The hurricane is expected to dump considerable rain on the state's cotton, rice and soybean crops and pound them with high winds.

The hurricane is hitting at a critical time for Arkansas row crops. They're all in the process of being harvested.

"I think we've got a lot more at stake than the other crops," says Bill Robertson, extension cotton specialist. He said only about 10 percent of the state's 930,000-acre cotton crop has been harvested, much less than cotton and rice.

He predicted yield losses and quality problems.

"The crop is very much at risk," he said. Most of the crop has been defoliated in preparation for picking, so there are no leaves on the plants to help deflect rain off the bolls.

He said moisture when bolls are beginning to open can combine with sugars in the bolls to cause a condition called hardlock, which prevents the lint from fluffing out.

If the bolls are already open, heavy rain can pull lint out of the boll and cause it to fall on the ground.

Arkansas farmers are usually farther along in picking, but the recent rains have slowed them. Mississippi County farmers have just now been able to get back into fields to begin picking again after the last hurricane, Robertson noted.

Robertson said one Desha County farmer told him he lost 10 percent of his yield potential after the last hurricane. "It's like a 10 percent cut in your pay."

Meanwhile, farmers were in the fields Wednesday working fast and furiously to pick as much cotton as they can before the rains begin.

Robertson said the USDA has estimated the statewide average yield will be 841 pounds per acre, "which is an excellent crop. I don't want it to slip away from us at the end."

Chuck Wilson, extension rice specialist, said 70 percent of the state's 1.5 million-acre rice crop has been harvested. Rain and wind can cause severe yield losses to the 30 percent of the crop left in the field.

Wilson said wind will undoubtedly cause a lot of plants to lodge, or fall over, making harvest more difficult and time consuming. This can also cause more wear and tear on equipment.

The rain could cause the rice to begin sprouting, which would ruin it for milling.

"I guarantee you that the combines are going as fast as they can right now before the storm hits," Wilson said Wednesday.

Dwayne Beaty, area extension soybean agronomist, said the hurricane could be a serious threat to the 70 percent of the state's 2.9 million-acre soybean crop still in the field. He said rain and wind could cause serious lodging and quality problems.

He said the last hurricane that hit Louisiana didn't cause any real damage to the Arkansas soybean crop, but "we could be in a lot of trouble" from the latest hurricane.