|Updated: 3/21/2012 8:05 pm
||Published: 3/21/2012 8:04 pm
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Southwestern Arkansas farmers who last year prayed to the sky for rain are lamenting the recent rainfall now pooled on their sodden fields, worrying it might kill off much of the first corn crop before it had a chance to grow.
The National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings Wednesday morning for much of the state, including in areas that had received up to 6 inches of rain since Monday. Last year's drought left the soil in the southwest of the state parched, and they only recently recovered enough to begin retaining water.
"The rain is piled up in fields," said Joe Vestal, a county extension agent with the University of Arkansas who works out of Lafayette County. "The ditches and drain canals are full. What's troublesome is some of the corn planted that's not emerged might not come up and might have to be replanted."
Jason Kelley, a wheat and fields agronomist at the school, said it's too early to know how the recent wet weather will affect crops. But it could cost farmers $100 per acre to replant corn, he said.
Some of the crops at risk were planted only a matter of days or weeks prior. Wheat is already in the ground, Kelley said, but some farmers took advantage of the warm weather to get a head start on planting corn. Kelley said corn that sprouted stands a good chance at surviving, but corn that hadn't yet sprouted is at risk because it is underwater and deprived of oxygen.
"Our big concern is the freshly planted corn that's not emerged yet," he said. "There's 5-6 inches of rain on top of it."
Farmers recently applied fertilizer to the wheat, which is typically harvested in May or June. Floods could potentially destroy the nitrogen yield from the fertilizer, Kelley said. Farmers who postpone planting while waiting for waters to subside lose time and money, he said.
Vestal said drainage will be slow, because the Red River will take on runoff from areas in northeast Texas and southeast Oklahoma hit by the same storm.
Up to 20 residents were evacuated from parts of Faulkner County on Wednesday as the storm system continued across the state. Tommy Jackson, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, said residents of two homes outside of Vilonia and another 14 people in Greenbrier were moved to churches because flooding threatened their homes. No injuries were reported.
Chris Buonanno, science and operations officer with the weather service in North Little Rock, said the risk of dangerous flooding should end later Wednesday, but that the storm system will continue to move through the state until Friday.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)