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story.lead_photo.caption Miller County rice producer Zach Koller, background, and Extension Agent Jennifer Caraway assess soil and ground conditions, which have not been conducive to crop planting because of increased rainfall. Photo by Photo Courtesy Miller County Cooperative Extension Office

TEXARKANA — An abundance of rain and unseasonable temperatures swings this spring are causing problems for area farmers, gardeners and those who love a lush lawn.

"For our area, it makes it incredibly difficult to have three wet springs in a row and this one could very well be the wettest one we have had," said Jennifer Caraway, staff chair and agent of Miller County Cooperative Extension Service.

Many row crop farmers are unable to get their crops in the ground because of the soggy conditions, she said, adding there is still a chance to get soybean and cotton in the ground.

"When you have moisture, you tend to have disease problems. Corn, for instance I was scouting and I found fall Army worms, which is odd. You normally see them later in the summer," Caraway said.

Inconsistent and unseasonable temperatures have also wreaked havoc. She said tomatoes need soil temperatures of about 65 or 70 degrees to flourish.

Even the hay fields are negatively affected.

"A lot of our hay producers can't get out there and get their first cutting," she said. "Fertilizer has skyrocketed and the problems just keep compounding I anticipate a shortage of hay this year because a lot of producers are going to miss their first cutting of hay."

Grazing land has also been underwater in recent weeks and days.

"I hope we can pull out of this with a decent summer and scattered rains. But you just don't know when you fight the weather," she said.

Caraway said the extension service offers several services like scouting, diagnostics and soil and nematode sampling.

"We are here to help," she said.

At H & N Landscaping and Nursery, buying specialist Mitchell Dudley said fungus and powdery mildew can be a problem in gardens, particularly with squash and cucumber plants.

"It's hard to treat it because it is a Catch 22. We are waiting for things to dry up. A lot of the treatments include cure times and systemics and then water dilutes the sprays," he said.

When plants are close together in gardens, a fungi can spread through water droplets falling or splashing from an infected plant and transfer the fungus to another plant.

Despite the rain, customers are still buying plants, sometimes to replace ones they may have lost to the deluge, Dudley said.

Marshall Freeman of Freeman Landscape said the excessive rain has been particularly hard on lawns.

"You can't mow it because you will rut up the entire yard and the way it is now, you can hardly walk across lawns," he said.

Fungus is also affecting lawns. Even if someone was able to spray a pre-emergent spray to the lawn earlier in the year, the rainfall has diluted the treatment.

"The weeds start to grow and it hurts the lawns," Freeman said.

Flower beds are also experiencing problems.

"When we have too much water, all the nutrients leach out of the plants. You need to apply nitrogen and a well-balanced fertilizer to help green up everything and fight the fungus and insects," he said.

The fungus and insects usually target weaker plants that do not have nutrients.

"Trying to keep the plants healthy, they will be able to fight off negative effects of the rain," he said.

Landscape and yard crews have been unable to work because of the waterlogged conditions, meaning they are behind schedule on jobs.

When dryer conditions arrive, Freeman asks for the public's patience.

Recent rains should also cause people to assess their property's drainage patterns for any potential problems, he said.

"People might be interested in putting in a French drain to help deter that excess water we have been getting. If your house is flooding or your yard is holding water, you need to have the proper drainage."

When building on or buying property, he suggests checking the terrain, elevation and ensure landscaping features are not in low-lying areas.

Meanwhile, he's hoping people keep their spirits up despite the recent rains.

"We have got to keep pressing through and get to the other side. One day we will be wanting it (rain) to come it will be hot and we will want some rain to settle the dust down," Freeman said.

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