Rains help, but drought maintains its stubborn hold
Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLEGE STATION – Is Texas still in a drought? It depends upon where you are and whom you talk to, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor and reports from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agents across the state.
Despite rains — substantial in some cases — drought still had a hold on much of Texas. According to the June 4 U.S. Drought Monitor, more than 87 percent of the state was still suffering from moderate, severe, extreme or exceptional drought. (For an explanation of the drought categories see http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/classify.htm .)
Two Minute MP3 Texas crop, weather report for June 11, 2013Two Minute MP3 Texas crop, weather report for June 11, 2013
The areas with the worse drought conditions remained the Panhandle, parts of the South Plains, South and the Southwest regions.
Many parts of the state received rain since the monitor’s June 4 report, and more recent reports from AgriLife Extension county agents reflect the effects of the added moisture. But the rain was by no means equally distributed. In the Panhandle, for example, agents reported the rain in some counties measured in inches, while others got no more than a sprinkle.
For example, J.D. Ragland, AgriLife Extension agent for Randall County, Amarillo, reported there was “no significant accumulation.”
“Even irrigated corn and cotton are beginning to suffer, and no dryland will be planted until some kind of rainfall occurs,” he said.
The day after high temperatures of 106 degrees were recorded on June 4, Lubbock County was visited by a line of severe thunderstorms and extremely high, damaging winds, reported Mark Brown, AgriLife Extension agent. The storms brought as much as 2 inches of rain, which helped crops, but winds as high as 84 mph damaged structures, toppled trees and overturned many center pivots.
In East Texas, the thunderstorms were more benign, bringing only rain and greening up grass and promoting hay growth, reported Chad Gulley, AgriLife Extension agent for Smith County, Tyler.
In much of West Texas, rains did little more than settle the dust, as Norman Fryar, AgriLife Extension agent in Pecos County, reported.
Many South Texas counties reported rain since June 4, but as George Gonzales, AgriLife Extension agent for Webb County in Laredo, reported, with highs in the 100- to 103-degree range all week long, evaporation rates were very high.
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 for the week of June 4 – 10:
Central: The wheat and oat harvests were nearly finished, with better yields than expected. Sorghum and corn were looking good thanks to timely rains. Hay production was going smoothly, with producers between first and second cuttings. Frequent rains meant grass was growing, allowing livestock producers to cut back on buying so much feed. With a reduced stocking rate and timely rains, warm-season grass stands were expected to quickly rebound from drought damage. Grasshoppers were out in full force and forecast to be a major issue this summer.
Coastal Bend: Scattered showers occurred across the region, accompanied in some instances with marble-sized hail, though no significant damage was reported. In some areas, row crops, rangeland and pastures improved with the added moisture. Cotton was in fair condition. Early planted grain sorghum began to ripen, and corn entered the dent stage. Small amounts of hay were being baled. Pond levels remained low.
East: As thunderstorms pushed through the area, most of the region received rain, from 0.2 to 5 inches. The heavier rains greatly improved growing conditions. Downed trees on fences were causing producers trouble in some areas. Pastures were in good condition with farmers spraying for weeds. Hay harvesting was in full swing with good quality and quantity reported. The harvesting of vegetables and blackberries continued with fair to excellent results. Farmers were starting to market vegetable crops such as squash and onions. Some farmers were preparing to dig potatoes. Cattle were in good condition. Producers were weaning and selling calves. The horn fly population was increasing in cowherds. Feral hog activity continued to be reported.
Far West: The region remained hot and dry, though some areas received enough rain to calm dust for a couple of hours. Farmers were rushing to finish planting cotton; the crop insurance deadline was June 10. Alfalfa growers were taking a second cutting. Livestock producers continued to supplement or sell off cattle due to the drought.
North: More rain brought soil moisture up to adequate or surplus levels. Wheat turned color and matured, and some farmers began harvesting. Pastures and hay meadows were in good shape. Ryegrass hay was being baled. Corn and sorghum were in good condition and rapidly growing. Corn was expected to begin tasseling soon. Livestock were in good condition. Spring-born calves were averaging close to 300-400 pounds. Feral hog activity was heavy in some areas. Grasshopper populations were increasing daily, as were horn fly numbers. Vegetables suffered a lot of disease and bug issues.
Panhandle: Most of the region remained hot and windy. By the end of the reporting period, most areas had received some moisture — from a trace to as much as 4 inches. Hail accompanied the rain in some cases. Soil-moisture levels continued to be mostly poor to very poor. Crops under irrigation were progressing. Early planted corn was in the four- to six-leaf stage, though some later plantings were just emerging. Grain sorghum was still being planted, with some of the earliest plantings at the two- to four-leaf stage. Generally, the winter wheat crop was in very poor condition. Cotton was coming along, with most fields just emerging, though some earlier-planted fields were at the three- to four-leaf stage. Rangeland and pastures continued to be in very poor to poor condition.
