By admin       2018-02-23

At the other end of the spectrum, Arkansas grazing grasses, forages and winter wheat took a beating through the fall and winter, as severe drought conditions affected most of the north and north-central areas of the state. John Jennings, professor and extension forage specialist for the Division of Agriculture, said that even as several days’ worth of rain appear headed for much of Arkansas, cattle ranchers and other growers in the state looking over acres of grasslands likely still have an uphill battle in store for 2018. While overall hay production dropped just 3 percent in 2017 to 2.33 million tons, cold temperatures throughout December and January led producers to start feeding hay relatively early. “A lot of people are running low on hay in those drought-stricken areas in northern and north-central Arkansas,” Jennings said. “People are having a hard time finding hay to buy, and hay supply is getting tight.” Winter wheat dropped 15 percent from 2016 to 170,000 acres — the lowest wheat acreage in Arkansas since 1962, according to the USDA. Jason Kelley, extension wheat and feed grains agronomist for the Division of Agriculture, said relatively low market price combined with the dry fall to drive acreage down. Grain sorghum acres declined yet again, having plummeted from more than 400,000 acres harvested in 2015 to 44,000 in 2016, and finally to 7,000 acres in 2017. “We’re now down to very limited acres, which in itself causes problems,” Kelley said. “When you have only a few scattered acres, some grain terminals just won’t be taking sorghum, and marketing is becoming an issue.” He said pest management challenges also presented a disincentive for growers considering sorghum. “The sugarcane aphid has been an eye-opening pest for many growers,” Kelley said. “It takes money to control it, and when you’re growing something that may not be very profitable to begin with, that extra expense just means fewer acres.”

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