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Serving: Central

Desert in the Delta, turtles taking rice

After flooding, drought concerns. Incidents of turtles girdling rice plants reported.

A season of extremes from drought to flood and back to near-drought has made parts of eastern Arkansas look more desert than Delta.

“As I drove through Phillips, Lee and St. Francis counties on Tuesday, I had never seen so much ground that looks desolate and barren,” Ralph Mazzanti, Extension rice verification coordinator for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, said Wednesday. “Normally this time of year there are green crops that are well emerged.”

What he saw were rice fields seeded and ready to grow, “but absolutely no moisture for the rice to emerge. Other fields of soybeans had been planted are barely emerged and are now completely out of moisture. They are going south.

“We have gone from one extreme weather condition to another and we need a break.”

Pests, usual and unusual, are having a field day, he said. “Weeds, especially resistant pigweed, were the only thing well emerged. Drought doesn't seem to bother them.”

On the “unusual” pest list this year are turtles.

“Floods have pushed turtles out of their normal habitats into rice fields in Jefferson County,” Mazzanti said. “I'm getting damage in the rice verification field where we had thin stands from early flooding.

“And we when you could not lose anymore rice, here comes turtles girdling the rice plants. The turtles cut the plants off at the base and the plants float to the top of the water.”

Mazzanti estimated turtle damage to about 10 percent of his verification field, “but it’s happening in other fields as well.  Grower Wes McNulty says it’s happening in several hundred acres.”

For more information about crop production, visit Extension's Web site,, or contact your county Extension agent.

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