Arkansas Wheat Farmers Keeping Nervous Eye on Weather Forecasts

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Freezing weather forecast for parts of Arkansas this weekend has Arkansas wheat farmers concerned.  Jason Kelley, wheat specialist with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, says the cold could potentially cause significant crop damage to the 830,000-acre crop.

According to Bobby Coats, extension service economist, the 2007 winter wheat crop in Arkansas could be worth an estimated $187 million.  That's a small part of the nation's wheat crop, but important to the farmers in Arkansas who are growing it.

Kelley said high fertilizer and fuel prices raised the cost of production for this year's crop, making it one of the more expensive crops to produce.

He said the big question this weekend is how cold it will get.  Wheat is sensitive to freezing weather in the spring as the crop approaches maturity.  Some weekend predictions range from lows in the mid to upper 20s in northeast Arkansas and 31 degrees in central Arkansas.

Kelley said the amount of damage will depend on several factors, including just how cold it gets, the stage of a particular field's growth, how long it stays how cold, and whether the wheat is on a hill or in a lowland.

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