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Weather swings tax poultry producers, row crop farmers


The weather's extreme swings from below zero and snow to 70 degrees and mud within days is tiring out poultry producers and prompting some row crop farmers to consider aerial applications for weed control and fertilizer, say agents and specialists with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

Up to 2 feet of snow fell on Arkansas during the Feb. 9 storm. Three days later, temperatures were soaring into the 50s and 60s.

For poultry producers, managing heat and humidity levels is key to maintaining healthy birds.

"The producers have guidelines for temperature and ventilation requirements of the birds depending on the age of the birds," said Dustan Clark, Extension veterinarian with the U of A Division of Agriculture.

"What they have to do is a balancing act between ventilating the birds to control moisture levels, which will impact litter quality, and controlling the temperature to keep it as close as is possible to the guidelines," he said.

Clark said one producer told him that he was spending "more time in the poultry house when they have such temperature extremes, so they can see exactly what is going on in the house in relation to temp, humidity, and litter quality and manage the heaters and fans accordingly."

The heavy snow in northern Arkansas didn't seem to faze some of state's winter wheat crop.

"I think the snow cover has actually helped insulate the wheat during the extreme cold," said Jackson County Extension staff chair Randy Chlapecka.

However, "the calls on fertilization and weed control are starting to come in," he said. Those early season efforts will be made difficult by mud created by snowmelt.

"Farmers will rely on aerial applications when fields are too wet to hold up ground application equipment," Chlapecka said.

For foresters, the snowmelt is a mixed bag.

On the positive side, the snowmelt "helps the tree planting operations that have been on hold in some areas because of low soil moisture," said Caroll Guffey, natural resources program associate for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. "Planting trees in the dry soil would result in higher than normal mortality, so many landowners were holding off planting trees until we had better soil moisture."

While the drought improved lessened in severity in parts of Arkansas, parts of the southwestern Arkansas are still considered to be in extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor map as of Feb. 8. Wildland fires are major concern.

The freeze and thaw cycle is hard on the gravel roads used by forestry operations.

"This could make the fast approaching spring fire season of late February to mid-April difficult for the fire plow dozers and fire trucks to navigate," Guffey said. "Although the ground may be wet, the dry leaves and grass above it can burn readily with just one or two days of sunny and windy weather, which is the norm for this time of the year."

For more information on crop and livestock production, visit www.uaex.edu or contact your county Extension office.

Effects of weather swings

--Producers staying in poultry houses to closely monitor temps, humidity.

--Snow insulated winter wheat from sub-zero temps.

--Mud bogs down pre-emergence applications, forest roads.

(Source: Mary Hightower, U of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.)

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