Rolling Plains: The northern and western parts of the region received rain, from 1.5 to 5 inches in some counties. In the areas that received rain, cotton farmers were planting at a rapid pace. Some fields were too wet to get into, but producers were not complaining. Rivers ran for a few days and livestock watering ponds filled back up. Pastures were beginning to improve after the rains, and ranchers were moving cattle to greener pastures. The rainfall couldn’t have come at a better time as winter wheat had been grazed off. Grain sorghum emerged and appeared to be in fair condition. Producers were planting peanuts. Jack County reported that all pecan grafting was done, and pest control was in full swing. Cattlemen in some areas were still supplementing cattle, and buying coastal Bermuda grass and wheat hay for summer use.
South: Soil-moisture levels throughout most of the region improved quite a bit. All northern counties reported adequate soil moisture, as did all the eastern counties, except for Kleberg and Kenedy counties, where soil moisture was at 70 percent very short. Western counties also reported adequate soil-moisture conditions, except for Maverick and Webb counties, where they were short. Counties in the southernmost part of the region reported very short soil-moisture levels. Crops in the northern part of the region are doing well. Peanuts were being planted, potatoes were being harvested, corn was maturing, sorghum was turning color and cotton setting bolls. Rangeland and pastures improved as a result of many scattered showers during the last few weeks, enabling producers to reduce supplemental feeding. McMullen County reported an increase in armyworm activity. Pastures and rangeland conditions in the eastern part of the region looked good and green thanks to recent showers. In Jim Wells County corn was in poor condition, with 100 percent of the crop planted, 50 percent emerged and about 15 percent silked. Sorghum was not doing well in the eastern counties and neither was cotton. In the western counties, cabbage harvesting was halted due to wet conditions, but the onion harvesting was completed, and corn, cotton and sorghum crops were doing well. In Zavala and Webb counties, livestock supplemental feeding decreased, but many livestock producers were waiting for rangeland to fully recover before restocking cattle herds, especially as temperatures throughout the week were 100 to 103 degrees. In the southern counties, hot and dry conditions persisted. Citrus harvesting wound down, and grain sorghum was turning color. The cantaloupe harvest was ongoing in Starr County.
South Plains: Most counties received rain, with reports ranging from 0.2 inch to 3 inches. Many received hail with the rain, but damage reports were not yet in. Lubbock County also reported damaging winds up to 84 mph on June 5. Producers were trying to finish planting, but were fighting blowing dirt storms that followed the rains. There was enough moisture in some cases to germinate cottonseed in dryland fields, but available sub-soil moisture was not enough to sustain a crop. Hockley County corn looked good with little insect pressure. Producers began harvesting irrigated winter wheat. Pasture and rangeland greened up where there was rain, and stock-water tanks were catching water. Livestock was mostly in fair to good condition.
Southeast: Rain in Waller, Orange and Montgomery counties greened up pastures, promoting hay production and forage growth. Brazos County reported some of the damage to sorghum was becoming apparent from early freezes, but other crops remained in good condition. Montgomery County also reported weed problems, and farmers were responding with herbicides. Walker County growing conditions were good. In Burleson County, winds and higher temperatures were drying out topsoil. There were reports of grasshopper nymphs in pastures. Chambers County did not receive rain, non-irrigated pastures were drying out and grass growth slowed. Fort Bend County had minimum rainfall, with lows in the mid-60s and highs in the mid-80s.
Southwest: Recent rains and favorable weather improved the condition of livestock, rangeland and row crops throughout the region. Although rain totals varied, generally there was enough to provide ample soil moisture for grass and crop growth. Wheat and oats were still being harvested. Some of the later peaches that survived the freezes were ripening. With temperatures climbing, more precipitation was needed to maintain soil-moisture levels and further promote drought recovery.
West Central: Warm, windy days with mild nights continued. Scattered showers were reported in many areas. Farmers increased field activities with more planting of row crops, as well as harvesting wheat and oats for grain. Small grain yields were low. Cotton planting was well underway. Haygrazer was up and off to a good start due to timely rains. Rangeland and pastures continued to improve after the recent rains. Warm-season grasses were growing, and annual weeds and forbs greened up. Livestock remained in good condition. Low stock-tank and pond levels continued to be a concern. The peach harvest began. Pecan growers were spraying orchards for a light infestation of first-generation pecan nut case-bearers.