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Storm-swollen Arkansas rivers turn rice fields into seas

Crop fields flooded as early May rains sweep across Arkansas. Drought concerns lessen in state.

After two years of deprivation, a few of Arkansas’ storm-swollen waterways are reclaiming some turf, causing losses and even more problems for the state’s farmers.

The last rounds of rain and high winds over the last weeks flattened hay and wheat, bent and broke corn stalks and acres and acres of water where young crops would normally stand.

“Many creeks and streams overflowed their boundaries and deposited debris in prime hay meadows,” Skip Armes, Searcy County Extension agent for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, said of the early June rains. “There was a producer that had hay cut and cured, ready to be raked, that lost 50 percent of his crop down the Little Red River.”

Flooding is especially bad near Hickory Ridge, said Cross County Extension Staff Chair Rick Wimberley. “Some of these fields have as much as 8 feet of water on them,” he said on June 4. Fortunately, most of the June 6 rain moved through southern Arkansas.

The almost-weekly rain has made an impact on the U.S. Drought Monitor map. The map on June 6 showed drought disappearing entirely from northern Arkansas, where drought was most intense. Drought occupies less than 6 percent of the state, confined to all or parts Little River, Miller, Hempstead, Nevada, Lafayette, Columbia, Union and Ouachita counties.

In taking the riding mower out last weekend, Washington County Extension Staff Chair Berni Kurz made a discovery. “The ground was so wet, I was making ruts. It’s been three years since that’s happened.”

A low spot in his “back 40,” was so wet, he got stuck and had to push the mower out. “I guess the drought is over,” he said with laugh.

In southeastern Arkansas, “we have had some flooding here in Arkansas County but mostly just some low ends of fields causing partial parts of fields to be replanted,” said Chuck Capps, Arkansas county Extension Staff Chair. “I guess there is no ‘normal’ growing season in Arkansas but this one is unusual especially following the last two hot and dry years. “ 

In Union County, the soggy weather has pleased cattle producers with green fields, but slowed down logging for hardwoods that prefer moist lowlands.

“The grounds have become too wet and soggy to log these areas, so buyers and loggers are at slower paces right now,” said Jaret Rushing, Ouachita County Extension agent.

“On a positive note is that the supplies at the mills are steadily dwindling which, in turn, will cause prices to go up ever-so-slightly until the supply reaches quota again,” he said. “So, for timber producers, they should be aware that there could potentially be a shift in market trends in the upcoming months but it will be short-lived.”

In Lonoke County, farmers were trying to fertilize corn and rice between rains, but the fields aren’t dry enough.

“If we get another rain this week, that will put a nail in the rice planting and those acres will be shifted to soybeans,” said Keith Perkins, Lonoke County Extension agent. “We had several farmers that wanted to plant more acres of rice, but last week’s rain plus this week’s will probably put a stop to it. As my Dad would say ‘it’s all over but the crying’.”
Still, Perkins held out hope for a dry stretch. “We still haven't missed a rain, but we are due to miss one.”

For more information about crop or forage production, visit, or contact your county Extension agent.  

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