Plant Culture

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Entry Category: Plant Culture

Official State Grape

aka: Cynthiana Grape
Approximately 150 commercial vineyards and wineries have operated in Arkansas since 1870. In 2009, the Arkansas General Assembly took note of this agricultural mainstay when it designated the Cynthiana, a native grape, as Arkansas’s official state grape. Act 547 was introduced as House Bill 2193 by Representatives Beverly Pyle of Cedarville (Crawford County) and Kathy Webb of Little Rock (Pulaski County). The measure was introduced at the suggestion of Audrey House, proprietor of the Chateau Aux Arc vineyards in Franklin County, to draw attention to the survival and rising reputation of Arkansas vintages. Arkansas’s grape-growing industry is small, however, in comparison to that of such viticultural powerhouses as California. Between 2007 and 2009, acres of cultivated grapes ranged between 750 …

Peach Industry

Peaches are grown throughout the state of Arkansas with the highest concentrations being in central Arkansas  (Pope and Faulkner counties), western Arkansas (Johnson and Franklin counties), southwest Arkansas (Howard and Clark counties), northern Arkansas (Boone, Benton, and Washington counties), and Crowley’s Ridge in eastern Arkansas (Cross and St. Francis counties). Peaches are most successfully produced on light, sandy soils with at least thirty-six inches of soil depth. Orchards are usually placed on locations with raised elevations to avoid or lessen the impact of incidents of low temperature such as frosts. Peaches were introduced as a crop in Arkansas after the Civil War, as were many other fruits and vegetables, during the New South Diversification movement in agriculture. This movement was …

Rice Industry

Rice, the most popular grain in the world, is Arkansas’s leading agricultural product. Although it was only rarely grown in Arkansas before the twentieth century, rice came to dominate eastern Arkansas farms, beginning in the Grand Prairie but rapidly expanding into the Mississippi Delta and the Arkansas Valley. Domesticated rice (Oryza sativa) is not native to North America. It has been cultivated in central Asia for up to 6,500 years, and its use gradually spread to eastern and western Asia, the Mediterranean basin, and Africa. Roughly 40,000 official varieties of rice are recognized, but they usually are sorted into three categories: short-grain, medium-grain, and long-grain. While most rice is consumed as a grain, rice is also an ingredient in many …

Riceland Foods

Riceland Foods, Inc., headquartered in Stuttgart (Arkansas County), is the world’s largest rice miller and rice marketer. It also operates one of the world’s largest rice mills, which is located in Jonesboro (Craighead County). Founded in 1921 as a farmers’ cooperative to market crops, Riceland is one of the top companies in Arkansas. It is the largest supplier of rice for the food industry in the United States, a major rice exporter to foreign countries, one of the nation’s largest grain storage companies, and is also one of the Mid-South’s largest soybean processors. In the late nineteenth century, most of America’s rice was grown in Louisiana. Around 1900, William H. Fuller from Carlisle (Lonoke County) went to Louisiana on a …

Rust, John Daniel

John Daniel Rust invented the first practical spindle cotton picker in the late 1930s. The Rust cotton picker threatened to wipe out the old plantation system and throw millions of people out of work, creating a social revolution. Eli Whitney’s cotton gin had created the Cotton South, but the Rust picker threatened to destroy it. In 1949, Rust moved to Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), where the Ben Pearson Company produced cotton pickers using the Rust patents. John D. Rust was born on September 6, 1892, near Necessity, Texas, to Benjamin Daniel Rust, a farmer and schoolteacher, and Susan Minerva Burnett, a homemaker. As a youngster, Rust did farm work and displayed an aptitude for mechanical tinkering. His parents died when …

Strawberry Industry

The strawberry industry arose in Arkansas in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when the advent of railroads made possible the profitable shipping of the fruit. For farmers, especially those who sell their crops locally, strawberries “kick off” the growing season because of their early ripening. By the time strawberry plants have stopped producing, other fruits and vegetables are ready to be brought to market, thus allowing a savvy grower to stagger crops throughout the summer and into fall. According to rough estimates, there are about 200 acres of strawberries in Arkansas. The short-lived peak market time of the strawberry originally prevented the fruit from getting a foothold in early Arkansas. Limited transportation meant poor-quality fruit at the stores …

Tomato Industry

The tomato industry has a long history in Arkansas and is particularly known in the northwestern and southeastern areas of the state. Tomatoes appeared early in the state’s history. During the 1830s, Albert Pike, who owned the Arkansas Advocate newspaper, made the tomato the centerpiece of his campaign to expand food choices for the state. However, tomatoes were not grown on a large scale until commercial canning plants became common in the state. The town of Yocum (Carroll County), for example, had a plant operating in the 1880s, and in subsequent decades, canneries and tomato sheds were built across the state. Tomatoes grown in the Ozark Mountains were packaged in a variety of ways, from whole tomatoes to catsup. During …

Wheat and Small Grain Industry

Wheat and other small grain crops have been important to Arkansas since the first European settlers arrived. At first, these crops were mainly used on the farms where they were grown for both human and livestock consumption. Today, these grains are a multi-million-dollar industry in the state and are sold worldwide. Cereal grain crops are grass species that are grown primarily for their edible seeds or grain. This group includes the world’s six most widely grown crops: wheat, rice, corn, sorghum, millet, and barley. Cereal grain crops with a small plant structure are generally categorized as small grain cereals. Wheat, barley, oats, and rye are considered small grains. Although rice fits the definition, it is often considered separately because of …

Williams, Virginia Anne Rice

Biochemist Virginia Anne Rice Williams helped develop more nutritious grains through her pioneering studies of rice, a major Arkansas crop. She conducted important research on the B-vitamin content of rice, on ways to keep rice from turning rancid in storage, and on the vitamin fortification of rice. Virginia Rice was born in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Roderic J. Rice, a banker, and Mattie Thurman. Her high school teachers urged her to pursue music as a career, as she was a gifted musician. Fearing that she would not succeed as a concert musician, however, she opted for science, a field in which she also excelled. In 1940, Rice graduated from Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County) with a BA …