Frequent rains help crops, but drought perseveres
Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLEGE STATION – All of the state received rain during the last seven days, from 1 inch to 2 inches in most locations, according to the National Weather Service.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service county agent reports indicated there were instances of 6 inches — or even 10 inches — but according to weather service records, amounts more than 4 inches were extremely isolated events.
The good news came from the South Plains, Rolling Plains and Panhandle regions where the rains fell slow and steady, allowing the moisture to soak into soils and replenish soil profiles rather than run off.
The rain came too late in many areas to save dryland crops such as cotton, but it did come just in time for High Plains corn that was tasseling, allowing irrigators to let wells rest for a few days. The rain also quickly greened up pastures and rangeland and made another cutting of hay a possibility.
In the Central and Northern regions, where the drought hasn’t been so severe, the rains mainly improved crop yield-potentials.
Most Coastal Bend counties that border the Gulf Coast and were under extreme drought conditions on July 16, received from 1 inch to 2 inches.
The rains created a few minor problems along with the benefits. For example, Corrie Bowen, AgriLife Extension agent for Wharton County, southwest of Houston, noted that the rains, from 1 inch or less, not only slowed corn harvesting but caused some seed sprouting.
The rains of the last week continued the wetter-weather trend that started about 30 days ago. According the weather service, many parts of the state have received totals of 4 to 8 inches or even more during the last month.
Despite the rains, drought still reigns in Texas. According to the July 16 U.S. Drought Monitor, more than 94 percent of the state remained under moderate to extreme drought conditions.
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 July 16 – 22:
Central: The region received from 3.5 to 6 inches of rain. Pastures greened up because of the rain and warm days. Corn and sorghum harvests were delayed by the rains. Prussic acid poisoning was reported from Johnson grass and Sudan grass. Cotton needed the rain badly and improved. Hay producers expected to get another cutting because of the rain.
Coastal Bend: Much-needed rain brought relief from the heat and drought. The rain halted the corn harvest for a couple of days. The rain may have come in time to benefit cotton and sesame. Soybeans were filling pods. Pastures showed some improvement, but ponds remained low or dry in many areas. Livestock producers were still feeding, with some having to buy hay.
East: Most counties received rain, with the average being about 3 inches, though some western and southern areas received as much as 10 inches. Anderson County corn was doing well with the harvest expected in two weeks. Cotton was flowering. Hay production prospects improved where there was rain. Producers continued weed control. Grasshoppers were still plaguing forages. Pond and creek levels improved. Livestock were in good condition. Producers were marketing spring calves. Farmers continued harvesting fruits and vegetables. Feral hogs continued to cause damage in some areas.
Far West: The region received from 0.5 inch to 6 inches of slow rain within three days. Pastures quickly greened up, which livestock producers hoped would enable them to stop supplemental feeding. The rain came too late for the area’s dryland cotton, but irrigated cotton was doing well.
North: Soil-moisture levels ranged from short to adequate. Most counties received 2 or more inches of rain and cooler weather, with highs in the mid-to-high 80s. Summer grasses were expected to soon green back up. Grasshoppers were a problem in several counties, damaging forage crops. Horn flies in some counties were increasing with the hot weather. Corn, grain, sorghum, soybeans, sunflowers and cotton were all doing well. Most sorghum was turning color. Hay yields were good for early season hay, Bermuda grasses and summer annuals. Generally, hay production was to date much better this year than last, though a few counties still had weed-control issues. Livestock were doing well in most areas.
Panhandle: Temperatures were below normal for much of the reporting period, with most areas receiving rain. Amounts ranged from a trace to 4.5 inches. Corn was doing well, with crop maturities varying greatly, from 2-feet tall to just past pollination. Grain sorghum was progressing well thanks to the rains but was still somewhat behind average maturity. Cotton was progressing too, but needed heat units, particularly after the rains. Insect problems remained low. Rangeland was in very poor to good condition, with most counties reporting poor.
Rolling Plains: The region received from 2 to 6 inches of slow, soaking rain, along with cooler temperatures. Cotton was helped by the rain and doing well. Irrigators were able to turn off pumping for a while, and may not have to resume for days. Livestock were in good condition as pastures greened up. Grasshoppers continued to be a problem.
South: Scattered and isolated showers occurred in the northern, eastern and western parts of the region, slightly improving soil-moisture levels, as well as rangeland and pasture conditions. Soil-moisture levels were mostly short to very short in the in the eastern and western parts of the region, short to very short in the southern parts of the region and 80 percent short to 100 percent adequate in the eastern parts of the region. Supplemental feeding declined throughout the region due to improvement of pastures that have received frequent though light rains. Some counties, such as Zavala and Frio, had enough rain to put a stop to field activity, including harvesting row crops and melons. Otherwise, crops — including cotton and corn — were progressing well. Zavala County corn producers expected to begin harvesting in about a week, weather permitting. Crops were also looking good in Atascosa County where corn-harvesting preparations were underway. In Cameron County, some cotton growers were defoliating, and the harvesting of sorghum was winding down. In Hidalgo County, cotton defoliation was still some time away. In Willacy County, 80 percent of sorghum was harvested. All cotton there had squared, with 95 percent setting bolls and 65 percent of those bolls opening. In Starr County, producers continued baling hay and harvesting row crops.
South Plains: Most of the region received much-needed rain and cooler temperatures. During a three-day period, rainfall amounts varied from 1.5 to nearly 6 inches. Even better, no wind or hail accompanied the storms, just slow, gentle rain that had time to soak in and give a great boost to crops. Producers were able to shut off irrigation pumps for a couple of days. The rains were also timely as most crops were moving into the reproductive growth stages. More rainfall was needed for dryland crops, but the precipitation helped tremendously. Cotton was in early to peak bloom. Early planted grain sorghum was in bloom. Corn was silking and sunflowers were blooming. Rangeland and pastures improved. Despite the recent rains, annual rainfall totals for many counties remained below average.
Southeast: Soil-moisture levels ranged from short to adequate. Corn and rice were in fair to good condition. Soybeans were fair to excellent, with most fields reported as good. Cotton was in fair condition. Rangeland and pastures were in fair to excellent condition, with most counties reporting good condition. Most counties received rain, from as little as 0.5 inch to as much as 4 inches, with 2 inches being common. The rains greatly helped crops and pastures, though cloudy, cooler weather held back hay production in some areas.
Southwest: The region received from 1 inch to 6 inches of rain, though days continued to be hot and humid. Despite the rain, pastures and rangeland showed severe signs of drought stress. Cattle feeding slowed.
West Central: The region had warm, humid weather, with all counties reporting having received rain. Soil-moisture levels greatly improved. Cotton was growing, and sorghum looked good. Rangeland and pastures improved, with grasses already greening up and forbs growing fast. Ponds, livestock tanks and lake levels were rising from runoff. Pecan growers were able to stop irrigating orchards because of the rain.