From too little rain, to too much rain, too early for South Texas
Writer: Robert Burns, 903-312-3199, email@example.com
COLLEGE STATION – After prolonged drought, South Texas producers are now struggling with too much moisture, according to Rod Santa Ana, Texas A&M AgriLife communications specialist based in Weslaco.
On Sept. 16, the rains were continuing without any let up in the forecast, which was discouraging for South Texas growers of cotton and citrus, Santa Ana said.
“After a long summer dry spell here in South Texas, we received a lot of rainfall from Tropical Storm Dolly in early September,” he said. “A lot of areas in the lower Rio Grande Valley got anywhere from 4 to 5 inches accumulated rainfall just this last weekend.”
A good portion of the area’s cotton was harvested, but harvesting of those fields that weren’t finished is now on indefinite hold, Santa Ana said.
Another problem is the delay of cotton stalk destruction, he said. To prevent overwintering and buildup of cotton boll weevil populations, cotton stalks must be destroyed in a timely manner. State law mandates stalk destruction, either mechanical or chemical, by Sept. 1
“Some growers had harvested and destroyed their stalks; others had harvested but hadn’t had time to destroy their stalks.”
Santa Ana said another problem caused by wet field conditions is control of the Asian citrus psyllid, an insect that has been identified as the vector of citrus greening, a bacterial disease that can wipe out entire orchards.
“Soggy fields make it very difficult for citrus growers to enter their orchards and do their timely spraying for the citrus psyllid,” he said. “And all the rain prompts citrus trees to sprout new green growth, which is exactly what the Asian citrus psyllid loves to feed upon.”
“Unless it stops raining today, which is not in the forecast, it will be very difficult for citrus growers to get into the fields before the end of September to do what they need to do, he said. “Otherwise, the rains have been tremendously beneficial for South Texas agriculture, providing deep soil moisture so badly needed for fall/winter vegetable crops as well as spring planting of row crops next year.”
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: Most counties reported good soil moisture, rangeland and pasture conditions. Nearly all rated livestock and crops as good. Parts of the region received a few good rains and cooler temperatures, with lows in the upper 50s in some areas. Producers planting small grains for grazing were hoping for rain or were turning center pivots on to pre-water. Rangeland and forage conditions were relatively stable. Pecans needed moisture. Most hayfields needed another rain to produce on more cutting. Ponds and tanks were helped a little by limited runoff from summer rains. Armyworms were reported.
Coastal Bend: The cotton harvest was mostly completed. Scattered showers throughout the region slowed cotton stalk destruction as well as preparations for planting wheat. The showers also slowed the pickup of remaining cotton modules from the field, but the majority had already been delivered to gins. Cattle were still holding their condition, and producers were beginning to market calves. Some livestock ponds remained low, and there were areas that still had inadequate soil moisture. Planting of rye and oats began, and producers were actively scouting for armyworms in pastures and hay meadows.
East: The region received scattered showers, with amounts varying from a trace to 0.25 inch. Creek and pond levels were dropping. The lack of moisture and high temperatures depleted topsoil moisture that caused a decrease in forage quality. Most counties reported topsoil moisture as short to very short. Subsoil moisture was equally spread between adequate and short. Hay harvesting slowed. Armyworm and grasshopper infestations continued to be problems. Some producers reported a surplus of hay. Preparations were ongoing for winter pastures, but moisture was needed before planting could begin. Cereal rye seed for winter pastures was in very short supply. Livestock remained in good condition. Weaning and selling of spring calves and cull cows continued. Cattle prices remained extremely high. Feral hogs were active and control measures were being implemented.
Far West: Highs in the 80s were the norm. All counties received rain, from 1 inch to 5 inches. An exception was part of Presidio County that received 9 inches, which resulted in flooding of arroyos and draws, and was testing levies on both sides of the border. Subsoil moisture ranged from short to very short. Topsoil moisture ranged from adequate to very short. Pastures and rangeland were in poor to very poor condition. Upland cotton was in fair to poor condition throughout the region. The exception was El Paso County cotton, which was in excellent condition, and setting and opening bolls. Corn in El Paso and Glasscock counties was in various stages of maturity, with some of the crop already harvested. Sorghum in Glasscock and Martin counties was 50 to 100 percent mature.
North: Subsoil moisture was short to adequate, while topsoil was mostly adequate. A cold front brought cooler temperatures and rain, with amounts ranging from 1 inch to 3 inches. Summer perennial grasses neared the end of their growth cycle. The corn, soybeans and grain sorghum harvests were ongoing. Horn fly populations remained high. Producers were preparing to plant winter wheat. Overall, pastures were in fair to good condition. Livestock were in good condition. Feral hogs continued to damage crops and fields.
