Arkansas' soybean and cotton yields are expected to set new records in 2014, despite a slow start from cool, wet spring weather.
Soybean yields are expected to average 46 bushels per acre, up 2.5 bushels from 2013, according to the latest estimate from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, released Tuesday. At the same time, cotton is expected to average 1,193 pounds per acre, up 60 pounds from a year ago.
Hitting those marks will depend on the weather until harvest, according to two agronomists who track the crops in Arkansas.
"It all depends on what next four weeks does. If we have pretty mild conditions, I think we'll probably be getting close to that record yield," said Jeremy Ross, a soybean agronomist for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. "But if we have more typical upper 90s, bumping 100, that's going to put some stress on the beans and we could have little bit lower yields."
The state's soybean growers harvested 3.23 million acres in 2013, setting a record with an average yield of 43.5 bushels. This year, farmers are expected to harvest 154.1 million bushels from 3.35 million acres.
Ross said that last year, growers were able to take advantage of cool conditions in the last week of July and first two weeks of August just as the soybeans were setting seed. This year, he said, the cooler conditions may have come a few weeks earlier in the growing cycle. Now, forecasts are calling for temperatures in the mid-90s and dry weather.
The soybean crop on average is 90 percent bloomed, with 80 percent filling pods, Ross said. "We're in that really critical time when yields will be set for a lot of the acreage over the next three weeks."
The cotton harvest is also expected to hit a record yield mark, the statistics service said, with the state producing 870,000 480-pound bales, a 21 percent increase over 2013. Growers are expected to harvest 350,000 acres of cotton, about 15 percent more than a year ago.
For cotton yields to hit projections, farmers will need good September weather, said Bill Robertson, a cotton agronomist with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.
"We have a lot of fields that have a lot of areas that are going to be probably just right on track with last year," Robertson said. "But the weak areas [in many fields] are a lot bigger and our crop is late, and if we don't have that exceptional September, then I think those numbers are way out of reach."
While he's seen many fields that are "looking really, really good," Robertson said heavy and frequent rains have compounded drainage problems in some fields, which in turn damages plants and cuts into yields.
Robertson said the condition of this year's cotton crop is variable. "Almost anywhere you go you can find some really good cotton and then find some cotton that's not so good." Some fields in southeast and northeast Arkansas are doing fine, he said, while fields in central part of the state, including in St. Francis, Lee, Crittenden and Mississippi counties have been hit hard by rain.
Ross agreed that the majority of soybean acreage is looking good -- aside from several counties in east-central Arkansas that were hit with heavy rains and flooding. He said as many as 100,000 acres were never replanted after being flooded.
"There's pockets of really good stuff and pockets that don't look so good," Ross said, adding that he doesn't think the research plots he's been monitoring look as good as they did last year.
The statistics service also released estimates for other Arkansas crops.
Rice production is projected to hit 117 million hundredweight with growers harvesting 1.57 million acres -- an increase of 495,000 acres from 2013. Yields are expected to average 7,500 pounds per acre, 60 pounds less than the average yield record set in 2013.
For the first time, Arkansas is expected to produce more than 50 percent of all the rice grown in the United States.
The state's corn harvest will shrink because farmers planted 300,000 fewer acres this year. The statistics service estimates that Arkansas will produce 103 million bushels, 37 percent less than in 2013. Yields are expected to average 180 bushels per acre, a 3.7 percent drop from last year. Growers cut the number of acres planted in corn in anticipation of a drop in commodity prices. They harvested about 870,000 acres of corn in 2013 and are expected to harvest 570,000 acres this year.
The statistics service also said it expects winter wheat harvest to match last year's record yield at 62 bushels per acre. However, overall production is expected to drop 40 percent to 22.9 million bushes because growers reduced wheat acreage from 615,000 acres last year to 370,000 this year.
Business on 08/15/2014