State Heads Into Wheat Harvest As Late Spring Rains Continue

LITTLE ROCK, ARK.
   Even as skies routinely darken throughout the state with isolated rainfalls, Arkansas growers are preparing for the annual winter wheat harvest as May gives way to June.
   Jason Kelley, extension wheat and feed grains agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said the 2015-2016 has been a “challenging year” for the crop. 
   “For wheat, the biggest problem we have is that there’s just too much rainfall,” Kelley said. “And those problems started last fall when we were trying to plant – we had a lot of rainfall that prevented a lot of acres from getting planted.” 
   According to the most recent estimate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Arkansas growers expect to harvest about 150,000 acres of winter wheat in 2016, out of approximately 240,000 acres planted. 
   “We always lose some acres for various reasons, whether from flooding or other reasons, probably more than any of our other crops,” Kelley said. 
   The numbers for both planted acreage and expected harvest represent a steep decline from the approximately 1 million acres of wheat typically planted each season as recently as five years ago.
   “It’s down partly due to the weather, and partly due to price,” Kelley said. Current prices are hovering are about $4.57 per bushel for winter wheat, according to the USDA.
   “When prices are less than $5 a bushel, it’s hard to pencil out much of a profit,” Kelley said. ∆
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