LITTLE ROCK - Add sandstorms to the litany of severe weather events piling difficulties on Arkansas’ farmers this growing season.
Extension cotton agronomists and county extension agents for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture were checking cotton fields on Tuesday to see the extent of sandblast and hail damage.
“We had a heck of a Sunday and yesterday,” said Tom Barber, extension cotton agronomist for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. “Over the weekend, the northeastern part of the state was hit with a wall of sand with all these thunderstorms popping up.”
The National Weather Service at Little Rock reported a truck was blown over and trees and power lines were downed in Woodruff County on Monday. Hail ranging from 1.25 to 1.5 inches was reported in Stone and Baxter counties.
“We had a crew scouting cotton diseases that had to take cover in farmers’ houses,” Barber said. “It just surprised everybody.”
In Mississippi County, Extension Staff Chairman Dave Freeze surveyed a field of sandblasted cotton plants. The young plants were drooped and doubled back on themselves with withered leaves touching the ground. All around loose sand filled depressions in the rows like drifted snow.
“If they’re bent over and black, they’re usually gone,” Barber said of the plants.
Fortunately, the sandblast “damage appears to be isolated,” said Blake McClelland, cotton research verification coordinator for the UofA Division of Agriculture. “However, that field in Mississippi County is an extreme case and will probably have to be plowed up.”
According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, cotton was 100 percent planted and 93 percent emerged for the week ended June 12.
Monday’s storms also produced straight line wind damage in a corn verification field in Greene County, just south of Paragould, said Kevin Lawson, corn and grain sorghum research verification program coordinator.
“We averaged around 65 mile per hour winds for 15-20 straight minutes,” he said. “We estimate that 25 to 30 percent of the plants are destroyed in this field, either by blowing completely over, or green snapped” cleanly through the stalk.
In Desha County, trees were down in Arkansas City, with some trees on houses. On top of the storm damage, record high temperatures were tied at North Little Rock at 97 degrees, and at Monticello, 99 degrees.
In the last few weeks, farmers have caught up with their planting, getting close to, or equaling five-year averages. Among the other crops, rice is 100 percent planted and 96 percent emerged. Sorghum is 99 percent planted and soybeans are 82 percent planted. Corn was 38 percent silked, above the five-year average of 30 percent, NASS said.