Arkansas growers produced record soybean, corn and rice crops during the drought-plagued 2012 growing season, according to figures released Friday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The warm spring provided an early start for crops and allowed crops to mature before they could be damaged by the long, triple-digit summer. The ability to irrigate also helped insulate the state’s row crops from the drought’s killing touch.
Soybeans were the biggest gainer in the Nov. 1 estimate, as USDA revised yields upward from 39 bushels per acre in October to 41 bushels per acre, a new record in Arkansas. Jeremy Ross, extension soybean specialist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said the 41-bushel figure breaks the old record of 39 bushels set in 2004.
Soybean acreage declined slightly from last year, from 3.28 million acres to 3.15 million this year.
“The main reason the soybean yields were exceptional for the 2012 season was early planting,” he said. “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.”
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 theses states.”
The Nov. 1 estimate for corn comes in at 177 bushels per acre, well above last year’s 142 bushels per acre. 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.
"2012 started off as a good year, and ended as a good year," said Jason Kelley, extension corn specialist for the U of A System Division of Agriculture, said. The crop was aided by a mild spring and early start, which helped the corn avoid damage from the summer's heat.
Rice comes in at 7,340 pounds per acre, approximately 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, versus 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 University of Arkansas System 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.
The yield records are welcome news, but today’s “supply/demand numbers were generally bearish,” said Scott Stiles, extension economist for the U of A System Division of Agriculture. “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.”
The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.