Conditions ‘normal’: hot and dry with high winds and hammering hail
Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, email@example.com
COLLEGE STATION – There’s good news and bad news when it comes to vegetable and melon production in the Winter Garden area of Southwest Texas, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service expert.
“The crops are actually doing pretty good, though it’s getting extremely dry again,” said Dr. Larry Stein, AgriLife Extension horticulturist specialist, Uvalde.
“Our water tables are dropping, and some of our wells are pumping a bit of air,” he said. “We need runoff to replenish rivers and reservoirs, although we will finish the spring and summer crops okay.”
The situation is becoming reminiscent of last fall, when growers worried if they’d have enough water to plant and to get crops emerged, he said.
“This coming fall, we’re not sure what we’re going to have,” Stein said.
Conditions varied widely in the rest of the state, according to weekly reports from AgriLife Extension county agents. Parts of North and East Texas were in excellent to good shape, with rains filling stock tanks and promoting crop growth.
Parts of the Panhandle, South Plains and Rolling Plains also received some rain, but in many cases it was accompanied by high winds and damaging hail. In Hale County, north of Lubbock, hail hammered about a quarter of the county’s 400,000 acres of cotton.
In Deaf Smith County, southwest of Amarillo, about 1,500 acres of cotton were hailed out, according to Rick Auckerman, AgriLife Extension county agent. About 1,000 acres of cotton were lost the week before to hail.
Lubbock County also had high winds and some pea- to marble-size hail, but the benefits of 1 inch to 2 inches of rain that came with the hail outweighed the damage to crops, said Mark Brown, AgriLife Extension county agent.
East of Lubbock, Motley County had winds gusting near 90 mph. The winds, aided by hail, destroyed nearly all cotton in the county, according to Ryan Martin, AgriLife Extension county agent.
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:
Central: Thanks to good rains, crops and forages looked great. Peaches and vegetables were in very good condition. Livestock all over the county looked healthier from better grazing conditions. Pastures were slowly improving, and some Bermuda grass stands were slowly filling in bare patches made by last summer’s drought. Row crops were maturing ahead of schedule. Silage harvesting was under way, with trucks running and pits being filled. Sorghum fields were turning red. Corn and milo has received all the rain needed to finish. Stock tanks were at high levels, and some producers were preparing to take a second hay cutting. Grasshopper damage was increasing, and most producers already applied insecticides. Cotton also looked good, with most fields squaring.
Coastal Bend: No significant rainfall and above-normal temperatures resulted in very dry conditions. Crops were severely moisture stressed. Crop insurance companies were releasing many corn and sorghum fields for destruction, either by plowing or cutting for hay. In the northern part of the district, where there was some rain, crops were progressing. Many cattle were stressed by heat and poor forage supply.
East: Some counties received from 0.5 inch to 6 inches of rain. Soil moisture and forage conditions remained good. Many producers harvested their second hay cutting. Many already had surpassed last year’s hay production. Grasshoppers and weeds were problems in hayfields and pastures. Pond and creek levels rose. Cattle remained in good condition, and calves showed good growth. Fruit and vegetable growers were doing well, though there were some reports of insect and disease issues. Dead-tree removal was ongoing. The area’s limited cotton planting was in fair to good condition.
Far West: Highs were in the upper 90s to lower 100s, with lows in the mid to upper 70s. As much as 1 inch of rain fell in parts of Glasscock County. Midland County remained in a drought, with hot, dry, windy weather further drying out soils. Ector County reported heavy rain and high winds that damaged trees, buildings and other structures. Rainfall varied there, from 0.5 inch to 2 inches. In Andrews County, cotton planting was finished, and the second cutting of alfalfa was in progress. In Howard County, cotton producers continued to battle with blown-out fields; some were replanting. In El Paso County, cotton was at the eight-leaf stage and pecans were developing. In Reeves County, alfalfa growers were producing small bales. Winkler County reported weeds and grasses were still green, but were starting to turn brown from the high heat and lack of moisture. Lamb producers were preparing for shipping in Pecos County. Ranchers were still providing supplemental feed to cattle. In Val Verde County, producers who trimmed stocking rates on rangeland last year reported sheep and goats being in excellent condition because of the heavy rains in May.
North: Soil moisture was adequate to surplus after 0.5 inch to 3 inches of rain. Some storms dumped a lot of rain and brought high winds and hail, which caused minor damage to trees. The wheat harvest was finished, with producers reporting the best crop ever produced in the region. Most growers saw yields of more than 60 bushels per acre, with many averaging 70-80 bushels per acre. The rains improved the outlook for row crops. Corn and grain sorghum looked particularly promising. With all the rain, stock ponds were refilled. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Pastures were in fair to good condition. Grasshopper pressure was unprecedented and constant. Feral hogs continued to be a problem in hay meadows. Mosquito and fly populations rose.
