Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Texas: Many areas backsliding into drought

Sunflower in bloom silhouetted by afternoon sun

Sunflowers bloom in the Texas Blacklands. Sunflowers have a wide planting window and are often used as a “catch” crop to replant when other crops have failed, according Texas AgriLife Extension Service experts. (Texas AgriLife Extension Service photo by Robert Burns)

Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, rd-burns@tamu.edu
COLLEGE STATION – While crops were doing reasonably well in Central Texas, much of the rest of the state is backsliding into drought pretty quickly, said a Texas AgriLife Extension Service expert.
“The area north of Waco, up through the (Dallas/Fort Worth) metroplex and a bit east of there, is in probably as good of shape as anywhere,” said Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension program leader and associate head of the Texas A&M University soil and crop sciences department. “Go a little south of there, into the Williamson County/Georgetown area – and it’s pretty darned dry.”
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Two-Minute MP3 Audio Texas Crop, Weather for June 26, 2012
Many counties south of that area haven’t seen a rain since about May 7, Miller noted.
In many areas, including Central Texas and the Brazos County area, the cotton crop is in pretty good shape, he said.
“Right here in Brazos County, we’ve had several good rains, and we’re in good shape for the time being,” he said.
Elsewhere, it’s dry or drier, according to Miller and the U.S. Drought Monitor.
“The southern Panhandle is particularly dry. There are some areas that have had some pretty good rains — and hail — but overall it’s dry,” he said.
The western Rolling Rlains is another really dry area where it’s going to be a moisture-limited crop, Miller said.
On a positive note, wheat was ready for harvest earlier than has ever been seen before, he said. A warm winter allowed some unusually early plantings and a wet spring offset some of the higher temperatures that came later.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Texas Crop Progress and Condition report for June 24, nine percent of corn was in excellent condition, 51 percent good, 30 percent fair and 10 percent either poor or very poor.
As for cotton, five percent was rated excellent, 31 percent good, 40 percent fair and 24 percent either poor or very poor.
As for sorghum, 10 percent was in excellent condition, 47 percent good, 28 percent fair and 15 percent poor or very poor.
As much as 37 percent of pasture and rangeland was rated as being in poor or very poor condition.
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:
Map of the12 Texas AgriLife Extension Service Districts
The 12 Texas AgriLife Extension Service Districts
Central: Rain made all crops look good in many areas. Peaches and vegetables were maturing early. Wheat and oats were either grazed out or chopped for silage and not harvested for grain. Grasshoppers were damaging significant amounts of vegetation in row crops and hay fields. The forage and silage harvests were in full swing. Conditions remained steady from the previous week. Cotton looked good with low insect damage. All sunflowers were headed out and blooming.
Coastal Bend: In the northern part of the region, afternoon and early evening thundershowers brought much needed rain and lower temperatures. Cotton was blooming, and sorghum was changing colors. Producers were baling hay. However, in the southern part of the region extremely dry conditions prevailed. Many corn and grain sorghum fields were total losses. Pastures were dry, with only one cutting of hay taken to-date. Herd liquidation was ongoing. Ranchers continued supplemental feeding of hay where the stocking rates were high and pasture conditions low. Pecans looked good.
East: Rainfall ranged from zero to as much as 3 inches. Pastures remained in good condition. Weeds were a problem in pastures due to overgrazing last year. Heavy infestations of grasshoppers were reported. Cattle were in good condition with spring calves making good growth. Fly populations were increasing. Fruit and vegetable growers reported above-normal yields. Feral hogs continued to be a problem. In Houston County, early planted cotton was in excellent condition. Later planted cotton was approaching the first-square stage.
Far West: The region remained hot, dry and windy with highs in the 100s and lows in the mid-70s. Midland County reported a light rain with about a 0.5-inch accumulation. In Ward County, winds reached 20-30 mph. Parts of Val Verde County had 0.2 inches of rain. Glasscock County pastures remained green, but needed more moisture. Most rangeland and pastures were beginning to turn yellow and brown from heat stress. In Ward County, young cotton plants were growing. In Hudspeth County, the oat harvest was mostly finished, with most of the crop being baled for hay. In Howard County, thousands of acres of cotton plants were blown out by high winds. Livestock producers were weaning and selling calves early to reduce feeding costs, and save grass and water.
North: Rain over the last two weeks helped pastures and hay meadows tremendously, but soil-moisture levels remained short to adequate. Hay supplies were much better compared to last year during the drought. All wheat and oats were harvested, with above-average yields of about 65 bushels per acre. There are some reports of fields that averaged more than 80 bushels per acre. Most corn looked very good at this time. Some fields showed damage from last week’s winds from storms. The damage was mostly confined to the edges of fields. The wheat harvest was wrapping up, and producers in all areas were baling hay. Soybeans were in fair to excellent condition. The oat harvest was nearly complete. Cotton was in fair to good condition. Sunflowers were maturing or drying down. Growers were expecting bumper corn and grain sorghum crops. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Grasshopper pressure remained extremely high. The populations of cicada killer wasps, red velvet ants and grasshoppers increased in some areas. Vegetable growers reported problems due to lack of pollination.
