Drought recedes a little, but many reservoirs remain critically low
Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLEGE STATION – The drought may be far from gone, but from all indications it has been pushed back somewhat in the last couple of weeks, according to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and other sources.
The National Weather Service’s precipitation analysis shows all but extreme South Texas and Far West Texas received one to six inches and more of rain in the past two weeks. In some isolated instances, the rainfall totals were 10 inches or more.
About half the state remains in severe to exceptional drought, according the U.S. Drought Monitor report of May 29, but the percentage under exceptional drought conditions dropped from 25 percent to about 11 percent since May 20. Extreme drought percentages dropped about 8 percent.
Though the recent rains as well as moisture received during the last six months have been helpful to agriculture, they haven’t done much to replenish water reservoirs, according to Dr. Guy Fipps, AgriLife Extension irrigation engineer, College Station.
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“In the watersheds where we have the most critical shortages, such as the Colorado River, we didn’t get much relief,” Fipps said. “In the last weather pattern, the counties that got the heaviest rains are closer to the Gulf. Unfortunately, in those areas the runoff doesn’t go to any major reservoirs. Most of the reservoirs depend on rainfall in West Texas, the Hill Country or Northwest Texas.”
According to the Texas Water Development Board, the state’s reservoirs, taken as a whole, are about 67 percent full. But this average is skewed by many large reservoirs east of Interstate 45 being 80 to 100 percent at capacity. West of I-45, it’s a different picture, with most reservoirs being nearly empty or at critically low levels.
Other than imposing water-use restrictions, there’s not much these communities can do but cross their fingers and hope for rain soon, Fipps said. But it’s unlikely they will see relief anytime soon.
“We’re getting into our summer weather pattern now,” he said. “In the summertime, we generally don’t get widespread, slow, soaking rains that contribute to reservoirs. We tend to get more spotty stuff and brief thunderstorms.”
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 encompassing May 27 through June 2:
Central: Overall, soil moisture, rangeland and pastures, crops and livestock were in good condition. Thanks to some great rains over the Memorial Day weekend, Bermuda grass pastures were looking much better. Also, the prospect for dryland crops was greatly improved. Pecan trees were loaded very heavily, and needed the Memorial Day moisture and more to support good yields. The harvesting of winter wheat was underway and hay baling continued. Fly numbers were increasing on area beef herds. Lack of runoff water for stock-water ponds remained an issue.
Coastal Bend: From one inch to nine inches of rain fell across the region. Row crops responded very well to the moisture. However, some cotton was drowned out and needed to be replanted. Approximately 200 acres of cropland suffered some hail damage. Field work has stopped temporarily due to wet conditions in some areas. Some cotton fields had standing water, but cotton will tolerate standing water in rows better than grain crops. The biggest impact to cotton was expected to be from delays in making insecticide and herbicide applications. Sunflowers were being sprayed for head moth and were in full bloom. Much of sorghum was heading, and some was starting to color. Much of the crop has been sprayed for sugarcane aphid, but major infestations were only observed in a few fields. Cotton and corn were in good condition with some producers spraying cotton for fleahoppers where field conditions permitted. Warm-season grasses were growing due to all the moisture and rising temperatures. Rangeland and pastures continued to improve, but for those areas that received little rain, more moisture will be needed soon for improvement to continue. Many stock tanks were full, though some were only at 50 percent capacity.
East: Throughout the region, county ratings of rangeland and pasture mostly varied from good to excellent. Good was the most common rangeland and pasture rating, with one county reporting very poor. Most counties reported topsoil moisture mostly being adequate, with a few counties reporting surplus moisture. Subsoil moisture also varied, but adequate was the most common ratings, with some counties being about evenly split between adequate and short. Henderson County reported all corn was planted and emerged, with 10 percent of the crop silking. All winter wheat and oats in that county was in very poor condition. Livestock were generally in good to excellent condition. A few producers were waiting on some late calves to be born, but calving season was mostly finished for those with controlled breeding seasons. Some counties reported excellent hay yields. Grasshopper infestations have been reported in some areas, and some producers were spraying. Horn fly counts were increasing rapidly. In Panola County, many varieties of vegetables were just beginning to set fruit due to the cooler than normal nights.
Far West: Highs reached 100 the last of May, with triple digits forecast for the first week of June. Weather for the most part was hot, dry and windy. Without widespread, ample rainfall, continued triple-digit heat will cause range conditions to plummet. Parts of the district received from a trace to 2.5 inches of rain. Accompanying the rain were reports that some corn and cotton fields were destroyed by extreme weather. Fall-planted onions were being harvested. Pecans were at the fruit enlargement stage. Cotton planting was slow due to dry weather, then halted by wet weather the last week of May. Planting really got going on May 30, and was expected to be going full blast until the crop insurance deadline on June 10. All cotton previously planted had emerged, with good to excellent stands reported, and alfalfa growers were taking a third cutting.
North: Most counties received about one inch of rain. Topsoil moisture remained adequate throughout the region. Overcast and windy weather was the rule. Most stock-water ponds were replenished by runoff. The rain was good for all grain crops and pastures, but slowed hay harvesting. Collin County reported wheat was fully headed and changing color; harvesting was expected to begin in a week or so. Franklin County reported sunflowers were rapidly growing. Ryegrass hay yields in that county were as much as four round bales per acre. Hunt County reported blueberries were ripening early. Livestock were in good condition. Hunt and Kaufman counties reported high grasshopper populations. Increased horn fly numbers were reported by Hunt and Titus counties. Titus County was also seeing more honeybee swarms than in the past several years.
