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Soybean harvest end tantalizingly close
Author: Mary Hightower, University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture

Fast Facts:

  • Soybeans at 98 percent harvested
  • Cotton harvest complete
  • Winter wheat 98 percent planted; 92 percent emerged
  • NWS forecasting significant rain south and east of I-30/U.S. 67

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas’ 2011 harvest is tantalizingly close to completion, with only 2 percent of soybeans left to cut, but expected heavy rain this weekend means the beans will probably have to wait a little longer.

Heavy rain followed by Tuesday’s snowfall of up to 8 inches, rendered the ground too soft to run combines efficiently and the beans with too high a moisture content for harvest. Some of the remaining bean acreage was in Lonoke, Clay, Crittenden, Cross and Poinsett counties.

“We still have a few hundred acres out there,” said Andy Vangilder, Clay County extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. “These were soybeans double-cropped behind wheat that were just not ready for harvest when the rains came.

“They were still running 18 to 20 percent moisture before the rain and we will just have to cut them in the mud or wait ‘til the ground either freezes or dries up,” he said.

Rick Wimberley, extension staff chair in Cross County, said  “We still have a few thousand acres in the field, waiting for the field to dry out.”

“Ideally, 13 percent is what we can take to the elevator and not be docked,” he said. “Right now if we can get them down to 16-18 percent, I expect they will be cut.

“All of our beans are mature, meaning only rainfall is adding moisture,” Wimberley said. Therein lies the problem.

“First, depending on the variety, growers may see quite a bit of shattering where the soybean pods start popping open and the seed will then fall to the ground,” he said. “If the seed doesn’t fall out, additional rainfall will get trapped in the open pods and the seed could start rotting in the pod. In the past I have seen the seed sprout in the pod with warm temperatures.”

However, “if producers have empty grain bins, they may harvest at moisture levels higher than mentioned above and dry them down in the bin before taking them to the elevator,” Wimberley said.

Mike Hamilton, Poinsett County extension agent for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, said: “We had several acres of soybeans that were planted late due to spring flooding. Harvest has been difficult due to the rainfall the last few weeks and the fact that producers are stretched farther than they have ever been with fields several miles apart.

“Quality could very well be impacted, but there is nothing the growers could do about the unusual circumstances we faced this entire growing season,” he said.

In Lonoke County, there were a few straight days of sun and wind, which might provide a one-day window for harvest, said Keith Perkins, Lonoke County extension agent for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. However, “I don’t think we’ll get them finished up before the next rain.”

That next rain might be a doozy. The National Weather Service at Little Rock said Friday that 2 to 4 inches “will be common across much of the hydrologic service area, with 4 to 6 inches possible south and east of the I-30/U.S. 67 corridor.”

The hydrologic service area includes all the counties in the Little Rock warning area, plus counties in northeastern Arkansas along the Black River.

Areas in the Ouachita, lower White and lower Arkansas River basins “will be the most threatened during this event … with minor to moderate flooding possible,” according to the weather service.

“It might be Christmas before they get harvest finished,” Perkins said.

Cotton growers had finished cleaning their fields the week that ended Black Friday; soybean growers took care of 1 percentage point, with 98 percent harvested by the day after Thanksgiving, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. The Nov. 30 report is the final one of the 2011 growing season. The agency’s crop condition reports will start again the first week of April 2012.

The winter wheat crop was 98 percent planted and 92 percent emerged. The crop was looking good with 52 percent in good condition, 35 percent in fair and 9 percent in excellent condition.

For more information on crop production, visit, or contact your local county agent.

The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture and offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.


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