LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — It’s been a rainy week, and overall just a rainy year.
2023 has had the wettest start to a year since 1882 and there’s one community that feels the impact daily.
According to Jarrod Hardke, most of our rice and soybean farmers are in decent shape despite the consistent rain so far this year.
Hardke serves as the Rice Extension Agronomist for The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
"The majority that you talk to you right now feel like [farmers are] in very good shape for this point in the season," he said. "Everybody noticed that it had got a lot colder all of a sudden and turned wet, A lot of the crops that emerged, were not looking very good. We needed this return of warm weather to get everything back growing and moving in the right direction.”
He said that the back and forth between getting rain and drying out very rapidly has allowed about a 20% planting progress ahead of the five-year average.
However, Harke said that interestingly enough, that rain has also created other problems.
When you suddenly go from wet to extremely dry with the high winds that we've had, the rice or beans that are in the ground are then getting trapped under a dry crust layer and have trouble getting out.
This is why they are actually looking towards having more rain, as crazy as that sounds.
"You can't talk to any farmer that doesn't watch the weather in the morning and at night and has five different weather apps on their phone and can quote exactly what time it's supposed to show up," he said. "What the weather is going to do has an impact all season long for every activity."
Hardke said that Arkansas produces roughly 50% of the rice grown in the United States. The state also grows over 3 million acres annually of soybean and other main-row crops like corn and cotton.
He added that a better agriculture year and growing season leads to better production and better quality rice, but it doesn’t always translate to lower costs on the shelves.
Hardke said that as we move towards the planting and harvest season, he'd encourage everyone to be cautious on the road when you see large equipment moving along roads so that you and those farmers can get where they need to be safely.