Arkansas producers in drought-ridden counties near the Louisiana border are welcoming recent heavy rains.
Storms that crawled across the state Wednesday night and continued Thursday prompted flash flood warnings across the southern half of the state, including areas classified as suffering “severe” and “extreme” drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday.
“Without going into much detail, our growers are throwing parties,” Jaret Rushing said with a laugh. Rushing is an Extension agent in Calhoun County where most of the county is classified as being in extreme drought.
“The rain has stimulated many of the hay and livestock producers’ bermudagrass growth,” said Rushing.
“With the hard rains we’ve been getting, we’ve had a lot of runoff, but this rain that started two days ago and is expected to run through Friday, has soaked in the ground and got the lakes, ditches, and streams up to normal levels.”
“This is timely,” Wes Kirkpatrick, Desha County Extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, said Thursday. “Today they’re getting what they need and it’s early enough that it’s not going to set us back to planting late.”
“We’ve had a good rain this time and are seeing some runoff and even some ‘flooding’ that will be temporary,” said Don Plunkett, Jefferson County Extension staff chair. “I don’t know yet if reservoirs will fill this time or not but many stock ponds have been very low and rainfall like this is needed.”
Jefferson County is classified as having severe drought.
Plunkett said the rain “will put cotton growers in the middle of the optimum planting window once fields dry. They aren’t in any hurry down here since the temp's are a little lower than they’d like.”
However, the rain may put some rice growers behind.
“Yes, we finally got a good rain,” said Chicot County Extension staff chair Gus Wilson. “This will allow the rice to come up without having to flush and the moisture has been replenished so soybean planting can resume in a couple of days.
“The rain will cause the corn to start growing at a rapid pace. Overall, we got what we have been needing.”
Ouachita County Extension agent Jerri Lephiew called the rain “wonderful. Even if the effects of the rain don’t last it will sure make everyone’s feelings better for now.”
Further north, Mitch Crow, Extension staff chair in St. Francis County, said rice and soybeans should be the big activity now, but “not many beans are planted and, maybe, 50 percent of the rice -- and I may be stretching a little.”
Most of his county’s corn and sorghum have been planted and a lot of it has emerged, Crow said.
In Conway County near the center of the state, “my producers have been bracing themselves each time one of these storm systems come through, but seems like every time the worst of it has gone south of us,” Extension agent Kevin VanPelt said.
“The biggest concern is getting a hail storm,” said VanPelt. “So far, the wheat crop is one of the best they’ve ever had so far and a lot of the corn is up at 3 to 4 inches. It couldn’t handle much of a pounding right now.”
Hail is possible in the next few days. The National Weather Service forecasters are keeping an eye on a system that could cause a severe weather outbreak in Arkansas next Monday and Tuesday.
For more information on crop production, contact your county Extension office or visit www.uaex.edu.