LONOKE, Ark. — Rain over the last two weeks has made a marked improvement in the U.S. Drought Monitor map, with the area covered by drought in Arkansas dropping from about 91 percent last week to 71 percent in Thursday’s map.

There was an exception to the improvement: most of Jefferson County and parts of eastern Arkansas and northern Lincoln counties saw drought intensify from moderate to severe. The other area of severe drought, northern Miller County, was unchanged from last week.

Large drought-free swaths swept across parts of counties bordering Missouri; the northeastern part of the state generally north of Interstate 40 and west of U.S. 67, and areas of western Arkansas in a triangle between the Oklahoma border, I-40 and Interstate 30.

There’s a noticeable difference on the burn ban map, with just one county — Lincoln — with a burn ban in effect as of Thursday morning. Wildfire danger was low across the northern half of Arkansas from Sebastian to Arkansas counties. The danger is moderate in the rest of the state.

(See: www.arkfireinfo.org)

While the rain has been welcome, it’s been anything but even.

"The rain has been nice and we have seen parts of the county receive over 3 inches of rain, but other parts of the county have received only a trace," said Keith Perkins, Lonoke County extension agent for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. "This will help with irrigation of corn and soybeans, and of course, the dry land pastures."

In neighboring Prairie County, Extension Staff Chair Brent Griffin said "rainfall has been sporadic, but any and all has been helpful.

"We’re still irrigating crops heavily," he said, however, "a large part of corn will reach the black layer stage next week, meaning the corn is mature and we can stop watering. Early rice is still two weeks from draining."

Optimism returned to Sebastian County with the rain, said Lance Kirkpatrick, extension staff chair.

"I don’t like discussing certainties in an uncertain world, but I’m almost positive that producers in our area will get another cutting of hay," he said. "We had almost 4 inches of rain in the month of July, everything is green and spirits are high.

"This is a welcomed change from the previous two years," Kirkpatrick said. "I will admit that about two weeks ago things we not looking that good for producers in our area but we have gotten some good rain since then and we are in good shape for at least two weeks."

In northern Arkansas, Baxter County Extension Staff Chair Mark Keaton said that with a tad over 4 inches of rain at Mountain Home during July, "everything has greened up and is growing again. We were really needing the rain when it came. It’s been a pretty good summer so far."

Pastures are perkier, said Newton County Extension Staff Chair Adam Willis, "Compared to early July pastures are definitely looking better at this time."

For more information about crops or forages, visit www.uaex.edu, or contact your county extension agent (See list of offices: http://www.uaex.edu/findus/county_offices.htm).