Recent rains further rolled back drought
Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, email@example.com
COLLEGE STATION – Though much of the state remained in one stage of drought or another, rains during the last few weeks greatly alleviated the severity of the drought, according the U.S. Drought Monitor and reports from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service personnel.
About 87 percent of the state was still categorized as being abnormally dry to under exceptional drought on Oct. 22, according to the monitor. However, less than 1 percent was under exceptional drought conditions compared to more than 6 percent three months ago.
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During the same time, extreme drought dropped from nearly 22 percent to about 4 percent, and severe drought from 39 percent to about 19 percent.
Though many areas are still suffering, the drought distinctions are important, according to AgriLife Extension agent reports. The recent rains have raised soil-moisture levels, making feasible the dryland planting of wheat and small grains for grazing. The added moisture also improved the prospects for the 2014 crop year.
The cotton harvest continued in the South Plains and in the Panhandle.
J.D. Ragland, AgriLife Extension agent in Randall County, south of Amarillo, reported irrigated cotton yields there were averaging two to three bales per acre. Dryland yields weren’t shabby either, hovering around one to 1.5 bales per acre.
The Rolling Plains cotton harvest was slow to start, with it just beginning on irrigated acres. Dryland cotton there was looking very bad, as reported by Langdon Reagan, AgriLife Extension agent in Wilbarger County, near Wichita Falls.
A common observation was that rains also replenished low pond and stock-water tank levels. Only last month, low stock water was a common concern in many areas. There were still reports from Central Texas and Coastal Bend areas of low water levels.
Another promising development was that though cooler temperatures slowed warm-season forage growth, many producers were able to take another hay cutting. In the South region, the rains improved pastures and rangeland to the point that producers were able to suspend supplemental feeding of livestock.
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: The region received some good rains. Accompanying hail in some areas may have damaged the younger cotton and peanut plants. Small grains looked better than they have in years. Wheat looked great. Ponds and other water sources were replenished. Livestock were in good condition. Some producers were battling armyworm infestations.
Coastal Bend: Recent rains improved pastures, with considerable amounts of hay being baled. The rains also improved 2014 crop prospects. Soil moisture profiles improved as deep as several feet in some areas. Ponds were still not filled to capacity in most areas. The sesame harvest neared completion, with estimated yields ranging from 200 to 850 pounds per acre. Pastures greened up, and some hay was harvested. The pecan harvest continued. Oats and winter wheat were either planted or soon to be planted.
East: Most counties received rain that greatly improved soil-moisture levels. Pastures were greening up, but growth was slow due to cooler temperatures. Some producers were trying to take one more hay cutting. The cooler weather and rain made curing hay difficult. Winter pastures were nearly all planted and looked good. Cattle were in good condition. Horn flies continued to be a problem. Feral hog activity increased across the region after recent rains. Pecan growers reported squirrels and crows to be a major problem, and pecan scab disease to be moderate. The cotton harvest was slowed due to wet fields. Only about 20 percent of cotton was harvested.
Far West: Highs were in the upper-70s to mid-80s, and lows in the low 40s to 50s. No precipitation was reported. Cotton farmers were applying harvest aids and starting stripping. Some area ranchers were planting wheat hoping to have a little grazing this winter. Vegetation and livestock both looked very good, with just enough of the growing season left to bring up valuable forage.
North: Soil-moisture levels were adequate after the region received 1.5 to 4 inches of rain. Runoff after the rains helped replenish some stock tanks, however ponds and lake levels remained very low. Most producers began planting winter wheat; some fields were already emerging. Winter pastures were greening up and growing well. Cooler nighttime temperatures slowed summer grass growth. Livestock were in good condition in all counties. There were reports of high feral hog activity—mainly tearing up pastures—from Camp, Morris, and Titus counties. Hopkins and Kaufman counties reported high grasshopper populations. Titus County also reported problems with skunks, raccoons and coyotes.
Panhandle: Temperatures were seasonal, with days mild and mornings cool. Soil moisture continued to be rated mostly short. The harvesting of corn and sorghum was ongoing. The cotton harvest hadn’t begun yet, but with the earlier freeze and harvest aids having been applied, it was expected to begin soon. Winter wheat was in various stages of development, with the early plantings under center pivots up and growing, and planting continuing on other fields. Some dryland wheat fields were also emerging, but stands were spotty at best. Rangeland and pastures were in very poor to good condition, with most counties reporting fair to poor. Most livestock producers finished fall calving and spring weaning. Stocker producers in some areas expected to place cattle on winter wheat soon.
