As Arkansas prepares for the possibility of heavy rain and high winds from the remnants of Tropical Storm Harvey, many farmers are harvesting crops that are most sensitive to storm damage.
According to the National Weather Service, rainfall totals expected in Harvey’s wake could range from two to three inches in Arkansas, though some areas could see higher rainfall totals and there is the chance for flash flooding, especially in the southeastern part of the state. Jarrod Hardke with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture says it's a preventative measure.
"The most sensitive crops are going to be corn and rice to this type of wind. The corn that’s drying up and ready for harvest is going to be very susceptible to snapping over under the high wind conditions, and when you add a little bit of rain to high wind, it creates a pretty significant pushing effect and that will lead to that crop falling over," Hardke said.
An unseasonably warm spring allowed for earlier planting, Hardke says, so harvesting crops in preparation for Harvey won't be premature.
"Ultimately what we’ve seen to date is a large uptick in harvest progress as growers attempt to outrun the looming potential rain and wind associated with Harvey," Hardke said. "In theory we could be a lot further along in harvest this year considering how early we were able to plant.”
While most of the state’s rice and corn crop should be unaffected by Harvey, consumers could see a price increase because of the early harvest.
"The earlier the harvest on rice specifically, the higher the grain moisture, the higher the cost a grower is going to incur to actually dry that grain down to a level where it can be safely stored, so he’ll automatically get an increased cost associated with that," Hardke says. "If rice is near maturity and near harvest in the field, and it actually is completely submerged, then that crop is considered to be adulterated and is a complete loss. It cannot be sold."
Short of being completely submerged, however, Hardke says crops can still be salvaged if damaged by high winds.
"If we do see any downed rice that we have to harvest, the economic impact from that is that it takes twice as long to harvest downed rice as it does standing rice, in addition to losing potentially 10 to 20 bushels of yield per acre and potentially some drastic quality hits as well."
Though Gulf Coast communities bore the brunt of the damage associated with Harvey, most of their corn and rice crops were harvested before the storm.
"They were able to get out over 80 to approximately 90 percent of the rice crop in Texas and Louisiana, so you still have about 10 to 20 percent of their rice crops left in the field that are certainly being impacted," Hardke said.
He says the cotton crop in Texas and Louisiana will be most affected, with many fields not yet harvested and bales still waiting to be hauled off.