Panhandle: Some counties received from one inch to 5.25 inches of rain, while others remained largely dry. Where rain was received, crop conditions were improving rapidly, though the rain generally came too late for dryland wheat. Much will be baled for hay. Pastures were rated very poor to fair, with poor being the most common rating. Topsoil moisture ranged from very short to adequate, with six counties reporting 60 to 100 percent adequate. In several counties, cotton planting was just getting going where there were good rains. In others, most irrigated cotton was already planted and doing well.
Rolling Plains: Wheat harvesters were ready to rock and roll, but were delayed slightly due to humid mornings. Yields ranged from five to 20 bushels per acre. Surprisingly, some of the better-looking fields were coming in below 10 bushels per acre, with no explanation for the low yields other than possibly the combination of April 15 freeze damage and drought. Western counties were enjoying the benefits of last week’s rains. Native pastures were improving, showing with new growth. Cotton fields were being prepared for planting, which should take place the first weeks of June. Sorghum was being planted. Rangeland and pastures were in fair to good condition. Stock-water tanks and lake still needed runoff.
South: Highs were mostly in the 90s and 100s throughout the region. Thunderstorms moved through the area. In some cases, the storms were severe, with heavy rainfall, hail and high winds, but the moisture helped rangeland and pastures, and improved soil moisture. In the northern part of the region, some areas reported cotton was hailed out and corn lodged. The harvesting of wheat, potatoes and watermelons resumed as soon as field conditions allowed. Corn was in the dough stage. Peanut planting was in full swing, and producers were baling Bermuda grass hay. Overall, soil moisture throughout the northern counties was mostly 40 to 100 percent adequate, except for McMullen County where it was short. Livestock producers continued to supply supplemental feed at a steady pace. Cattle body condition scores remained low to fair. The eastern part of the region also reported some wind damage to crops. Jim Wells County reported a tornado caused some row crop damage. Most row crops were not affected by the torrential rain and strong winds and benefited from the moisture. Cattle numbers were down. Soil moisture ranged from 60 to 100 percent adequate in Brooks and Jim Wells counties areas to 80 percent short in the Kleberg and Kenedy counties. The western part of the region received light traces of rain to as much as 1.5 inches. Corn and cotton were in good condition, cabbage harvesting resumed, onion harvesting continued, and pecan producers reported good crop conditions with little insect pressure. Supplemental feeding of cattle in Zavala County was suspended due to good grazing conditions. Soil moisture was 50 to 80 percent short in Dimmit, Webb and Zapata counties, and 60 to 100 percent adequate in Zavala County. In the southern part of the district, cotton, corn and sorghum were progressing well. In Hidalgo County, citrus harvesting was winding down. Cantaloupe and honeydew harvesting began in Starr County. Soil moisture was 80 percent adequate in Cameron County, 100 percent short in Hidalgo County, 70 to 80 percent short in Starr County, and 60 percent adequate in Willacy County. Rangeland and pastures were in fair to good condition Livestock were in good condition as well.
South Plains: Rainfall totals for the last week ranged from 0.5 inch to as much as 8 inches. After the rains, most counties reported improved subsoil and topsoil moisture. Producers were waiting for fields to dry out before continuing spring planting. Cotton growers were among those waiting to plant. Some producers had to replant after the storms. Winter wheat, rangeland and pastures were expected to soon improve thanks to the moisture. Producers in areas that didn’t receive the heavier rains were planting dyrland fields hesitantly, waiting for more rain. Some producers still had to use tillage to prevent or reduce blowing sand. Livestock was mostly in fair to good condition, with producers having to provide little to no supplemental feed. Corn was progressing nicely.
Southeast: Grain crops, pasture and rangeland greatly benefited from 2 to 6 inches of rain. The rains improved soil-moisture levels. Most counties reported topsoil moisture to be adequate or better, and crops were in good condition. All corn was planted and 100 percent emerged. More than 85 percent of rice was planted and emerged. Warm-weather persisted.
Southwest: The region received from 4 to 6 inches of rain, which heavily saturated topsoils, but greatly improved pastures and rangeland. Medina Lake levels rose an estimated 5 to 6 feet, with some reports of flash flooding in the Hill Country. Early variety peaches were being harvested, with the harvesting of later varieties expected to begin in the next couple of weeks. Irrigated cotton and grain sorghum were planted. Winter wheat and oats were mostly harvested, but the harvesting of the last fields was delayed due to saturated soils. Stock-water tanks caught a lot of water, and livestock conditions remained fair to good throughout the region.
West Central: Days were warm with mild nights. A slow-moving, low-pressure weather system brought 3 to 8 inches of rain. Soil moisture was excellent. Hay and sorghum fields were starting to take off, but needed weed management. Where rains were heavy, early planted cotton needed to be replanted, and fields needed to be re-worked for planting. Cotton and warm-season forages were being planted as field conditions allowed. Hay producers were fertilizing fields. The wheat harvest was underway with very low yields. Rangeland and pastures were turning green and growing rapidly. Most stock-water tanks were in good shape due to recent runoff. Water gaps in fencing will need repairs from flooding. Area lakes and rivers received much needed runoff too. Pecans were off to a good start. Some recent casebearer activity was noted.