Arkansas growers looking at record yields

Analysis points to record yields for Ark. growers' 2013 crops of corn, cotton, soybeans, rice

Associated Press

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) -- A number of Arkansas' yield records are likely to fall, according to projections for the just-concluded growing year.

The National Agriculture Statistics Service expects record yields for corn, cotton, rice and soybeans.

Soybeans cover more land than any other Arkansas crop, and this year, growers harvested 3.2 million acres, averaging yield of 45 bushels per acre. That tops last year's harvest of 43 bushels per acre. Some soybean growers harvested more than 100 bushels per acre on small plots, the first time Arkansas farmers have broken the 100-bushels-per-acre threshold.

In keeping with the nation's trend, corn also topped the charts at 182 bushels per acre, surpassing 2012's record 178 bushels per acre. Arkansas farmers harvested 855,000 acres of corn this year despite a wet spring that delayed planting. But it corn acreage grew at the expense of cotton, which was down to 300,000 acres harvested. Regardless, cotton growers also are expected to set a record with 1,120 pounds per acre, up from the 2004 record of 1,112 pounds per acre.

Scott Stiles, extension economist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said the record yield projections were welcome news, but said, "That's where the good news stops."

Commodity prices for 2014 are lower than growers need them to be.

"As we start making plans for next year, we're looking at mostly bearish supply/demand numbers for all of the major crops. This is something you'd expect on the tail of high yields and production," Stiles said. "Oddly enough, (the) market reaction was positive for corn and soybeans because the USDA didn't hand us the most bearish scenario that traders and analysts feared."

Other Arkansas crops are seeing high yields, too. Rice is projected to come in at 168 bushels per acre, topping last year's record of 166. Sorghum growers also had a healthy crop for 2013, if not a record-setter. The grain came yielded 88 bushels per acre, which is up four bushels from 2012. Also, NASS, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, projects Arkansas' winter wheat to have a record of 62 bushels per acre, up from the 2006 record of 61 bushels.

Jason Kelley, wheat and feed grains agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said that after the deluges of spring, the corn crop got the weather it needed for a successful year.

"As bad as the corn planting season seemed with all of the cold, wet weather in March and April and delayed planting, May, June, and July were that much better," Kelley said. "Cool night temperatures and moderate day temperatures along with good management made for record breaking yields."

Blake McClelland, extension cotton verification coordinator for the Division of Agriculture said he was surprised that the cotton crop was so strong because it, too, was planted late because of the wet spring.

"On the flip side, we had some really good weather through the summer," he said "South Arkansas didn't have any hurricanes," he said. "That's been a real bad omen for them the last several years. They'd get ready to pick and have the remnants of hurricanes go through."

Rice also went in late and received heavy rains during the middle of the growing season.

In certain areas, soybean yields were far above the state average.

"The southern part of Arkansas had tremendous soybean yields, with many soybean growers having field averages from the mid-60 to mid-70 bushels per acre," said Jeremy Ross, extension soybean agronomist for the UA System Division of Agriculture.

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