Panhandle: Most of the region received some rain, from a trace to 2.5 inches. More rain was needed as soil moisture continued to be mostly short. Corn and sorghum were mostly in good condition. Cotton was mostly in fair to good condition. Producers welcomed the opportunity to pause irrigation before the heavy-demand season came. Deaf Smith County lost more cotton acres to hail. The rain put the wheat harvest on hold in most counties. Rangeland and pastures continued to slowly green up with the recent moisture. However, grazing conditions remained mostly poor. The condition of cattle continued to improve.
Rolling Plains: The agricultural outlook was greatly improved with recent rains. What looked like a dry start for farmers changed overnight. Soil moisture was adequate for planting, though hail and high winds accompanied the recent rains. Motley County received very high winds, causing widespread damage to cotton plantings. Other counties reported cotton planting should wrap up this week as June 20 will be the last planting day for full crop-insurance coverage. Rainfall totals across the western counties were from 0.6 inch to 5 inches. Rangeland and pastures were looking better. Weeds were growing fast in previously over-grazed pastures and on cultivated land. Eastern counties also received rain, but more was needed to recharge ponds and lakes. Livestock were in generally good condition, with some in excellent condition. Insects and flies continue to be an issue for livestock. The peach harvest began in Parker County, with good to excellent quality.
South: Early-summer highs were above 100 degrees every day, causing rangeland and pastures to continue to deteriorate. Soil-moisture levels were short to very short all over the region. The exceptions were Dimmit County, where they were 80 percent adequate; Willacy County, 40 percent adequate; and Cameron County, 100 percent adequate. Farmers were actively irrigating crops and harvesting hay throughout the region. Ranchers continued supplying supplemental feed and/or selling off livestock. In McMullen County, surface water for livestock remained short on many ranches, which limited pasture rotation and other grazing options. Hay production was good in that area, but the availability for supplemental feed and the price per bale was increasing. In Atascosa County, potato farmers completed planting. In Frio County, the potato harvest was ongoing. In Maverick County, irrigated crops were fair, and sorghum and corn were maturing. Also in that area, the harvesting of onions, watermelons and melons was completed, with most of the harvest ready for sale. In Zavala County, pecan producers continued insect scouting and irrigating, the onion harvest continued and the cabbage harvest was completed. Also in that area, preparations for the corn and sorghum harvests were nearly complete, and watermelons were progressing well. In Cameron County, row crops were progressing well too, grain sorghum changed color and cotton began to flower. In Willacy County, the sorghum harvest began.
South Plains: Several storm fronts rolled through the region bringing wind, hail and some rain. In Hale County, hail damaged about 100,000 acres of cotton. Rainfall over the region was spotty, ranging from nothing to more than 2 inches in some areas. Lynn County received rain and some hail in some areas and nothing in others. Bailey County also reported some hail damage along with 0.5-1 inch of rain. In Floyd County, pumpkin planting was finished just in time before receiving 1 inch to 1.5 inches of rain. Because of the winds, producers were scrambling with sand-fighting machines to minimize the blowing dust. Some growers were still planting grain sorghum and sunflowers. Rangeland was mostly in fair to good condition, with warm-season grasses responding to the moisture. More rain will be needed to sustain growth in rangeland, especially where there was overgrazing or wildfires last year. Livestock were mostly in good condition with no supplemental feeding required.
Southeast: Montgomery County received from 0.5 inch to 2 inches of rain. Warm-season grasses showed good growth. Burleson County had showers during the last two weeks that promoted forage growth in pastures. Grasshoppers were becoming troublesome. Rice in Chambers County progressed very well. In Fort Bend County, some producers had to replant soybeans due to poor emergence. Thrips and leafhoppers were reported in cotton, along with some rust on corn.
Southwest: No rain, extreme heat and moderate winds exacerbated the drought. Grain sorghum began to change color, with most of the crop in good to very good condition. Corn was also performing well, and was in good to very good condition. Sunflower growers were harvesting, and yields appeared to be good. The peach crop was on schedule. Livestock and wildlife in the Hill Country benefited from grass and forbs that greened up after recent rains. Elsewhere, pastures continued to suffer from high temperatures and dry conditions.
West Central: Temperatures were very hot with mild nights. Dry and windy conditions continued. Some areas reported much-needed rainfall. Farmers continued cutting and baling hay, and doing some cultivation. Cotton planting was under way. The wheat harvest wound down; it was finished in many areas. Good yields were reported. Irrigated alfalfa and coastal Bermuda grass hay continued to produce very well. Rangeland and pastures improved where there were recent rains. Many areas on forages and pastures were heat-stressed. Livestock remained in good condition. Pecans continued to look good.