Unusually Wet August In Arkansas Might Not Spell Relief For Crops, Livestock

Aug 14, 2018

Forecasters predict the unusually wet August will continue in Arkansas, while other parts of the country remain dry.
Credit National Weather Service

Late summer usually means hot, dry weather in Arkansas, but according to National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Cook, predictions for the middle of  this month include highs in the 80s and the poential for heavy rain, "which is a little bit unusual." While rainfall is helping the state avoid wildfires, it's a mixed bag for agriculture industry.

Cook says typically, "a lot of these fronts kind of stall and wash out farther to the north, and this particular year, we’re getting more of these down here. And they're kind of being a focal point for rainfall. And right now, we're about 7.5 inches above normal in our rainfall for the year."

Shane Gadberry, a ruminant nutrition professor in the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, said the heavy rains in February and August, paired with a very dry June and July, weren't optimal for growing the crops used to feed the state's livestock.

"The hay crop reports I’ve gotten have been anywhere from 50 percent of what's normally expected for production, to as much as two-thirds of a reduction in normal hay production," said Gadberry.

Ranchers are trying to adjust to the unusual rains by planting grasses that respond better to the cooler temperatures expected in the fall, such as rye.

Jarrod Hardke, a rice agronomist with the University of Arkansas, says brief periods of intense rain aren't the most helpful for the state's major row crops either.

"When you get some pretty heavy rainfall that's unexpected, usually rice handles it the best. If you get a lot of flooding on the bottom end of soybean and corn fields, you can cause crop injury. They like water, but they definitely don't like to have too much, and a little goes a long way with those crops, so those are the ones to be more concerned about," Hardke said.

Rain is in the forecast for Arkansas through next week, which experts say may delay the first harvests of the state's rice crops.