Panhandle: Hail destroyed approximately 5,000 acres of cotton and from 2,500 to 3,500 acres of corn in Deaf Smith County. Soil-moisture levels varied from very short to surplus, with most counties reporting mostly short to adequate. Most corn was in good condition. Sorghum was mostly fair to good. Cotton varied from poor to excellent condition, with most reporting good to fair. Wheat was being harvested and in from very poor to excellent condition with most reporting fair to good. Rangeland and pastures continued to improve, but were still in very poor to excellent condition, with most reporting poor. Cattle were reported to be in good condition.
Rolling Plains: Cotton growers nearly finished planting, but were having trouble getting some plantings emerged and established. High winds and heavy rain were hard on tender, new plants. Also, some producers were fighting sand blows. However, pastures looked good thanks to the rains, but needed more moisture soon to offset high temperatures. Producers worried what just one week of 100-plus days will do to dryland cotton. Hay fields were being damaged by grasshoppers. Livestock generally remained in good condition. Peach growers were harvesting, and reported good to excellent quality, with fair to good yields. Wise County reported pecan case-bearer moths found in traps.
South: Temperatures continued to rise, and rangeland and pastures declined due to the heat and lack of moisture. Ranchers were already searching for sources of alternative feed and water. In Webb County, most ranchers were debating whether to restock due to the high cost of replacements. In the northern part of the region, corn was in fair condition, but poor in the eastern counties. Cotton, however, was in fair to good condition throughout the region. In Zavala County, it was reported to be in excellent condition. In Frio County, the potato harvest was finished, and cotton was flowering. In Maverick County, farmers were busy harvesting vegetables and baling coastal Bermuda grass and sorghum hay. In Zavala County, farmers were actively irrigating cotton and spraying for light boll weevil infestations. Also in that county, cabbage and onion harvests were completed, corn-harvest preparations were in progress, and most sorghum had turned color. In Hidalgo County, growers were preparing to harvest sunflowers and grain sorghum, and actively irrigating sugarcane, cotton and citrus crops. In Starr County, there were some light showers. About 15 percent of Willacy County cotton began opening, and 75 percent of sorghum was harvested.
South Plains: Most of the region had warm, windy and dry weather. Some areas received spotty showers, with rainfall totals ranging from a trace to 0.8 inch. Several of the storms contained hail. Hale County producers were dealing with sand and soil crusting from last week’s storms. Producers throughout the region were running sand-fighting equipment to try to hold on to the topsoil. Weed and pest management was ongoing. Some producers were replanting sorghum where other crops were either hailed-out, blown out or lost to drought conditions. Irrigation was going full blast where water was available. Much of the cotton was fruiting with older cotton beginning to square. In parts of the region, rangeland and pastures continued to progress well, and cattle were in mostly good condition.
Southeast: In Brazos County, soil moisture was at acceptable levels, and everything looked good. Brazoria County had light, scattered showers with southerly winds and highs approaching 100 degrees. Rice, sorghum, cotton and corn were in excellent condition, but hay fields and pastures needed rain. Jefferson County received 1 inch to 2 inches of rain, but the area was quickly drying out with high temperatures in the 90s.
Southwest: A few counties saw temporary drought relief for pastures and forages thanks to scattered showers, but overall conditions remained very dry. Grasshopper pressure was high. Forbs and grasses went dormant and produced seed. Even brush was showing signs of heat and water stress, and was losing color. Many brush species were producing seed. Pastures continued to deteriorate, and and row crops began to show moisture stress. Cattle restocking rates remained low. Corn was drying down. Cotton began to set bolls.
West Central: Rangeland and pastures continue to decline due to the hot, dry, windy weather. Temperatures were expected to rise into the triple-digit zone in the coming weeks. A few areas reported scattered showers that benefited cotton, grain sorghum crops and pastures. Haygrazer was in good to excellent condition. Some producers began cutting and baling hay. Cotton planting was nearly complete. Producers were irrigating where possible. Dryland cotton was off to a good start. Sorghum in some areas began to show signs of moisture stress. Prussic acid and nitrate toxicity were becoming concern. Large grasshopper populations were damaging crops. Livestock remained in good condition, though herd numbers were still down. Most producers were not expected to rebuild herds to previous numbers due to slow pasture recovery and price of replacement heifers. Pecans looked strong, with irrigation of orchards under way.

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