The deepening drought continued its relentless advance, with more than 53 percent of Arkansas covered by the most intense form of drought, up from 45 percent the previous week, according to the Thursday (August 9) U.S. Drought Monitor Map.

The drought monitor can be found here.

The area of exceptional drought, shaped like a bent funnel, affects all counties on the Missouri border, south through central Arkansas, then tapering and veering southwest through the Ouachita Mountains to Sevier County.

All of Arkansas is affected by drought and none has less than the second most-intense form of drought, “moderate.” Those areas include most of Columbia County, the western part of Union County and the eastern parts of Phillips, Desha and Chicot counties.

The drought and its complications have left Arkansas’ cattle producers feeling a bit like Job.

On Wednesday, Mike McClintock, a Boone County Extension agent, said he was seeing the early arrival of grass-vacuuming fall armyworms in an alfalfa field being cut. “I was really shocked. There’s not that much for them to eat here. They were in the alfalfa and all over his mowing machine. I’d never seen anything like it.

“We’ve had so much happen to us since spring. It started with true armyworms, then the Bermuda didn’t grow, the corn production was practically nothing, and we’ve got fall armyworms early. We can’t win for losing.”

As of Wednesday (August 8), the wildfire risk was extreme in most of the state, with about a third of the 75 counties in eastern Arkansas at high risk, according to the Arkansas Forestry Commission. Burn bans were in effect in all counties except: Arkansas, Calhoun, Columbia, Desha, Drew, Miller, Mississippi, Monroe, Lafayette and Woodruff.

There was relief on Wednesday for parts of Arkansas, especially in the western counties and in a line between Hot Springs and El Dorado. A 30 percent chance of rain for Thursday and Thursday night remained in its forecast area, according to the National Weather Service at Little Rock.

Northern Arkansas has had a few rounds of rain and McClintock said, “We are a little green. We’ve got young growth in Bermudagrass. It’s wanting to grow, but on Saturday it was 106.“ The downside is that struggling young growth “will be just perfect for fall armyworms.”

According to Monday’s report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, corn harvest accelerated to 16 percent complete, up from 6 percent the previous week. Seventy-two percent of the crop was mature, up from 51 percent the previous week.

All of the state’s cotton was setting bolls and 4 percent of those bolls were opening, ahead of the 1 percent five-year average.

Rice was 91 percent headed and 12 percent ripe, well up from 4 percent the previous week.

Sorghum was running to an unprecedented earliness, with 7 percent harvested. All of the crop is headed.

Soybeans were 97 percent blooming and 87 percent setting pods.

There was no improvement in pasture or range with 86 percent rated poor or very poor and hay was 83 percent poor or very poor.

For drought information, visit http://arkansasdroughtresroucecenter.wordpress.com.