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Rain and Palmer amaranth making for interesting summer at NEREC

Two weeks ago, Fred Bourland wouldn't have expected to have much to show - or much of a window left for crosses - for the 2014 growing season at the University of Arkansas' Northeast Research and Extension Center at Keiser, Ark.

Bourland, a veteran cotton breeder and center director, said excessive rainfall had delayed the cotton crop and other crops at center located about 40 miles north of West Memphis. And he was beginning to wonder how much time he would have to make the plant crosses needed for his highly successful cotton breeding program.

As the Respect the Rotation Pigposium Field Day wound down at the station Wednesday (July 23), however, a smiling Bourland was thanking field day participants and beaming at the favorable comments about the station's crops.

"2014 has been another tough year for us, particularly in northeast Arkansas," he said, speaking during an interview with Delta Farm Press. "We dealt with a tremendous amount of rain. We wound up planting late, and we've been trying to get caught up since then."

During the month of June, the station received 8.92 inches of rain and recorded rainfall on 15 of the 30 days. "That made it very difficult to get things done timely in the field," Bourland said. "Going into the end of June I thought the crop really looked terrible right here. But it really made a nice jump the last two weeks after we finally got some sunny weather."

Bourland said farmers in northeast Arkansas continue to struggle with glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth or pigweed and other resistant species. 

"I'm seeing a lot of hoes," he said when asked about the weed control situation in the north Arkansas Delta. "I've seen more hand-weeding being done in commercial fields than I have in a number of years. The resistance problem is certainly here. The thing that kind of amazes me is that I think our producers are certainly aware and are on top of it.

"It's certainly not the nightmarish thing that we saw when it first evolved." (For more on the situation in 2010, see 2010 Pigposium successful and necessary.

Bourland said farmers have more tools to use against resistant pigweed, "but when we get these wet years a lot of those tools kind of disappear on us, and the timing on them becomes extremely difficult."

He's now more optimistic about the prospects for this year's crossing program. With warmer temperatures and dry weather, Bourland and his crew of workers should be able to make a number of crosses between different varieties before what he considers as the last effective flowering date of Aug. 10.




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