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Crop quality, progress in Arkansas aided by rains

Rice harvest
Division of Agriculture
University of Arkansas
File photo of rice in an Arkansas field waiting to be harvested in 2020.

It rained very little during the months of June and July throughout most of northern and eastern Arkansas, plunging many parts of the Natural State into a severe drought. In recent weeks, that trend has changed dramatically and it comes at a time that is critical for many row crop farmers.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) about 25% of the state’s corn crop is mature, as compared to the five-year average of 32% by this point in the growing season. There are an estimated 710,000 corn acres in the state.

Nearly 97% of the state’s soybean crop is blooming, which is 2% ahead of the five-year average. Arkansas farmers planted 3.2 million soybean acres, making it the state’s most widely grown crop.

Nearly all of the state’s estimated 520,000 cotton acres are squaring, which is on pace with the five-year average. The number of cotton acres could drop once the harvest begins due to producers abandoning some fields due to drought conditions and higher than expected input costs.

Despite the weather conditions, only 7% of the state’s cotton crop is deemed in very poor condition, while 67% of the crop is classified as in good or excellent condition. Only 3% of the state’s rice crop has matured, slightly off the five-year average of 6%.

Row crops are performing better after heavy rains blanketed the state in late July and early August, but pasture fields that are used to feed livestock continue to struggle.

An estimated 50% of all hay fields in the state are listed in very poor or poor condition. More than 61% of pasture lands are in very poor or poor condition, while only 10% are listed in good or excellent condition.

An estimated 60% of corn acres are listed in good or excellent condition, while 67% of the cotton crop falls into the same categories. Rice (73%) and soybeans (64%) are listed in the same categories as well.

Just two weeks ago, much of the state was categorized as in severe or extreme drought, but that has changed. Craighead County, which sits in the middle of the Arkansas Delta, was in an extreme drought but heavy rains have now made it the only county in the state that is designated as normal from a precipitation accumulation perspective.

Parts of seven counties in the southeastern sector of the state are categorized as normal while most of the rest of the state is either in the moderate or severe drought categories, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Parts of eight counties in the northwest and southwest corners of the state are still in the extreme drought category. More relief could be on the way for parts of the state this week.

All regions of the state will have a chance for rain this week, according to the National Weather Service. High temperatures are projected to dip into the mid-80s, well below the average for the middle of August.