Arkansas is expected to get a break from an unusually wet winter, but it may not be enough of a break for farmers.
Some Arkansas counties have received two to three times their average amount of rainfall over the last six months. The frequent and heavy rains have made it difficult for many farmers to work their land. Rice Agronomist Jarrod Hardke with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service says the return of cold weather could offset any relief from the rain.
"At the ground level we may not be adding more precipitation, but when you start reaching near freezing temperatures for highs and overnight lows below freezing the moisture that exists in the soil at ground level is not going anywhere," Hardke said. "We’re not going to make any progress in drying out to where we can do anything with these fields at that point."
According to Hardke, the first rice crops are usually planted in the middle of March and delayed planting could lead to significantly less yield, for the crop that brings $4 billion annually to the state. Corn and soybean yields are also expected to be lower this year unless the summer weather is unusually favorable for growers.
Brian Smith with the National Weather Service said chances for precipitation are lower for the next week, and rivers on the verge of flooding may have time to recede.
"We'll see a period of higher stages along the rivers, particularly the White and Cache Rivers in eastern Arkansas. We're not really expecting any significant precipitation over the next 7 to 10 days, so that may give them time to level out and drop a bit," Smith said.
Smith says the drier weather will also be accompanied by below average temperatures with lows below freezing in the forecast for this weekend.