( File photo )

With sweet potato acreage up over the past 15 years but tomato and watermelon acreage down, area harvested for Arkansas vegetables and melons shows mixed trends.

The recently released U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Census reveals that fresh vegetable acreage in Arkansas totaled 9,500 acres in 2017, up from 7,806 in 2012 and 8,782 in 2007.

The census revealed that Arkansas total sweet potato fresh market acreage was estimated at 3,492 acres in 2017, up from 2,757 acres in 2007. 

Arkansas sweet potatoes grown for processing totaled 1,106 acres in 2017, up from 369 acres in 2007.
Meanwhile, the census showed Arkansas fresh tomato acreage dropped from 1,101 acres in 2007 to 952 acres in 2017, a drop of 14%.

Michael Hensley, owner of Harrod & Hensley Tomato Co., Hermitage, Ark., said Arkansas tomato acreage could be down 40% this year. 

The firm produces fresh tomatoes in south central Arkansas.

“Increasing market pressure from hothouse (production) in Mexico is changing the demand for field grown tomatoes,” he said.

Statistics from the Census of Agriculture showed Arkansas watermelon acreage was fairly stable in the five years but has been sliding over the longer term. 

With 1,822 acres harvested in 2017, Arkansas watermelon acreage fell steadily from 1,880 acres in 2012, 2,059 acres in 2007, 2,267 acres in 2002 and 2,770 in 1997.

Arkansas fresh vegetable acreage in 2017, with percent change compared with 2012:

  • Snap beans: 107 acres harvested in 2017, up 73% from 2012;
  • Cantaloupes: 56 acres in 2017, down 53% from 2012.
  • Cucumbers: 115 acres in 2017, up 15% from 2012;
  • Lettuce: 30 acres in 2017, up 76% from 2012;
  • Leaf lettuce: 21 acres in 2017, up 75% from 2012;
  • Mustard greens: 68 acres in 2017, up 89% from 2012;
  • Okra: 74 acres in 2017, up 155% from 2012;
  • Southern peas: 260 acres in 2017, down 58% from 2007; and
  • Pumpkins: 363 acres in 2017, down 15% from 2012. 
 
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