Three weeks ago, Arkansas’s crop producers were worried whether there was enough soil moisture for seed germination. This week, following a series of rain- and tornado-laden cold fronts separated by days filled with wind advisories, some growers are worried about being able to get their crops into the ground.
April is prime time for corn, sorghum, soy and rice planting and the soil should be warming up enough for the earliest cotton planting.
Strong thunderstorms Wednesday afternoon and evening dropped large amounts of rain, prompting staggered flash flood warnings into Thursday morning for much of the southern half of Arkansas. More stormy weather is expected Friday for northern Arkansas, on Saturday night for northern and central Arkansas and a potential for a severe weather outbreak Monday or Tuesday, according to John Robinson of the National Weather Service.
Several spots around the state reported more than an inch of rain in 24 hours, the National Weather Service said. Little Rock had 1.19 inches, Newport had 1.11 inches. West Memphis reported 1.16 inches. Pine Bluff had 1.32, while North Little Rock and Mount Idea both reported 1.01 inches. The weather service cautioned that the state might see more severe weather on Friday night and possibly Tuesday.
While there is rain pain at the moment, the water is needed. According to the U.S. Drought map released Thursday, 98.33 percent of Arkansas still carries some form of drought rating.
“Folks are starting to get nervous,” Brent Griffin, Prairie County Extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, said Wednesday evening. “We’re planting. It’s not the best of conditions, but we’re planting.
“Aerial applicators are way behind on herbicides for weed control. The wind has been constant and has been preventing herbicide applications. We will be in salvage situation for both corn and rice, adding expense to the crop.”
Griffin also said those who are planting must work around mud holes in the field.
Robert Goodson, Phillips County Extension agent, said he’s beginning to feel the weather’s effects. “I finally had to put my jacket on this morning, as bad as I did not want to,” he said Wednesday. “It’s not summer time yet.
“Soil temperatures are still too cool to plant cotton,” he said. Even though there was a spate of 70- and 80-degree days, “the soil temperature at 10 a.m. on Monday was 58. The warmer weather early in the week helped but the cooler temperatures we have been experiencing today are not helping.”
On Thursday morning, when asked about conditions, Goodson said “we’re swimming. About 4:30 yesterday afternoon it started raining. When I poured out the rain gauge at my house this morning, there were 4 inches and 3.5 here at the office. Growers will have to step back and wait to continue planting.”
As winter wheat speeds toward harvest time, hail is a worry. The only hail reported in his county was small hail at Turkey Scratch on the Lee-Phillips county line.
In Woodruff County, Extension staff chairman Eugene Terhune said rice planting was running behind. “I texted my consultants and farmers and the response was about 38 percent of our rice is planted,” he said, adding Thursday morning that “we’re still wet today.”
Wednesday’s storms followed a turbulent Tuesday. The National Weather Service said the storms produced a 95 mile-per-hour gust near Oil Trough, where a 60 by 70 foot outbuilding was blown off its foundation. Funnel clouds were spotted at Little Rock Air Force Base and Little Rock Airport. Tennis-ball sized hail was reported at Lead Hill in Boone County and near Onyx in Yell County. Egg- and golf ball-sized hail was reported at Glen Rose, Bergman, Gurdon, Kirby and Little Rock.
Links to warnings and the National Weather Service radar-in-motion are available on the left side of front page at www.uaex.edu. Click on the watches/warnings tab or AR Radar tabs.
For more information on crop production, contact your county Extension office or visit www.uaex.edu.