Following a weekend of strong storms, Bill Robertson is driving through northeast Arkansas. The Arkansas Extension cotton specialist just left Monette and is “on the edge of Craighead County heading into Mississippi County. There’s a lot of wind damage, power poles are snapped off in places. The ditches are full and fields without good drainage are standing water.”
Yesterday (April 30), at the White River bridge outside Batesville, “the fields were already flooding. The forecast is for the White River level to get 10 to 15 feet higher. There in Jackson County, a lot of rice fields flood when the White River begins rising.
“One northeast Arkansas consultant told me he had 1,000 acres get hailed out. There are guys worried they’ll lose a lot more acreage.”
The latest NASS report had Arkansas’ planted cotton acreage at 7 percent. Robertson was looking for a number closer to 15 percent.
“Over the weekend, I visited with a number of northeast Arkansas consultants about what they’re seeing. Some haven’t planted a single cotton seed, some are at 35 percent planted. Some farmers in south Arkansas have planted all their cotton ground already.”
Like Dodds, Robertson is keeping an eye on the temperature gauge. “Right now, in my pickup, it’s 52 degrees. Cotton doesn’t grow much if it gets below 60. And then, when the temperature goes above 60 it takes a while for it to get in gear and going again. We need average temperatures – 70 or higher, or 10 heat units daily – to get the feet under this cotton. Cotton’s legs are shaky, right now.”
Robertson also points out causal agents for seedling diseases love the current conditions. “Hopefully, these conditions won’t get on top of us and the cotton can overcome.”
A few weeks ago, Robertson was worried what a tight seed supply would mean if there were any problems with early planting. Those concerns haven’t abated. “Our varieties of choice are sold out. There are still good varieties out there but your first and second picks are going to be hard to find for replants.”
Farther south, in east Arkansas’ Phillips County, “we got anywhere from an inch to 2.25-inch of rain, says Robert Goodson, county Extension agent. “There may be some bottoms backed up but not much else. Of course, that’s not good for those with bottomlands but the area could be in much worse shape.”
The bigger worry is what will happen when the White and Mississippi rise. On Monday (May 1), at the Helena bridge the water level is 31 feet. By May 11, the level is expected to reach 43 feet.
That would be a rise of 12 feet in 10 days and, says Goodson, “only a foot under flood stage. I’m worried that everything planted inside the levee will be lost.”