Panhandle: Temperatures were near average for most of the week, but the weekend brought much cooler temperatures and some moisture. Rainfall amounts ranged from a trace to as much as 2 inches. Soil moisture continued to be rated mostly short to adequate. Corn harvesters was waiting for dry-down in some areas, while picking was underway is others. Wheat planting was delayed due to recent rains. Cooler temperatures have slowed cotton development. Rangeland and pastures varied from poor to excellent condition, with most counties reporting fair. Cattle were in good condition.
Rolling Plains: The first significant cold front of the season arrived, dropping temperatures into the 60s. Up to 3 inches of rain accompanied the cooler weather. Irrigated cotton looked good, while the dryland crop ranged from poor to good. Cotton was starting to set bolls. Producers were planting wheat and oats. Hay producers were finishing their last cutting of Bermuda grass. Livestock were in good condition. Hay stocks were good. Pecans looked good, though some growers were still treating for pecan weevils. Runoff water was still needed to fill lakes and ponds.
South: Scattered showers occurred throughout parts of the region, but western and southern counties remained hot and dry. In the northern part of the region, Live Oak County reported 2.5 to 3 inches of rain, but most counties only received light showers. Where the weather remained hot and dry, producers were able to continue sorghum and cotton harvesting. Irrigation continued on peanuts in some areas and was discontinued in others. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued at a steady pace as forage supplies waned. Soil moisture was 70 percent adequate in the Atascosa County and 60 to 100 percent short throughout Frio, Live Oak and McMullen counties. In the eastern part of the region, rainfall was more substantial, from 3 to 5 inches in many instances. Cotton harvesting was delayed in areas receiving rain and may remain unharvested for some time as additional rain was forecast. In Jim Wells County, fall armyworms were sighted. Soil moisture was 60 to 90 percent adequate in Brooks County and 50 percent short to 80 percent very short in Jim Wells, Kleberg and Kenedy counties. Range and pastures were mostly in good to fair condition. In the western part of the region, there was no rain and temperatures remained in the 90s. Soil moisture was short to very short. Sorghum, coastal Bermuda grass and pecans were doing well. In Zavala County, dry conditions delayed planting of dryland wheat and oats. Producers with irrigation pre-watered a few fields for planting wheat and oats. Supplemental feeding continued. Stock tank water continued to be a big problem on many ranches. In the southern part of the region, Cameron and Hidalgo counties reported excellent soil moisture, while in Starr County, levels remained short. Fall corn and sesame were progressing well, with most sesame maturing in Cameron County. As fields dried out from previous rains in Hidalgo County, cotton harvesting resumed. All Willacy County cotton and sorghum was harvested. Livestock throughout the area remained in good to excellent condition, with no supplemental feeding needed.
South Plains: The region received more late-season rain along with much cooler temperatures, dipping into the 50s and 60s. Rainfall amounts ranged from 0.2 to 0.4 inch in Floyd County to 3.5 inches in Scurry County. Garza County reported 1 to 2 inches of rain. Prior to the rains, much of the Garza County cotton crop had been struggling due to excessive heat, cool weather and moisture stress. Thrips were defoliating stressed dryland cotton. It was not known if the bolls of the thrips-defoliated cotton would be able to finish maturing. Irrigated cotton was progressing well, but needed a few weeks to mature. Producers were shutting off irrigation on many fields. Rangeland and pastures were already mostly in fair to good shape, and the rain was expected to greatly enhance growth in the next few weeks. Cattle were mostly in good condition. Lubbock County reported the wet, cool conditions came too late to be beneficial for most summer crops. About 20 percent of cotton fields in that county had opened bolls. Many fields of irrigated cotton needed more time and warmer weather for development. Lynn County got more than 2 inches of rain on Sept. 12. Irrigation systems there were shut down on cotton, and wheat planting was to begin as soon as fields dried up.
Southeast: Soil moisture levels throughout the region were mostly adequate to surplus, except for Lee County where moisture was 100 percent short. Rangeland and pasture ratings were mostly fair to poor, with good ratings being the most common. Rain, from sporadic showers to heavy thunderstorms improved forage growth, particularly along the coast. Cooler temperatures helped relieve plant and animal stress. In some counties, the rain interrupted hay harvesting. In Grimes County, the cool front arrived over the weekend dropping daytime temperatures to the low 70s.
West Central: Hot, dry conditions continued. Scattered showers late in the week raised soil moisture for fall planting in some areas. Also, days were cooled by the weekend. Producers were plowing and fertilizing in preparation for fall planting, with a few already planting early winter wheat for grazing. Late-planted sorghum was coming along very well. Some sugarcane aphid problems were reported, and producers have sprayed at least once. Some may do a second treatment. Cotton was progressing well with bolls beginning to open and good prospects for average yields. Some dryland cotton was in cutout and remained in poor condition. Hay and forage crops continued to be harvested. A few producers expected to take one last cutting. Rangeland and pastures further declined as drought conditions continued. Livestock were in fair condition. Stock tank water levels were low.