|Updated: 8/02/2012 7:27 pm
||Published: 8/02/2012 7:24 pm
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Almost half of Arkansas is mired in an exceptional drought, the worst of four categories assigned by the U.S. Drought Monitor, which released its weekly report Thursday.
Corn growers are harvesting their crop, and finding that, despite irrigation, some ears are smaller than in an ordinary year. That means lower yields for growers.
Soybean plants are entering a growth phase in which they need plenty of water, an increasingly scarce commodity for some farmers.
The U.S. Drought Monitor map shows 44 percent of Arkansas to be in exceptional drought, up from 34 percent a week before. Eighty percent of the state is in extreme or exceptional drought.
Rain fell in parts of the state Thursday, with some areas getting more than an inch. But the National Weather Service said Arkansas, along with most of the Midwest, needs long periods of rainfall to begin to make up the moisture deficit.
Farmers have been irrigating their crops throughout their growth cycle, spending a tremendous amount of money on diesel to power their water pumps.
Keith Perkins, the Lonoke County extension agent for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said soybeans are at a critical developmental stage and are trying to flower.
"With it hot and dry and most soybeans in the reproductive state, it is hard to keep up with the water demands of the plants," Perkins said.
Phil Sims, staff chair for the extension service in Pope County, said irrigated soybeans are looking fair, but the plants that farmers can't reach with water "are mostly burning up."
Many rice farmers are preparing to drain their fields, with some nearing harvest.
Crops are coming in early this year due to the warm spring, which enabled farmers to plant ahead of normal schedules. The quicker farmers can harvest, the less time their plants will spend in scorching heat and low humidity.
Ranchers also have been hit hard by the drought. Many have sold some of their cattle early to cope with brown pastures, low levels of pond water and high hay prices.
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