The rain in the South falls mainly where it feels like it

It rained in Memphis July 14. It wasn’t the best kind of rain. The storm front was accompanied by lightning and high winds that blew down trees in the older parts of the city and put thousands without electricity.

If I had been on a farm – and I assume producers in northeast Arkansas, west Tennessee and north Mississippi also received it – I would have taken the rain and been happy. That’s because most of the region had been without any measurable precipitation since the July 4 weekend.

As those of you who have spent any time in the Delta know, the region is never more than a week away from a drought. And the rain that fell in the northern half of the Mid-South on July 23 helped push the drought a little further away.

People I talk to outside the Mid-South wonder how an area with 50 inches of rain a year could need irrigation. It’s because we never know when the rains will show up. I remember a conversation with a farm wife who had fixed lunches for hired hands for 76 straight days because that was how long they had been without rain.

Meteorologists say we owe the July 14 rain and some earlier, less beneficial rains to a strengthening El Nino. As we get into the winter months, this latest El Nino could be one of the strongest in the past 50 years.

Unfortunately, the phenomenon does not have the same effect everywhere. While parts of Texas and Oklahoma were literally floating away last spring, farmers in the Carolinas and Georgia were suffering through some of the driest weather they’ve seen in years.

Rice farmers in Thailand, meanwhile, are fighting over scarce water supplies to irrigate their fields. Producers in one province have accused growers upstream of blocking an irrigation canal and diverting the water for their use.

Any decline in Thai rice production may not have an immediate impact on prices because of the surplus stocks resulting from the country’s failed rice-buying scheme.

In this country, the southern corn crop is reaching the point where rain won’t matter, but there are plenty of soybeans that could use rain well into August and early September -- if only El Nino will cooperate.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.