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Arkansas farmers get much-needed rain

One-half to 5 inches of rain reported in Prairie, Clay, White, Woodruff counties. Water will help activate weed-fighters and fertilizers.

Farmers in the Arkansas Delta needing soil moisture to finish up their planting got their wish Monday as quickly developing storms dropped up to 5 inches of rain in some spots.

Clay, Mississippi, Prairie, White and Woodruff counties all reported between one-half to 5 inches from the storms Monday that popped up ahead of a cold front.

“We were in a drought, and generally most of the county had only received just under an inch of rain in the last five weeks,” said Dave Freeze, Mississippi County Extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “It was one of the driest Aprils I can remember.

“Many rice fields were flushed two times, and corn was already on its second irrigation. Pivots were running to activate herbicides and sprout cotton. Some fields were even furrow-irrigated so farmers could have moisture to plant cotton this week.”

It was the same story to the south.

“Here in Prairie County, the eastern areas received 1 to 3.5 inches this morning,” said Brent Griffin, Extension county staff chair. “The rain was very much appreciated to say the least.”

The fast and furious rainfall and accompanying high winds were a bit of a nuisance in spots.

Griffin was hearing reports of “wind blowing recently irrigated corn around, prompting the plants to lean a little, but they should stand back up. A few folks were flushing rice and have levees blown out due to heavy rain.”

Jackson County Extension staff chair Randy Chlapecka, said farmers around Newport, Tuckerman and Swifton reported 2-inch totals. “There may be some small soybeans damaged on low parts of fields, but all-in-all, the benefits outweigh the negatives. Soybean planting was mostly on hold waiting for moisture and this takes care of that problem.”

The downside to the abundant rain was the potential for water-logging the young soybeans, but “the cooler temps should help lessen that threat,” Chlapecka said.

Highs behind the cold front are expected to be in the upper 70s, down from record high readings around 90 that were common during the previous week.

“Corn farmers were beginning to irrigate and this will help them save some money,” he said. “Our earlier rice is getting into the nitrogen application timeframe so we will need for those fields to dry out soon so the urea can be applied to dry soils, which is much more efficient than applying to wet soils.”

In Lonoke County, “we received anywhere from a half-inch to 1.5 inches in the county,” said Keith Perkins, Lonoke County Extension agent. “For the most part this rain is a blessing. We had producers that were getting too dry to plant any more soybeans, and our rice was needing to be flushed or flooded.”

The moisture will also help reactivate weed control applications and help plants make best use of fertilizer, he said.

Still, as Arkansas moves closer to it summer dry patterns, Perkins warns growers to be ready.

“As my dad would say, ‘The moisture has been met today, but don't forget, we are just week away from a drought’,” Perkins said. “He was somewhat extreme, but it’s not a bad idea to plan for irrigation and don't put off irrigation waiting for a rain.”

Further north, in White County, “we received close to 2 inches - and we have wind damage on trees,” said county agent Sherri Sanders, adding her office “already had three calls this morning on tomatoes - that have been blown over and the blooms knocked off on the ground.”

Sanders said the tomatoes would produce new blooms, “but folks hate to wait.”

“The reports from texting my farmers and consultants is that we received from 2 to 5 inches in Woodruff County,” said Extension staff chair Eugene Terhune. “As you can guess, many fields are underwater this morning, but since we have been dry, I hope the water will get off the fields fast.”

In Clay County, Extension staff chair Andy Vangilder said there was minor flooding, but this is “mostly a very appreciated rain event for us.”

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