With few exceptions, mainly along the Gulf Coast, the rain did little to roll back the severe to extreme drought conditions hammering the growth of small grains, and pasture and rangeland grasses, said Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.
However, in some situations, the rain may have come at just the right time to salvage recently emerged corn and give some hope for wheat to be harvested for grain, AgriLife Extension county agents reported.
“Many producers are still culling herds and selling calves they would normally sell much later in the year,” said Armon Hewitt, AgriLife Extension agent for Trinity County, southwest of Lufkin. “Some are still feeding hay, and many are still feeding cubes. Water levels in ponds and lakes continue to drop, with some drying up completely.”
“Lakes, streams and ponds are low and some were never replenished from last year’s drought,” said Chad Gulley, AgriLife Extension agent for Nacogdoches County, north of Lufkin. “Some producers are trying to cut ryegrass hay. Ryegrass and clover are greening up in pastures, but we need rainfall to really make this grow. ”
“All winter small grains have been harvested for silage” said Michael Berry, AgriLife Extension agent for Franklin County, east of Dallas. “We need rain badly.”
“We need rain. The small grains are trying to head, and we need one more rainfall event to complete the crop,” said Lyle Zoeller, AgriLife Extension agent for Coryell County, south of Fort Worth. “Most fields are showing signs of moisture stress. All pastures are green but very short.”
“Dry weather continues to take its toll on wheat,” said Jerry Warren, AgriLife Extension agent for Callahan County, east of Abilene. “We’ll need rain soon to salvage any wheat for grain. Most will be grazed out.”
More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force webpage at http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:Central: The region remained extremely dry. All tree varieties were showing extreme drought stress, and pecans were budding late. Warm weather forced wheat and oats to begin heading. High winds robbed what was left of topsoil moisture. Rainfall was needed to prevent widespread crop failures and grazing reductions.
Coastal Bend: There was almost no rain throughout February and March. Field crops emerged and needed rain. Dry soils prevented some farmers from planting the rest of their crop. Some were cultivating grain sorghum and corn fields. Warm-season grasses were slow to recover from winter dormancy due to lack of rain. As winter pastures matured, they provided less forage. Some livestock producers continued to have to supply hay and supplemental feed.
East: Conditions across much of the region remained very dry and windy, with warmer than normal temperatures. Lakes and ponds were receding. Burn bans were declared in some counties. Pastures were greening up but needed moisture for growth. Spring calving continued. Livestock were in fair to good condition, with producers still providing supplemental feed.
North: Soil moisture ranged from very short to adequate. Days were cooler, but there was only light rain in some areas, just enough drizzle to wet the soil surface. Camp County reported some much-needed rainfall along with some hail. Most corn was already planted, but desperately needed rain as it began to emerge. Ranchers were ready to plant summer grasses, but with soil moisture short, they were hesitating. Soybean and sorghum planting was in progress. In some areas, pond levels were down three to five feet. Winter small grains were harvested for silage. Farmers in some areas said this was the driest March they had ever seen. Rangeland and pasture conditions ranged from very poor to fair.
Panhandle: Dry and windy conditions continued, and soil-moisture levels were very short to short, with most counties reporting very short. Wheat was in very poor to fair condition, with most counties reporting poor. Rangeland was in very poor to good condition, with most reporting poor. Farmers continued preparing land for spring plantings. Cattle were in good condition. Mite, Russian aphid and green bug numbers were increasing in wheat in some areas. Wildfire danger remained high.
Rolling Plains: The region continued to have sustained high winds, warm days and very little moisture, which raised the risk of wildfires. Most counties remained under burn bans. In some areas, farmers continued to irrigate wheat. Others began to pre-water ground for cotton planting. Dryland farmers were turning acreages into insurance providers for disaster adjustments. Livestock were in fair condition with supplemental feeding.
South: Rangeland and pastures, already in poor condition, worsened. A cold front made its way through the area and brought milder temperatures but no rain. Soil-moisture levels were short to very short. Livestock producers were providing supplemental feed at a steady rate. Also, they were culling calves earlier than normal due to the declining quantity and quality of forages, and very low stock-tank water levels. Ranchers were using windmills and wells to at least provide limited water for livestock. In Frio County, potatoes were flowering; all wheat and some oats were heading. Growers there were planting some sorghum and cotton, but overall, very limited acreage of either crop will be planted unless there is rain. In the eastern part of the region, there was little fieldwork being done. Producers there were still waiting for rain. In Zavala County, growers were harvesting cabbage, planting watermelons in pre-irrigated fields, and harvesting spinach. Onions in that part of the region progressed well. Most producers reported no harvesting of dryland wheat, oats or even milo due to the drought. In Cameron and Starr counties, row crops had all germinated and were progressing well, and onion harvesting was in full swing.
South Plains: The district remained very dry. Farmers were pre-watering and doing other field work in preparation for spring plantings. Most counties were still under burn bans. Temperatures ranged from highs in the 80s to lows in the 30s. Lubbock had a record high of 94 with blowing dust on March 3. Pasture and rangeland conditions required livestock still to be given supplemental feed. Wheat continued to suffer from lack of rain.
Southeast: Liberty County received about 0.25 of an inch of rain, which helped some but not enough to really provide drought relief. The condition of livestock continued to decline as pastures worsened. Most wheat was headed but very short in some areas. Mexican Rice Borer moths were found in Liberty County insect traps.
Southwest: The region remained very dry. As measured in Uvalde, March ended with only a trace of rainfall, bringing the year-to-date cumulative rainfall to 0.9 of an inch, compared to a long-term average of about 3.7 inches for the same period. The accumulation of dry forage and dry winds gusting more than 30 mph have increased the risk of roadside and field fires. Irrigated corn, sorghum, sunflower and cotton fields made good progress. However dryland crops will need rain very soon to make any progress. Growers were harvesting cabbage, lettuce and spinach. Onions made excellent progress, as did irrigated cantaloupes, watermelons, green beans, potatoes and sweet corn. Most pasture and rangeland grasses greened up, but generally remained dormant due to lack of moisture. Forage availability was below average.
West Central: Warm and extremely dry conditions continued. There was very little field activity — not even planting of spring crops — due to dry conditions. Wheat needed rain soon to be harvested for grain. Most wheat fields will be grazed out. Rangeland and pastures showed some spring green-up. Stock-tank water levels continued to drop. Livestock were in fair condition with supplemental feeding. Peach tree bud-break started.