Arkansas Farmers Harvest Record Soybean, Corn, Rice Crops

Arkansas Farmers Harvest Record Soybean, Corn, Rice Crops
Despite a drought, a record harvest of corn in Arkansas rivaled that of Corn Belt states in the Midwest.

Despite summer's punishing drought, Arkansas farmers produced record crops of soybeans, corn and rice and a robust cotton crop, according to figures released Friday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The crops were helped by a warm spring, which allowed for an early start to growth, and farmers' irrigation efforts, the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service said in a news release.

The state's soybean crop benefited the most, with the USDA revising its Nov. 1 estimate upward from 39 bushels per acre in October to 41 bushels, which set a record. The previous record high bushels-per-acre figure was 39 bushels, set in 2004.

Arkansas farmers planted 3.15 million acres of soybeans this year, compared with 3.28 million acres in 2011.

"The main reason the soybean yields were exceptional for the 2012 season was early planting," said Jeremy Ross, extension soybean specialist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. By the first of May, we had around 60 percent of the soybean crop planted. Typically by the first of May, we usually only have 25 percent planted.

"The second factor that helped to produce these great yields was irrigation," Ross said. "Around 75 percent of the soybean crop was irrigated this past year.  Without irrigation, Arkansas soybean producers would not be able to produce these yields."

Other figures released Friday:

• The Nov. 1 estimate for the corn harvest is 177 bushels per acre, far above last year's 142 bushels per acre and beating the previous record of 169 bushels per acre set in 2007. Total production is 122.13 million bushels, up from 73.8 million bushels last year. Arkansas farmers harvested 690,000 corn acres this year, up from 520,000 acres last year.

Ross said that compared to average yields in the Corn Belt states, "Arkansas was only one to two bushels per acre less than many of these states. Usually, the average yield for Arkansas is 10 bushels per acre less than these states."

"2012 started off as a good year, and ended as a good year," said Jason Kelley, extension corn specialist for the UA System Division of Agriculture.

• Arkansas rice farmers harvested an estimated 7,340 pounds per acre, about 163 bushels, up from the October estimate of 7,000 pounds per acre and 8 percent above last year's 6,770 pounds. Rice acres were up to 1.28 million in 2012, compared with 1.15 million acres last year. The old record of 7,230 pounds per acre was set in 2007.

"We had an extremely early spring," said Keith Perkins, Lonoke County extension agent for the Division of Agriculture. "This allowed us to plant our crop at least two weeks earlier than normal. Normally we get set back by rains or floods, delaying planting."

In Prairie County, "rice yields were impressive on most acres," said Brent Griffin, Prairie County Extension staff chair. "Milling quality has led to $1 to 1.50 per bushel discount when selling, taking all the profit. Not all rice farmers are swimming in money."

• Cotton's expected yield was increased 17 pounds to 1,051 pounds of lint per acre, the third highest on record and the highest since 2007.

Despite the good reports, Scott Stiles, extension economist for the Division of Agriculture, said Friday's "supply/demand numbers were generally bearish. U.S. ending stocks for corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton were all increased. Rice was the only crop that received positive changes today, with long-grain ending stocks declining 3.2 million hundredweight on higher projected exports."