Farmers hoping for rain

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 1, 2000

MONTEREY, La. — Most crops are already in the field, but their yield and quality could suffer if the Miss-Lou doesn’t get a series of low, steady rains over the next few weeks, according to climate watchers at Louisiana State University.

Natchez/Vidalia has gotten 21.62 inches of rain so far this year, 7.40 inches below normal, said Sean Helfrich, regional climatologist for the Southern Regional Climate Center based at LSU.

The Miss-Lou is still considered to be in a moderate drought because, after three years of below-normal rainfall, soil moisture in about 11 inches below normal, Helfrich said.

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&uot;Without continued rains, your area could slip back into a severe drought,&uot; Helfrich said.

&uot;If we don’t get slow rains over the whole area — I’d say by this weekend — you could start to see it affect yields, especially corn,&uot;&160;said Lee Bean, general manager of Angelina Farms near Monterey. &uot;This is a critical time for us.&uot;

More than 95 percent of cotton, rice and sorghum and more than 85 percent of the soybeans in Mississippi and Louisiana had already been planted as of this week, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics.

What is needed is a &uot;general rain&uot; over the whole area, not just in certain spots, Bean said. &uot;You’ll talk to a farmer in the north of the parish who’s satisfied with the amount of rain, and a farmer in the south part will say he hasn’t gotten any,&uot;&160;he said. &uot;The rain’s only fallen in some spots.&uot;

&uot;Some parts of the county (or parish) could have severe drought conditions, while other areas could have close to normal precipitation,&uot;&160;Helfrich said.

Such rain is especially important because, since temperatures for the region have averaged 5 degrees above normal this season, according to the SRCC. That makes evaporation a bigger problem than usual, Bean said.

And before farmers begin to pray for a deluge, they should keep in mind that much of the rain that falls during a severe storm cannot be absorbed fast enough by the soil and ends up running off into nearby streams.

&uot;Two tropical storms wouldn’t help that much,&uot;&160;Helfrich said. &uot;It’s going to have to be excessively wet for a long period of time.&uot;