Texas crop, weather for June 28, 2011

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Panhandle and South Plains irrigators were pumping 24 hours a day just to keep up with crop water needs and evapo-transpiration, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel. (Texas AgriLife Research photo by Kay Ledbetter)

COLLEGE STATION — Because of the drought, there’s going to be no such thing as dryland crops in the Panhandle and South Plains this year, said Nicholas Kenny, Texas AgriLife Extension Service irrigation specialist based in Amarillo.

Despite some areas receiving rain, in most of the state, record-breaking temperatures — above 110 degrees in some places — continued to hammer agricultural production, according to AgriLife Extension personnel.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, more than 70 percent of the state was experiencing exceptional drought as of June 21. About 91 percent was in one stage of drought or another.

Two-minute MP3 Audio Crop and Weather Report for June 28, 2011

Dryland crops failed weeks ago in most other areas too, according to reports from AgriLife Extension county agents.

Kenny’s responsibilities encompass all of the Texas Panhandle and portions of the South Plains region, where 100-plus degree temperatures, wind and low humidity have pushed evapotranspiration rates up as high or higher as they usually are in July or August.

“Certainly, there’s going to be no dryland corn, sorghum is going to be questionable, and if it continues like this, there will be no dryland cotton to speak of,” Kenny said. “We’ve had a lot of germination issues. A lot of people who have planted and just been sandblasted and sun-blasted so badly that they’re running out of time to be successful at all.”

Irrigated crops were surviving, he said, but with as much as 0.6 inch of moisture being lost per day from evapotranspiration, irrigators were running center pivots around the clock just to keep up with water needs, he said.

Though irrigators were stressing their resources, they were much better off than their dryland counterparts, he said. Most irrigators were splitting water between corn and cotton.

“At this point, very few are able to keep up 100 percent with water demand, but if they practiced good soil storage strategies, where they’ve been able to bank some of the water during the year, then they been able to mitigate the ET (evapotranspiration) losses.”

On the other hand, irrigators have had the advantage of some very low natural gas prices, he said. (Most irrigation pumps are powered with natural gas.)

And because so many dryland fields have failed, high commodity prices should offset the increased costs of constant irrigation pumping, Kenny said.

More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/ .

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

Map of the 12 Texas AgriLife Extension Service Districts

The 12 Texas AgriLife Extension Service Districts

Central: Some areas received rain, but for most of it was too little, too late. Area conditions remained extremely dry. High winds continued to be an issue. Stock-water tanks were low. Pastures remained in critical condition with little to no forage. Farmers were cutting some corn for silage. Area ranchers were buying silage due to the lack of hay production. Cattle were being sold off by some producers.

Coastal Bend: Most of the region received light rains, with isolated areas reporting as much as 3 inches. The rain was expected to help rangeland and pastures, but it came too late to benefit most field crops. The grain sorghum harvest continued. With the hot days, cotton was rapidly maturing; some bolls were opening. Livestock continued to need supplemental hay and protein. In some counties, producer continued reducing herds.

East: Parts of the region received as much as 7 inches of rain, which raised lake and pond levels and improved pastures. However, much more moisture was needed throughout the area to relieve stressed forages and crops. Many producers were feeding hay to livestock. Grasshoppers continued to be a problem. With the ongoing drought and short hay supplies, livestock producers were severely culling herds. The harvesting of vegetables, blackberries and blueberries continued. Wildfire danger remained extremely high, and burn bans were kept in place. Rain in Trinity and Polk counties helped firefighters control the two-county wildfire, but more than 20,000 acres burned.

Far West: Cotton planting was finished. Dryland cotton was a total failure as there was not enough moisture to promote germination and emergence. Area farmers were waiting on crop-insurance adjustors to access damage. Earlier planted irrigated cotton was squaring. Large skips were apparent in many irrigated fields. Pecan nuts were developing. Fall-planted onions were ready for harvest. Alfalfa growers began their third cutting. Though there remained a lot of standing grass from last year, its nutrient value was low, and livestock producers were still providing supplemental feed. With multiple days of 100-plus degree temperatures and the need for constant irrigation, there was concern about drawing down the water table. Upton and Val Verde Counties are the only areas reporting rainfall with accumulations of about a 0.5 inch.

