agriculture

Champion Duck Callers Flock to Stuttgart

Nov 24, 2018
Ann Kenda / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

Champion duck callers gathered in Stuttgart this weekend to compete for the title of best in the world.  It was the 83rd year of the World Duck Calling Championships in the Arkansas town with a population of under 10,000.

Many practice all year for the 90 second duck call.  In the field, hunters adopt a softer and less aggressive call to lure the ducks to their hunting grounds.  But on the stage, the calls must be louder and executed in perfect detail.

The recent Johnny Cash Heritage Festival in Dyess has reneweed interest in the musical legend's childhood. 

In this new video from Arkansas Public Media, we take a look inside the agricultural resettlement home in rural Dyess where Johnny, then known as J.R., lived with his parents and six siblings after the Great Depression. 

App Aims to Ease Harvest Fire Concerns

Oct 21, 2018
Ann Kenda / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

When Arkansas State University assistant professor of digital design Joe Ford noticed that both he and his 3-year-old daughter were getting ill from smoke every autumn, he started wondering whether his design skills could help.

Ford teamed up with associate professor of physics Ross Carroll to build an agricultural burning app that helps farmers measure wind speed and direction and other factors to quickly determine whether a burn is safe or should wait for another day.

In Arkansas, the burning of residue from a row crop is legal, but the smoke draws complaints from communities about health risks, the distinctive odor and temporarily blocked highways.  In November, the rice industry offered voluntary smoke management guidelines to help ease the tension between communities and farmers. 

Arkansas’s cotton farmers are looking forward to the growing season with some optimism that the fluffiest of crops will continue to experience a mini-resurgence.

According to the Arkansas Farm Bureau, Arkansas ranks fourth for cotton production.  Most farms don’t grow cotton exclusively but rotate it in with other staples such as corn and soybeans.

At a recent Agri-Business Conference at Arkansas State University, Gary Adams with the National Cotton Council in Memphis said the U.S. as a whole produced its largest cotton harvest in a decade last year, and signs are pointing towards more growth in 2018. 

Ann Kenda / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

Leaders from Arkansas’s sizable rice industry are coming together to seek a compromise on the divisive issue of agricultural burning, which tends to inflame relations each fall between farmers who burn residue off their fields and people who say they’re creating a public health hazard that can be seen and smelled for miles.

That concern was one of the leading issues at the Arkansas Rice Federation's annual meeting this week in Jonesboro. Most farmers, according to Jeff Rutledge with the Arkansas Rice Council, want to be good neighbors.

“Our families are raised here, and we breathe this air, too,” he said.

Controversial Weed Killer Dicamba Banned By Arkansas Plant Board

Nov 8, 2017
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

Arkansas soybean farmers who rely on a chemical called Dicamba to kill weeds must stop using it during the growing season next year. That’s because it has allegedly been drifting to neighboring farms and killing crops.

Ann Kenda / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

Grass Roots Farmers' Cooperative in Clinton consider so-called locavores and farm-to-table chefs who want assurance their meat is raised organically their target demographic, and they're turning to the emerging information system blockchain technology for its ease and thoroughness of reporting.

Blockchain works by providing a shared digital ledger of trusted information that cannot be edited and is not controlled by any one person.  It promises to provide at the speed of a webpage load a full history of a product, service or idea. 

This same technology is also being tried by the world's largest food retailers like Walmart who are perhaps more concerned with quickly tracking the source of food contamination in the event of an outbreak or health scare.

Ann Kenda / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

At the ranch on County Road 766 in Jonesboro, a pretty silvery-white calf born just three days earlier was happily playing and running around on a field. He’s one of the newest members of Arkansas’s collective herd, population 1.75 million.

“The last bull we bought cost $3,600, and he’s a good bull, but probably the next one we buy will be higher than that.  You have to look for traits that will improve the calves that you already have,” said rancher Eric Grant. 

There’s a dent in the fence from when a massive bull tried to hurl himself through it to get to a cow.  The bull seems to have an uncanny sense for when a cow is in heat even several fields away, Grant said.

Ann Kenda / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

On a recent summer afternoon, workers and trucks buzzed in and out of a pump station under construction in DeValls Bluff.  Several miles away, the site of what will eventually be a 100-acre regulating reservoir is currently filled with dirt.

Already 17 years in the making, the project tends to spark cycles of controversy among those who say it’s a badly needed solution to the region’s water woes and those who say it’s too large of a financial and environmental burden.  Such woes include rapidly dwindling ground water.

Ann Kenda / Arkansas Public Media

CLARIFICATION: Michele Reba is with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, Delta Water Management Research Unit. Her affiliation was misrepresented in an earlier version of this story.

Four Arkansas farms have made a deal with the world’s largest software maker, Microsoft. The Whitaker Farms in McGehee, Isbell Farm in Stuttgart, Hooks Family Farm in Hazen and Florenden Farms in Burdette join two farms in California and one in Mississippi as the first recipients of carbon credits for rice production. 

The program rewards farmers for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from rice, considered among the more environmentally damaging of all crops.  With a carbon credit, companies can exceed emissions caps by paying for reductions elsewhere, such as on a farm.