Rolling Plains: Highs were in the 70s to 80s, with nighttime lows in the 40s to 50s. Eastern counties reported as much as 3 inches of rain, but lack of moisture still remained a concern for some areas. Cities were still enforcing drought plans as water levels had not been recharged. Pastures remained in fair to good condition, with winter forages and grasses beginning to come on. Livestock were also in good condition. Irrigated cotton looked very promising. Only a few acres of cotton were harvested, but producers were applying defoliants and expected to step up harvesting in the next week to 10 days. Wheat producers were planting under dry conditions and were not likely to achieve acceptable stands until there was rain. Sorghum was also being harvested. With fall weather setting in, some ranchers began to concentrate on the hunting side of their operations. Over the past several years, hunting has become an excellent source of supplemental income for ranchers. This year’s quail crop was very limited due to drought conditions, but the deer population seemed to be rebounding well, and hunters were arriving.
South: No moisture was reported, but heavy rains received during the previous weeks greatly improved rangeland, pastures and soil-moisture conditions. Soil-moisture levels were 80 to 100 percent adequate in the northern parts of the region, 50 to 100 percent adequate in the eastern parts of the region, 60 to 100 percent adequate in the western parts of the region and 35 to 50 percent adequate in the southern parts of the region. Only two counties in the southern area of the region reported short soil moisture: Cameron and Hidalgo. Rangeland and pastures were in good to very good condition. Though cooler temperatures and shorter days slowed grass production, generally there was an abundance of forage for livestock grazing. Livestock producers were able to put supplemental feeding on hold. Cattle body condition scores remain good. One downside of the rain was that mosquitoes became a problem in creeks and low-lying areas where there was flooding and standing water, particularly along the Nueces River. In Atascosa and Frio counties, peanut harvesting was ongoing. Also in those areas, grain sorghum was beginning to turn color, and the last hay cuttings were being taken. In Frio County, wheat and oat producers were busy planting. In Maverick County, winter oat planting was nearly complete and coastal Bermuda grass hay was being harvested. Pecan harvesting began late in the week as orchards began to dry out. Cameron County growers were planting fall vegetables such as tomatoes and onions. Hidalgo County growers began harvesting sugarcane, early orange and other citrus crops. In Starr County, hay baling continued on improved pastures, and fall vegetable crops were progressing well. Two Zavala County area gins were actively ginning cotton as weather allowed.
South Plains: The cotton harvest was in full swing in the northern counties, while several southern counties were still defoliating. Some dryland cotton fields in Lynn County were still a couple of weeks away from being ready to harvest. Garza County reported cotton yields ranging from a half to three bales per acre. Floyd County had its first freeze Oct. 22. Cargill Cattle Feeders in Floyd County announced they will be closing their Lockney operation in mid-2014 due to the drought, which will have a major effect on the area economy. The Bailey County grain harvest neared completion. The Cochran County pea harvest was finished. Winter wheat was still being planted and was emerging, but will require more rain to become established. Rangeland and pastures were in mostly fair condition. Cattle were mostly in good condition, with no supplemental feeding.
Southeast: Several counties reported rain, from an inch to as much as 4 inches. The rains will help winter forages, including ryegrass, though there were reports that winter pastures were currently not in good condition. Armyworms were reported in some areas. Rangeland and pasture conditions were good to excellent. Producers continued to harvest hay. Stock-water tanks were replenished where there was rain. Livestock were generally in good condition.
Southwest: Showers were light but beneficial. Temperatures were mild, with highs in the low- to mid-80s. Wheat and oats looked good. Pecans neared maturity. Livestock were in good condition.
West Central: The region had mild, drier weather. Isolated areas reported a light frost. Most cotton neared maturity. Harvest aids were being applied, and harvesting was expected to continue through the next month. Harvesting was underway in some cotton fields with above-average yields reported. Winter wheat looked very good. Small grains planted for grazing were rapidly growing and progressing well, with little to no insect pressure reported. The planting of small grains for grain production was well underway with good soil conditions and farmers very optimistic. Some producers took a final hay cutting. Rangeland and pastures appeared to be in good shape. Recent rains improved growing conditions for all winter forbs and grasses. Livestock remained in very good condition, with no supplemental feeding reported. Stock-water tank levels continued to be a concern. Pecan husks were cracking, and some harvesting was underway. Pecan yields looked promising.