Storms associated with Hurricane Barry are posing problems for Arkansas farmers. Agricultural officials had concerns that heavy rain and winds would damage rice crops, but are now more concerned about damage to soybean crops. Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, says weather over the weekend was not as damaging to rice crops as originally feared.
"We really thought we were going to get a lot of that rain in a shorter period of time along with some high winds. Instead, we really haven't had the winds so much and the rains have been spread out now over the course of about three days," Hardke said. "That's kind of allowing most of the rice fields to allow that water off." However, he said, there are still concerns related to sustained rain for rice farmers.
"A lot of this midday rain is problematic for flowering rice because that rainfall can disrupt pollination. A single day of it isn't always necessarily too devastating, but several days in a row can really cause some serious issues because plants do like to spread out their pollination over a few days," Hardke said.
With long sustained rains, more concern is being focused on soybean crops in the state. Hardke said that while rice fields can deal with flooding, the same is not true for soybean fields, especially since much of this year's crop was planted relatively late.
"Small soybeans do not like or tolerate flooded or saturated soil conditions very well for very long, and this slow, continuous, heavy rainfall has a lot of bottom ends of fields backed up at this point. Unfortunately, as it continues to rain, those areas are not going to drain very fast," he said. Hardke also said intense heat in the coming days could compound the problem and cause further damage to soybean crops.
Officials are also concerned that the storm could increase the number of insects threatening crops among other things. For now, according to Hardke, farmers will have to wait and see what happens in the coming days before they know the extent of the damage caused by Hurricane Barry.