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Arkansas producers hoping for quick drain after heavy rain

Rain continues to slow harvest. Standing water could damage remaining soybeans, emerging winter wheat.  “When we needed rain we could not buy one and we definitely don’t need this now.” – Hank Chaney, Faulkner County Extension Staff Chair.

Widespread rain that dumped heavy amounts in parts of Arkansas on Sunday and Monday thwarted some farmers’ efforts to harvest the last fraction of summer crops, while winter wheat growers with flooded fields are hoping for quick drainage when the rain ends Tuesday.

With the rain continuing, a flash flood watch was in effect through Tuesday afternoon for much of the state.

“Widespread rainfall amounts in the 1.5- to 3-inch range should be common north of a line from Texarkana to Helena-West Helena,” said John Robinson, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service at North Little Rock. “It is very likely that there will be some totals in the 4- to 5-plus-inch range.”

South-central and southeastern Arkansas could see up to 1.5 inches before the rain moves on, Robinson said.

A record rainfall of 1.14 inches was reported at Batesville’s airport on Sunday and 5.2 inches of rain was reported in west Little Rock at 7 a.m. Monday, the weather service said.

“What a year,” Hank Chaney, Faulkner County Extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, said Monday. “When we needed rain we could not buy one and we definitely don’t need this now.

“We have some late soybean and rice fields that are in jeopardy of going under water. Four to five inches of additional rain will wreak havoc on us. Even if the flooding doesn't occur, harvesting becomes more of an issue. The soybeans are so short, growers are having a difficult time getting their header low enough to harvest the crop without filling it with mud.”

There was a sense of déjà vu Monday in Prairie County, where the swollen White River did so much damage in the spring.

“We are sitting at 5 inches right now,” said Brent Griffin, Prairie County Extension staff chair. “A few roads have water over them in normal spots. However, most of the crops are out of the low ground.”

Keith Perkins, Lonoke County Extension agent, said area farmers were hoping the water would drain quickly from unharvested acres and leave undamaged newly planted winter wheat. “As far as soybeans go, water standing over them can lead to quality issues or sprouting if the pods are under water and it stays for an extended period. However, most will be able to harvest the fields once the water has gone down and we have about three days of sunshine to allow the moisture content to reach a manageable level.

“That does not look like this will happen for a while. I am glad that most of the beans have been harvested at this point.”

As for flooding in winter wheat, “damage will depend on the growth stage and how long the water stays on the field,” said Perkins. “This rain pretty much assures that the wheat planting is over for my area. By the time the ground is dry enough for planting, we will be past the recommended planting dates for winter wheat in central Arkansas.”

Meanwhile, drought-ridden southern Arkansas counties are hoping the skies will be as generous.

“We need some rain to fill stock ponds and reservoirs,” said Chad Norton, Lincoln County Extension staff chair. On the plus side, there wasn’t enough rain over the weekend to cause any problem, which is good news for the few cotton fields left to be picked.

To learn more about crop production, contact your county Extension office or visit or

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