North: Temperatures were in the 90s and 100s, and with high winds, soil-moisture levels ranged from very short to adequate. The continued hot, dry, windy conditions hampered pasture and hay meadow growth, and row crops were moisture-stressed. Corn was in poor to fair shape, and the intended soybean acreage was only about half planted due to the lack of moisture. Sorghum and soybeans that had already been planted were in fair to good condition. Hay production was reported to be from 10 percent to 50 percent of normal. Many producers were culling their herds due to lack of pasture grasses and hay. Overgrazing effects are very apparent in some fields, and producers were either contemplating herd liquidation or trying to find pasture to the north. Vegetable gardens were burning up, and grasshopper populations were increasing. The oat and winter wheat harvests were completed. Cotton was in fair to good condition, but rice was in very poor condition. Sunflower growers finished planting.

Panhandle: The region’s weather remained extremely hot, dry and windy with no moisture. The danger of wildfire was extreme. Soil moisture was mostly very short. All summer crops were struggling due to high temperatures, lack of moisture and wind. Irrigators were constantly watering all summer crops, but were having a hard time keeping up with the water demand. Rangeland and pasture conditions were mostly very poor. Livestock producers were either digging in and feeding cattle, hoping the drought breaks, or selling herds. There were reports of southwestern corn borers and armyworms.

Rolling Plains: Temperatures were 110-115 degrees for several days. From 0.5 inch to 3 inches of rain fell in the far eastern part of the region. Wise County also had wind damage with the rain. The rain greatly benefited pastures and fields but with 100-plus degree temperatures and hot dry winds, the soils were dry again by week’s end. The rest of the region remained hot, dry, and windy. Ranchers were forced to sell off cattle due to no grazing. Stock ponds were dry, and some producers were hauling water to livestock. Wildfires were becoming an even bigger danger. Burn bans remained in effect for most counties, and many counties also banned the sale and use of fireworks over the July 4 holiday.

South Plains: The region remained very hot, dry and windy. Burn bans were extended, and July 4 fireworks celebrations were to be curtailed. Most dryland crops failed and were being adjusted by insurance inspectors. There was no moisture available to establish a subsequent crop of any kind. Producers who managed to establish a stand under irrigation were struggling to keep up with water demands. High winds caused soil erosion. More cattle were culled as there was no forage available and supplemental feed supplies were running out.

South: In the northern part of the district, some areas received as much as 2.5 inches of rain while others only got a trace. Watermelons were being harvested. Peanut growers were finishing plantings. Corn was in the soft dough stage, and sorghum was turning color. Cotton continued to make bolls. Rangeland and pastures were in poor shape and stock-water tank levels were very low. Livestock producers further culled or liquidated herds. In the eastern part of the district, 1 inch or rain was reported. there was also rain reported, about 1 inch. The grain harvest was in progress in that part of the region. No significant hay was harvested to date, and supplies were running low. In the western part of the district, there were only traces of rain reported. Temperatures were in the 105-degree range all week long. Stock- tanks were drying up. Cotton producers were still irrigating heavily because 80 percent of the crop was at the critical fiber-production stage. Livestock producers continued to provide supplemental feed to their downsized livestock herds. Early planted corn was rapidly maturing; some harvesting may begin the first week of July. The watermelon harvest began. There was also rain in the southern part of the district. The rain interrupted the harvesting of grain sorghum and corn, but cotton was expected to benefit from the rain. Sale-barn sales slowed as the rain hampered producers from moving cattle on ranches.

Southeast: Parts of the region received from1 inch to 2.5 inches of rain. The rain helped, but the benefits did not last long due to drought conditions. Hay supplies were very short.

Southwest: Much of the region received from 1 inch to 2 inches of rain. The rainfall was quickly absorbed into the extremely dry soil profile. The region greened up slightly after the rain, but it was far from a drought-buster. Most of the region remained in extreme wildfire alert status. Forage availability remained below average, and ranchers still had to provide livestock with supplemental feed. The rain partially recharged the Edwards Aquifer, but the San Antonio area remained in Stage 2 drought water-use restrictions. (San Antonio was about to enter into Stage 3 restrictions prior to the rain.) Irrigated corn, sorghum and sunflowers are being harvested. Peanuts, cotton, pecans, grapes and landscape nursery crops made good progress under heavy irrigation but at high cost. The peach harvest was nearly completed. The cabbage, onion, potato, watermelon, cantaloupe, green bean and sweet corn harvests were ongoing.

West Central: Extremely hot, dry, windy conditions continued. A few areas reported rain, but it did little to alleviate the drought. Cotton planting was completed in most areas, but the crop will need rain in order to make a stand. Even irrigated cotton was suffering from the extreme heat. Hay was not growing, and producers were grazing hay fields to get what forage use they could. Stock-water tank levels dropped further, and many were completely dry. Ranches are out of grasses for grazing and water. Most producers can’t afford to provide supplemental feed to livestock any longer, and they continued to cull herds. Wildlife was also suffering. Many animals were foraging for food and water in towns.

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