Farmers Irrigate as Drought Intensifies

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We need rain as drought conditions are getting worse from the River Valley to Northwest Arkansas. It’s starting to cost local farmers money.

Dennis Motes with the University of Arkansas Vegetable Research Station in Crawford County says farmers are harvesting crops, like wheat, nearly five weeks early due to untimely weather.

"Normally on a crop that's in the field now, you think you'd need probably an inch, an inch and a half of water per week," said Motes.

With drought like conditions, our area isn't even coming close to that much rainfall. The River Valley saw just over an inch of showers for the entire month of May. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Northwest Arkansas is running around six inches below average this year.

"Water is critical and if we don't get timely rainfall, then it puts things is a real bind," said Motes.

Farmers say they’re irrigating three to four weeks early.

"This is hard on the hay farmers,” said Motes. “We had an early cutting this spring and then the rain stops, so the grass didn't grow back."

Little rainfall isn't just affecting large crops. People at the farmer's market say they're taking extra precautions to make sure their plants survive a hot summer. 

"It's been dry,” said farmer Voyt McCollum. “I've been irrigating just about every day."

Farmers with acres of crops say they're gearing up to water about once a week if a drought deepens, and that could get expensive. Motes says watering land with an irrigation system can cost anywhere from $10 to $14 per acre.

Motes says right now corn crops are in a critical stage of development, so if we don't get rain soon, they'll have to start irrigating regularly to keep them alive.