Isaac: Arkansas crop producers fear for harvest

NOAA models have Isaac in Arkansas by Friday morning Crop producers worry about flattening of crops, flooding. Flood preparedness tipsheet available here. Tornado preparedness tipsheet available here.          

As Isaac’s chances for hitting Arkansas seem to solidify by the hour, how friendly a reception the storm gets depends on the crop you raise, Arkansas county Extension agents said Monday (August 27).

“We don’t want any damage, but cattle producers will probably roll out the red carpet, or at least put out a welcome mat,” said Phil Sims, Pope County Extension agent.

As of noon on Monday, the National Hurricane Center’s five-day forecast cone put Isaac’s center, as a tropical storm in northern Louisiana by 7 a.m. Thursday. Twenty-four hours later, the center of the storm is projected to be near Little Rock as a tropical depression.

See the National Hurricane Center’s five-day forecast cone here.

In 2008, the remnants of two storms, Ike and Gustav, arrived in Arkansas, both still packing a punch. The storms brought flooding, structure damage and flattened, or “lodged,” crops.

 “The storms are a two-edged sword,” Sims said. “Our rice harvest is in full swing. Those last storms caused lodging and some flooding of fields ready to harvest.

“However, our pastures and hay meadows need it for soil moisture to establish stands of wheat and ryegrass for winter grazing.”   

Rice growers aren’t the only ones worried.

“The soybean crop that is mature is vulnerable,” said Brent Griffin, Prairie County Extension staff chair. “Excessive or long periods of moisture will sprout the beans in the pod during warm weather. It can also cause sorghum to sprout or get moldy.”

Lodging can also be a problem for soybeans and mature corn.         

And just in case Isaac brings a lot of rain, “a few growers are moving power units and equipment from the lowest areas along the White and Cache rivers -- just in case,” Griffin said. However, “both rivers are close to record lows.”

Keith Martin, White County Extension agent, said, “there is also the potential for this hurricane to spread soybean rust, but again it may be too late to cause any real damage to the crop this year.” 

In the timberland of southern Arkansas, the storm heaps different worries in areas blasted by drought.

“Due to the droughts, soils have dried out and become brittle,” said Jaret Rushing, Calhoun County Extension agent. “Trees won't stand a chance if we get major storms.

“We had a few storms blow through a week or two ago and knocked upwards of 12 trees, both small and very large, down across roads on a six-mile stretch from Tinsman to Summerville. However, folks with ponds are sitting in anticipation though since ponds are all but dried up down here.”

In neighboring Union County, officials are taking a watch-and-wait stance.

“Most of Union County is rolling hills and not prone to flooding,” said Union County Extension staff chair Robin Bridges. “Many creeks drain water to the Ouachita River fairly rapidly, and the Ouachita River is at a very low stage at present, so flooding due to back up is not very likely.”

Bridges said county administrators do slow down or limit school bus travel if heavy rains are possible, but as of Monday, no school closings are forecast with the storm still being far away in the Gulf of Mexico.

For more information on flood preparedness see here.

Tornado preparedness tipsheet available here.


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