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Wheat harvest near end

After a week of decent weather, most of the wheat in Arkansas has been harvested. There are some fields left to harvest, but the vast bulk of the crop has been taken out, says Rick Cartwright, Extension plant pathologist with the University of Arkansas.

“Yields were all over the place. Up in northeast Arkansas — Clay County, Lee County and that area — producers had some excellent wheat. I heard reports of 80- and 90-bushel wheat in some places. They had a very different weather pattern than most of the rest of the state,” says Cartwright.

In the Grand Prairie, the best wheat Cartwright has heard about cut about 70 bushels per acre. That's a bit down from normal, “but not nearly as bad as I was expecting.”

In the southeast portion of the state around Chicot County and Ashley County, some good wheat was cut early. Some farms there cut record yields. But in the rest of the state, yields will be off, says Cartwright. Rainfall and the problems it brought hurt the crop badly. And, in some areas, fields still can't catch a break.

Trey Reaper, Arkansas Extension area agronomist, took the last day of June off. His plan was to help his father get their wheat combined at long last. It wasn't to be.

“I tell you, the rain is ridiculous — we just got at least 2 inches of rain (near Pangburn, in central Arkansas), maybe up to 3 inches. We can't catch a run of dry days. The rain today came out of nowhere. I checked the radar this morning and saw nothing. Then, all of a sudden, this hit.”

Reaper says around 80 percent of the state's wheat is harvested. Most of the wheat he's been hearing about is coming in at 50 and 60 bushels per acre. “That's not terrible. The fear everyone has is test weights. I'm hearing plenty of dockage is going on.”

Reaper thought farmers could get the rest of the wheat out of the field this week. But with so much rain in the forecast, that doesn't appear likely now.

Despite the late date, Reaper says his father is going to give double-crop soybeans a shot.

“We planted July 4 soybeans last year that turned out pretty good. Maybe we can do that two years in a row. We'll keep hoping and praying.”

Of the half million acres of wheat Arkansas producers will harvest (up to 200,000 acres were plowed under earlier this season), “most is on our better wheat ground,” says Cartwright. Overall, the crop will be decent with some pockets of really good wheat, he says.

“My thoughts are that if a man made a reasonable crop this year, he can make one any year,” says Cartwright. “This season, conditions were very rough. I hope farmers don't get too discouraged with wheat this year. The crop is still a valuable commodity on a lot of our ground.”

Regarding double-crop soybeans, a week ago many folks were concerned that the rains had delayed wheat harvest/soybean planting for too long. But with last week's decent, dry conditions, many have gotten their soybeans in and will continue planting this week.

And the rain has a plus side — “soil moisture means the double-crop soybeans are popping up quickly,” says Cartwright. “No-till farmers who are planting soybeans straight into standing wheat stubble are doing a great job. Those beans are now emerging and looking fine.”

The early June rains also stimulated leaf blast in rice, Cartwright notes.

“We've got a large acreage of Wells and Francis. Both of those varieties are susceptible to blast. We've been advising growers to keep their flood pumped up from this point on. The leaf blast phase has been active, but the hotter weather has shut it down in most areas.”

Sheath blight is very active in the state with high temperatures, humidity and cloudy weather. It's especially active on Clearfield 161, according to the specialist.

“We're telling growers that they'd better be checking that variety if they've got any,” Cartwright says. “They need to be out at mid-season scouting it. Don't wait. With other varieties, you might be able to cheat a little and wait until a few days after mid-season before looking at them. But with Clearfield 161, the scouting won't wait. Some fields of it have been treated already because the disease is super aggressive on that variety.”

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