early and head north. There’s certainly a potential for a big problem.”


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