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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Fall foliage may fizzle

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By Mary Hightower
U of A System Division of Agriculture 

Thanks to a string of dry days with highs in the 100s, Arkansas’ fall foliage display may fizzle this year.

“It’s going to be a pretty bad fall across the state,” said Vic Ford, a forester who is head of agriculture and natural resources for the Cooperative Extension Service. “A lot of trees are already turning brown.

“There’s a lot of drought stress going around,” he said. When drought hits, one of the tree’s survival mechanisms is to cut sap flow to its leaves, preventing moisture from evaporating from the leaves, which leads to browning and early leaf fall.

“Leaf color change of the type we like to see in fall is driven by day length and temperature,” Ford said. “The shorter day encourages the green chlorophyll to break down, revealing the yellows and reds. Cooler temperatures allow the non-green colors in the leaf to develop more fully.”

The Drought Center map for Arkansas showed areas of abnormal dryness in eastern Arkansas along the Missouri border, some patches in southwest Arkansas, but a broad swath of dryness north of the Arkansas River extending from the Mississippi River as far west as Faulkner and Pulaski counties. Five counties have areas of severe drought including all of Lee County, and parts of St. Francis, Woodruff, Monroe and Phillips counties.

The dryness was also prompting counties to impose burn bans across the state as the wildfire danger increased across most of the state.

“In areas where there might be more moisture, you may get some color, such as on northern slopes,” he said.

If the dry spell is upended, the chances for color might improve slightly.

“Any moisture in the next couple of weeks could produce color in places that are marginal,” Ford said.

Speaking from Hope, he said that “elms are just turning totally brown and the privet has wilted completely.”

La Niña gives way to El Niño
While cooler temperatures were in the forecast, the National Weather Service at Little Rock was not expecting abundant rain.

“Looking ahead, La Niña has faded, with a transition to a moderate to strong El Niño in the coming months,” the weather service said. “As we head through the remainder of summer/early fall long-term data is showing largely below normal precipitation across Arkansas.

“In addition to a lack of thunderstorms, there could be extreme heat at times,” the weather service said. “Given the scenario, and if there is no rain by way of a tropical system, drought is a growing concern in the short term. We will continue monitoring the situation.”

The Cooperative Extension Service is the land grant outreach arm of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: https://aaes.uada.edu/. Follow us on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit https://uada.edu/. Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.

About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. The Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service.

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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Tammy Teague
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