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Arkansas farmers worry over corn as rain continues to fall

Record rainfall at Hot Springs, North Little Rock. Flash floods reported in Faulkner, Pulaski counties. Storm damage to buildings at Morrilton, Midway and Damascus. Non-emergence of newly planted corn a concern.

Six inches of rain have made a change in the landscape along the Red River in southwest Arkansas.

“The farmland along the river bottoms, a lot of it looks like lakes,” Joe Vestal, Lafayette County Extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said Wednesday morning. “It’ll take awhile to get it off the fields,” and that’s where the worry lies.

Vestal said the Red River will also be taking all the water that northeast Texas and southwest Oklahoma have received with this storm, slowing drainage. Most of the county’s bottoms are planted with corn. In 2011, 12,900 acres of corn were planted in Lafayette County.

“The corn is freshly planted. If the water stands on it, it might not come up,” Vestal said, adding that tight corn seed supplies may make replanting difficult.

“We’ll survive. Farmers are a resilient bunch. If not, they’d be out of business a long time ago.”

Jason Kelley, Extension wheat and feed grains specialist, did offer some reassurance for corn growers.

Most of the early planted “corn came up good even after the 2- to 4-inch rain we got 10 days ago and current weather models show less rain in the Delta than what we have gotten in western and central Arkansas,” Kelley said.

Both Vestal and Kelley had some worries for wheat, where growers had just applied fertilizer.

“An inch of rain would have been fine, however we don't need the 6 inches of rain that has fallen or is forecast to fall in some areas,” Kelley said.

The other concern is stripe rust, which has been reported in 20 counties in the Delta and Arkansas River.

“The cooler wet weather will helpful for the stripe rust to get going again,” he said. “The recent 80-degree temperatures for highs and 60s at night had slowed the stripe rust down.”

Flash flood warnings were set to expire Wednesdaymorning, but a flash flood watch was to be in effect into the evening for Bradley, Cleveland, Drew, Faulkner, Grant, Jefferson, Lincoln, Pulaski and Saline counties.

The National Weather Service said that as of 7:00 a.m. Wednesday, Norfork and Mountain Home both reported more than 6 inches of rain.

Rainfall totals exceeding 4 inches were reported at Camden in Ouachita County, Clarkridge in Baxter County, Calico Rock in Izard County, near Conway in Faulkner County, Damascus in Van Buren, near Fordyce in Dallas County and Moro Bay in Bradley County. One-inch hail was reported in Grant County.

Flash flooding was reported at Wooster in Faulkner County and North Little Rock, and road flooding was reported in Baxter County. The National Weather Service said it also received reports of collapsed mobile homes at Midway in Baxter County, and near Damascus in Van Buren County.

Morrilton in Conway County was hit hard, with wind damage covering an area six to eight blocks long and two blocks wide, according to the report to the National Weather Service.

Nearly 1.5 inches of rain fell at the Hot Springs Airport, a new record. The 2.5 inches that fell at North Little Rock broke the old record of 2.1 inches.

Nathan Stone, Extension fisheries specialist, said “if they can safely do so, farm pond owners should check pond spillways and overflow pipes to make sure they are not clogged with leaves or other trash.

“A clogged spillway could lead to water overtopping the dam levee, possibly leading to dam failure.”  

In Benton County, one of the few areas that still had a drought designation as of March 13, the rain was welcome.

“The ground sponged it up pretty good,” said Robert Seay, Benton County Extension staff chair.

The rain has changed the landscape. “We’re two weeks ahead of schedule in temperatures, but the lack of moisture was holding us back,” said Seay. “This rain has really changed things overnight. Trees, everything is just busting out at the seams.”

A list of resources for cleaning up after a flood is located here.

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