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Tropical Storm Lee trouble for Arkansas crops?

Heavy rains would not be good for boll-setting cotton. Tropical Storm Lee could brush state as early as Sunday. Any high winds with storm could cause lodging.

Tropical Storm Lee, which forecasters expected to be slow-moving and rain-heavy, could spell trouble for Arkansas’ cotton, corn and sorghum crops, but relief for parched areas of the state.

The National Hurricane Center’s five-day cone shows the potential for Lee to brush Arkansas’ easternmost counties early next week. The National Weather Service at Little Rock said a cold front from the north could limit the advance of Lee’s tropical moisture. However, the combination of the two could bring rain to Arkansas late in the weekend with the highest chances across the southeastern part of the state.

Alabama was expected to get the lion’s share of Tropical Storm Lee’s rain – with some forecasts calling for up to 20 inches.

The Arkansas weekly crop report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service showed 24 percent of cotton bolls beginning to open, up from just 8 percent the previous week.

“Any rain we get from this will be bad for cotton,” Tom Barber, Extension cotton specialist, said on Friday. “Especially continuous rain for three to four days. Twelve to 20 inches would ruin the crop.”

Rain can damage cotton in a variety of ways by lessening lint quality, staining lint, boll rot, hard lock, or helping spread cotton bacterial blight.

Sorghum and corn harvesting have already begun in Arkansas, with corn 33 percent harvested and sorghum 17 percent harvested.

“We sure don’t need the rain” said Jason Kelley, wheat and feed grains specialist for the University Of Arkansas Division Of Agriculture. “With corn, the biggest concern with a tropical storm would be the wind, which could blow the crop down and lead to harvest difficulty and lower yields. Heavy rainfall could also impact grain quality.

“For grain sorghum, the biggest concern is grain sprouting. If it did rain for 24 hours and the temperatures were warm, we’d have problems like we did two years ago where the seed sprouted in the head, which leads to very poor quality grain that was not marketable.”

Either way you look at it, it would not be good for either the corn or the grain sorghum, Kelley said.

If Arkansas’ farmers have mixed feelings about Lee, it’s because of the drought-ridden soil under their feet. The Climate Prediction Centers estimates that the southern third of Arkansas needs 12 or more inches of rain to alleviate drought conditions. The northwest and northeastern corners of the state could use 6 to 9 inches. Central and North-Central Arkansas were in somewhat better shape, needing 3 to 9 inches.

The CPC map is available here.

For more information on crop production, contact your county Extension agent or visit, or

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