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Lack of rainfall taking its toll on Arkansas rice producers
Rains this week may have eased the situation for some Arkansas rice farmers, but many of them are taking extra measures to ensure their crop doesn't fail in the hot, dry conditions that have prevailed for much of the spring.

Arkansas is currently six inches below the normal rainfall levels for the year, according to Paul Iniguez at the National Weather Service, and the lack of moisture is taking its toll on rice farms.

The two biggest problems for rice producers are maintaining a flood for the crop, and controlling weeds that grow around the crop, said Chuck Wilson with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

The lack of rainfall has also significantly reduced the surface water that is normally available for irrigation purposes and flooding, Wilson said Tuesday.

"Streams and rivers like the Cache are running too low to be able to pump (water) out. It's just not there," Wilson said.

Without rainfall, the water replacement to aquifers has almost stopped. That means the salt content in the water that is available to farmers has been increasing, rendering the aquifer virtually unusable, he said.

Some farmers have considered drilling more wells to irrigate the rice, Wilson said. But drilling for water is costly and time consuming, he said.

"We already have an extra high pressure on the existing aquifers. It's just not a good situation," Wilson said.

May, usually the wettest month for Arkansas, brought only a half-inch of rain or less for the state. Wilson said that the unusually dry conditions forced many farmers to irrigate last month, which is also an abnormality.

Iniguez said that this spring was the fifth driest for the state on record, and that there are no signals the summer will see more or less rainfall than what has already fallen.
MGR Archive 19.6.2005
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Russia Rapan $ 700
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