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LAKE VILLAGE, Ark.
The Arkansas winter wheat harvest normally doesn't start until early June but combines are already rolling in southeast Arkansas, thanks to the warm spring that enabled the crop to mature early.
"By Monday, if it does not rain, harvest will be full swing," Gus Wilson, Chicot County extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said. "We're a strong 12-16 days ahead of schedule."
Growers started cutting wheat on Wednesday and Thursday.
Arkansas farmers planted an estimated 540,000 acres of wheat.
The wheat crop has been coming in earlier in recent years.
A USDA report from 1997 noted that the ordinary harvest time for winter wheat in Arkansas begins June 8, with most of the harvest taking place June 15-28. The harvest generally ends by July 5.
An updated version shows the harvest starting June 1, with most of the wheat coming in June 6-25 and concluding July. 2.
"The earliest harvest I remember was in (Chicot County) -- May 17, 18, 19, somewhere in that timeframe," Jason Kelley, extension wheat agronomist, said. "We are 10 days or more of ahead of where `normal' would be."
The crop in general looks good, Kelley said, though there are some areas where the wheat is a little thin.
"Plants were growing so rapidly in March that some of our top dress fertilizer might have been late, or it was applied on time, but the rain didn't activate it when the plants needed it," Kelley said.
In Little River County in southwest Arkansas, Extension Staff Chair Joe Stuart said he expects growers there to harvest next week.
"The crop is turning very, very fast. Some of it looks like you could harvest it now, but many of the growers are heavily planting beans and letting the wheat dry out a little more," Stuart said.
Extension Wheat Verification Coordinator Steve Kelley said he saw farmers harvesting wheat in Lafayette County on Wednesday.