Arkansas Farmers Welcome Rain but Drought Persists


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – Farmers welcomed this week's downpour after enduring one of the driest Mays on record in some parts of Arkansas and one that worsened drought conditions in the state.

"It was the first significant rain event we have had in over a month for most of the area. Probably a multi-million dollar rain," said Wes Kirkpatrick, Desha County extension staff chairman for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

Rain fell throughout much of Arkansas on Sunday and Monday, bringing much-needed precipitation to soybean farmers who had to choose between parched crops and using an irrigation method that could hurt the young plants.

"The timing has been especially critical as many soybean producers here were facing a real dilemma," said Clay County extension agent Ron Baker.

Most soybean farmers water their fields using a method known as furrow irrigation. But Baker said that the method is too harsh for the young soybean plants in the ground.

"Producers here are breathing a great sigh of relief," he said. "Many are expressing their thanks to the Lord for the blessing of enough rain to move the crop much further toward a safer stage of growth for furrow irrigation plus enough to finish planting most of this year's crop."

The National Weather Service said last month was the driest May ever at 31 stations throughout the state.

Total precipitation for the year remains below average and dry conditions are predicted through the weekend and beyond. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor classifies southern Arkansas as abnormally dry and the remainder of the state in moderate drought stage.

Forecasters say the drought is likely to persist through August. The weather service said the La Nina phenomenon that brings cooler than normal water to the equatorial Pacific Ocean is weak and thus won't generate hefty storms this summer, according to the Climate Prediction Center.

Along with a lack of rainfall, the center forecasts dominant high pressure over the region for most of the summer, which is expected to bring temperatures that are higher than normal.

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