Rain, rain, go away!

muddy Arkansas rice field
Rain during harvest caused many growers to rut up their fields as they tried to get the crop out — photos by Vicky Boyd

For many Arkansas farms, the view is the same: water, mud and more water.

“With many areas still struggling to dry out from wet weather over the past couple of months, there isn’t much good news over the next week,” the National Weather Service at Little Rock said on March 8. “Rainfall amounts could exceed 3 inches across the southeastern half of the state through March 14.”

Jarrod Hardke, Extension rice agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, talked about his recent visit with a grower who had watched the evening news with his wife.

“When he saw the 5 p.m. forecast and saw the 4-plus inches of rain, he said ‘All I could do is start laughing. My wife looked at me and said, that’s all you can do,’” Hardke says of the farmer.

“It’s so ridiculous at this point.”

Further delays

The additional water will further mire row crop field work and commodity shipping and add to the worries of livestock producers who fear for the health of their cattle, says Extension specialists with the Division of Agriculture.
Row crops

Arkansas’ rice and corn growers are seeing their planting dates delayed by rain yet again.

The incoming rounds of rain are “just about going to run us into March 15, when we would be sitting on go,” Hardke says.

“We’re going to hit the theoretical starting gate without ground being ready.

“The prevailing condition is a lot of ruts and a lot of field work to be done. There’s a small percentage of fields that were harvested before the remains of Tropical Storm Gordon showed up are largely rut-free. These can be no-tilled or gotten into quickly.”

Woes started with Hurricane Gordon

white river flooding
The White River goes over its banks near De Valls Bluffs, Arkansas.

The sluggish Gordon wandered around Arkansas for several days in early September 2018, bringing plenty of moisture.

Since Gordon, Arkansas has seen 40 inches of rain at Little Rock’s Adams Field, approaching the typical annual rainfall of about 49 inches.

The rain from the past few weeks has also caused the Mississippi, White, Black and Cache rivers to sprawl from their banks, prompting flood warnings.

“Beyond farming, there’s been no barge traffic going through the Mississippi down to the Gulf of Mexico,” Hardke says. “If we get this much rain in the upper Delta, it’s all going to chase down the Mississippi.”

The University of Arkansas contributed this article.

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