Writer: Lorri Jones, (281) 855-5620,LJones@ag.tamu.edu
COLLEGE STATION – Drought and higher-than-normal temperatures prevailed across the state this week, according to reports from Texas Cooperative Extension officials.
“Wildfire conditions are extreme in most of the counties with local volunteer fire departments staying very busy,” said Galen Chandler, Extension district director in Vernon. “The situation is bleak for our agricultural producers across this region, and prayers are certainly in order to receive significant rainfall over the next three or four weeks.
Jose Pena, district Extension director in Ulvade, said, “Only about 4 inches of rain have been received in since mid-October, compared to a long term average of about 19.3 inches for the same period. The last 305 days have been, by far, the driest period in over 100 years of records.”
Area reports from Extension follow:
PANHANDLE: Temperatures were above average during the week. Isolated thunderstorms yielded rainfall amounts between a trace to a half inch. However, most of the area received no rain. Soil moisture is rated adequate to very short, and most areas reported it as short to very short. Corn is rated fair to good with a few fields rated excellent. Dent stage has been reached in about 75 percent of the fields. Corn silage harvest is underway. Cotton and peanuts are rated mostly fair to good with no major pest problems. Sorghum is about 30 percent headed and rated poor to good with no major pest problems. Soybeans are rated fair with no pest problems. Some wheat has been planted primarily for fall grazing. Cattle are rated in fair to good condition.
SOUTH PLAINS: Temperatures remained in the mid to high 90s F this week, with a few light showers, but no significant rainfall. Soil moisture is very short to short. Cotton is in fair condition. Irrigated cotton is rapidly approaching cut-out with most of the standing dryland acres already reaching cut-out. Corn is in good condition. Peanuts are in fair to good condition while pegging and irrigation continues. Sorghum is in poor to fair condition, and the fields have poor yield potential. In most cases, available irrigation water was diverted to cotton, so sorghum is moisture stressed to the point that not all heads are exerted. Pumpkins look good at this time. Pastures and ranges are in very poor to poor condition; however, with the lack of rain they have not been able to replenish. Cattle were in fair to good condition with supplemental feeding continuing.
ROLLING PLAINS: The conditions remained the same hot, dry, and windy. A few counties received from .20- to .30-inch of rain last week. Wildfire conditions are extreme and most counties are under burn bans. Dryland cotton across the area is in bad condition. Irrigated cotton looks average; however, it wilts during the heat of the day. Stock tanks are very low to dry. Hay is in extremely short supply, and producers are looking for hay anywhere they can purchase it.
NORTH: Severe drought continues. Most corn and sorghum are being baled for hay. Some producers are supplemental feeding while waiting for rain to bring back pastures. Severe herd liquidation or culling has resulted from no forage and the high cost of feeding. Cattle producers are desperate for hay, and they are buying whatever is available. Excessive heat is drying up pastures and ponds. A few pastures that received rain have greened up, but will need another rain to make a hay cutting.
EAST: Up to 3 inches of rain was received in isolated areas this week. Areas that received rain have reported improved conditions in pastures and hay fields. San Augustine County hay producers will get their fourth cutting this year, with surplus hay being sold for $40 per roll. However, most counties that reported rain also indicated that hay supplies remain critical. Where available, hay prices range from $55 to $75 per roll and $5 for square bales in the field. Most areas received no rain and reported serious drought conditions. Producers began deeply culling herds because of very short hay yields. Ponds, tanks and creeks are well below normal. Anderson County reported that beavers are damming some creeks, which further limited water for livestock on many ranches. The watermelon crop is completed. The cotton crop in Houston County is late but looks fair.
FAR WEST: Widely scattered showers were reported throughout the area. Soil moisture ranges from very short to surplus. Range and pastures were in very poor to good condition across the district with the exception of El Paso, where pastures range from good to excellent due to the rain received. Cotton ranges from very poor to excellent condition. Cantaloupe and watermelon production is winding down. Temperatures have been a few degrees cooler this week.
WEST CENTRAL: Very hot, dry conditions continued this week. Temperatures remained in the upper 90s F to 100s F, and no significant rain reported. Grasslands are extremely dry, and fire danger is critical. Small grain fields are ready to sow when moisture arrives. Most hay fields have been plowed under. Sorghum is being harvested with below-average yields. Irrigated corn has been harvested, but resulted in lower-than-expected yields. Lack of moisture has brought in uninvited insects, such as crickets and flies. Fall armyworms have moved into irrigated hay fields. Livestock are in fair to poor body condition. Cattle producers are struggling with feeding their animals. Liquidation of livestock herds has increased. Decreased productivity of both range and improved grass pastures continues. Rainfall is needed to salvage any summer forage production.
CENTRAL: Some counties received a small amount of rainfall. Pasture conditions continue to decline and liquidation of herds continues. Dairy producers are worried about finding sufficient forage for rations. Feed prices are extremely high.
SOUTHEAST: July rains have provided for some good hay production, but conditions are getting dry again. Isolated showers have kept areas of the county in good shape, but conditions continue to be dry and hot. Crops, pastures and hay meadows are burning up. Cattle culling has increased. There is limited hay baling, and some grain crops are being harvested. Milo is very poor. Corn is also poor, with 30- to 50-bushel-per-acre yields. A few melons are still being brought to market, but size and quality is down. Lawns and shrubs are also burning up unless watered weekly. Ponds and small lakes used for livestock watering are in desperate shape.
SOUTHWEST: Drought conditions are critical. The corn and sorghum harvest is complete with disappointing yields, down nearly 70 percent from last year. The cotton harvest from irrigated fields is gaining momentum with excellent yields. Production from dryland fields will be down about 80 percent. As fields are harvested and cultivated, continued southern winds between 20- to 25-mile-per-hour have created dust storms. Livestock stocking rates are way down. Ranches with livestock are providing heavy supplemental feeding.
COASTAL BEND: Isolated showers delayed harvest in some areas. Some soybean acreage was not able to be harvest because excessive rains rotted the seed in the pods and crops had to be shredded. The intermittent rain also delayed harvest of cotton and could affect cotton quality. Corn harvest is nearing completion. Some fields have not been harvested because of wet conditions. Hay production continues.
SOUTH: Most areas reported very short to adequate soil moisture. A high percentage of the region remains in very poor condition. Sorghum harvesting was completed in some parts of the region due to hot, dry conditions and low moisture levels. Cotton and some hay fields remain under irrigation. Many cotton fields have been shredded because the crops were in poor condition. Water sources for livestock and wildlife have been very scarce. Hauling water to properties that do not have waterline systems has become an issue for landowners. Hay production continues for livestock producers.