JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) — The northeast Arkansas cotton harvest is under way, hampered intermittently by rainfall and a few days of dry. Extension officials believe the crop will be a good one, and one county agent said he is reminded of the bumper crop of 2007.
"Some growers told me they have picked three bales per acre in their best fields and others picking dry land have reported a bale-plus," said Clay County Staff Chairman Andy Vangilder, who works out of the Piggott office. Even the dry land fields were a surprise, yielding 400 to 600 pounds and some even 1,000 or more, he said.
"What we really need is for the rain to stay away for a couple of weeks, and we could have a lot of this crop out of the fields," Vangilder said. "We're just getting started, and what I have been hearing is good, better than expected."
Both Craig Allen, staff chairman, and county agent Mike Hamilton of Poinsett County agreed that the rain needs to stay away so whatever quality in the fields remains.
Allen said Poinsett County cotton growers are nearing the halfway point and yields are "spotty," ranging from really good to not so good.
"After everything is out, I think we will have an average crop," Hamilton said. So far yields have been a little better overall that most expected.
"What we really need is better prices," Hamilton said. What they are getting is not enough to grow an expensive crop like cotton.
If prices don't improve, Hamilton said it is likely that growers in that county will cut back on cotton acres for 2013.
Other parts of the state have not fared quite as well, weather-wise, as Northeast Arkansas. The four to six inches of rain that fell Saturday through Monday may be costly for some Chicot County cotton growers, Gus Wilson, extension staff chairman said earlier this week.
The heavy rain came at a time when 95 percent of bolls were open, exposing the white lint to the pounding of the rain drops..
"This one is going to hurt," he said. "This one is going to take some of our quality away."
Wilson estimated that as much as 10 percent of the county's more than 14,500 acres of cotton were affected by the heavy rain.
"You're going to lose quality, and you will lose some bolls that fall out," he said. "We will have staining and sprouting."
With forecast highs back in the 80s and 90s this week, the conditions are right for those seeds in the bolls to sprout he said.
Until those weekend rains, "yields seemed to be pretty good, but now it's just going to be a wait-and-see game," Wilson said.
Until the rain, hit "the yields were looking better than we initially thought," said Tom Barber, extension cotton agronomist. "I feel optimistic. There are a lot of 1,200 to 1,300 pounds per acre, and sometimes even more" in yield.
Most of the state's cotton growing areas received less rain than Chicot County.
Barber did say rain across the cotton growing areas has slowed harvest.
"We're behind. We would've had a lot of the crop picked this week if it hadn't rained," he said. "Sunshine is what we need now. If we can get that and a light breeze, we'll be hard at it."
Monday's report from the National Agricultural Statistic Service reported that 21 percent of the cotton crop has been harvested, up from 11 percent the previous week.
Among other crops, corn harvest was shown to be complete, ahead of the 88 percent five-year average; sorghum (milo), too, was complete, ahead of the 83 percent five-year average; soybeans were 42 percent harvested, ahead of the 24 percent five-year average.
On the other end of the spectrum, winter wheat is 6 percent planted and 1 percent emerged.
Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, http://www.jonesborosun.com