With harvest time not far off for many Arkansas crops, anxiety over this year’s yields is expanding into next year’s planting.

A third of Arkansas is covered by “exceptional drought,” the most intense category of dryness, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor map issued Thursday (July 26).

In Morrilton, Randy Pettingill had been irrigating corn and soybeans out of the local water utility lagoons, but now, with so little water, that avenue is closed to him.

Pettingill, “told me that if we didn’t get some rain soon, that water would be shut off by Aug. 1,” said Kevin VanPelt, Conway County Extension agent, adding that Pettingill sank a well as his Plan B for irrigation. “He was right.”

Pettingill said the well produces about 850 gallons an hour, where the lagoon produced 1,300.

“You’re fighting a losing battle,” he said.

“It’s been a long summer,” he said, and with a chance of rain in Thursday’s forecast, “I’ll take anything. I don’t care if it comes a flood.”

Pettingill worries what might happen to next year’s crops if the rains don’t come later this year. If the water sources “don’t charge back up over the winter, there is a time when you have to ask, ‘will it work?’”

Exceptional drought covered 33.64 of the state, up from last week’s 11 percent. Much of the area expanded from the Arkansas River Valley in to north-central and through the Ouachita mountains into southwest Arkansas, including all of Cleburne, Conway, Faulkner, Pope, Perry, Newton, Searcy, Stone, Van Buren, and White counties and parts of Baxter, Boone, Carroll, Clark, Grant, Hot Spring, Howard, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Johnson, Logan, Lonoke, Madison, Marion, Montgomery, Prairie, Pike, Polk, Pulaski, Saline, Sevier, Woodruff and Yell counties. In far northeastern Arkansas, most of Clay and parts of Greene counties were also added to the exceptional drought category.

Extreme drought, the second most intense category, also increased its hold from 65 percent in last week’s map to 76 percent this week. Only a small sliver or Columbia County on the Louisiana border has the least intense category of drought.