Remnants Of Hurricane Barry Could Deliver Third Punch To Arkansas Rice Growers

Jul 13, 2019

The projected path of Hurricane Barry as of Saturday morning, which is forecast to bring heavy rainfall to Arkansas on Sunday and Monday.
Credit National Weather Service

The remnants of Hurricane Barry are forecast to move into Arkansas on Sunday. Agriculture officials are concerned the heavy rainfall could be detrimental to the state’s rice crop, which has already been hampered by a wet spring and recent hot weather.

Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, says the crop is extremely vulnerable at this point and that rain could disrupt pollination. 

"We’re really just getting started into rice heading at this point, so flowering being a very critical time as we begin heading, those really delicate rice flower parts are very sensitive at times like this. The things we’re looking most to avoid at this time are heavy rain and strong winds," Hardke said.

A little wind is good, he said, because it keeps pollen on the move and means better chances for pollination and grain fill. But excessive wind and heavy rain, especially during the middle of the day, could be devastating for rice. The rain could also aid the development of diseases for rice, Hardke said.

After making landfall in Louisiana on Saturday, National Weather Service Meteorologist Heather Cross says much of Arkansas will then be at risk from the storm.

"It will give us quite a bit of rainfall, three to six inches, and locally higher amounts," she said. The heaviest rain is forecast Sunday through Monday.

The federal agency reports that July 2018 through last month was the wettest 12 months on record for the 48 contiguous states in the U.S. That has left farmers struggling. The excessive rainfall delayed the planting of rice this year.

"It’s well above normal just because we’ve had so much rain even since last August when we really saw it start to pick up," Cross said. "We really haven’t had a good long break from the rain, but luckily we’ve had, the last couple of months started to see periods, I guess two to three days where we were a little bit drier."