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Reporting on science, technology and innovation in Arizona and the Southwest through a collaboration from Arizona NPR member stations. This project is funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.Additional stories from the Arizona Science Desk are posted at our collaborating station, KJZZ:

Record June Rainfall Causes Harvest Concerns

The rainfall Tuesday from tropical storm Blanca made it the second wettest day in June on record for Yuma. The daily total was 0.31 inches, according to the National Weather Service in Phoenix.

While any rain is good news overall for the drought-prone Southwest, as KAWC’s science correspondent Amanda Solliday reports, the timing of the precipitation also brings some worries to area farmers.

June is typically the driest month for the region. But an unexpected rain Tuesday has growers near Yuma waiting to see what damage the moisture may cause for their crops.

Yuma is right in the middle of wheat harvest. About three-fourths of the area wheat is still in the field, said Tim Dunn, a farmer and president of Dunn Grain Company.

“The beauty about growing wheat here in the desert is that we have really good quality and it’s because it’s harvested under really dry conditions," Dunn said. "This unseasonably wet weather is probably going to give us, we’re not sure of the extent of the damage, but it’s probably going to give us some bleaching.”

Bleaching is more than discoloration, it can even cause changes to the kernel structure. And it could mean the difference between farmers selling the wheat at a higher price for human consumption or receiving a lower payment for use as feed grain.

Alfalfa, another crop currently in Yuma fields, could also mold due to the rain, said Kurt Nolte, Director of the University of Arizona’s Yuma Agricultural Center.

Nolte adds that ongoing drought research at the center is now compromised.

The fraction of an inch that fell into the rain gauge at the Marine Corps Air Station Yuma set an all-time city record for June 9, said Jessica Nolte, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Phoenix. Any previous rain on this date amounted to only trace amounts of precipitation. The NWS first collected data for the area in 1876.