COLLEGE STATION – Except for a very few showers, Texas remained dry during mid-January, according to the National Weather Service and reports from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service personnel.
Many AgriLife Extension personnel reported warm and windy weather in conjunction with the dry weather, which further dried out topsoils. For some areas, such as the East, Central, North and Southeast regions, the dry weather was somewhat welcome for those needing to get back into fields to prepare for spring plantings. For other regions, the dry, windy weather stressed winter forages and slowed or stopped growth.
“Deaf Smith County producers are in a hold mode for the time being,” said Rick Auckerman, AgriLife Extension agent for Deaf Smith County, west of Amarillo. “The winter wheat crop is holding for now, with the pivots stopped for the time being. The dryland wheat crop is also holding on for now with little hope of Mother Nature helping out any time soon.”
“With the wind staying in the 20 mph range daily, it is drying out our topsoil very quickly,” said Gary Roschetzky, AgriLife Extension agent for Dawson County, south of Lubbock. “Our area has not seen any rainfall or precipitation in over 28 days. With that, producers are starting to lose hope about this upcoming year and how planting season is going to turn out. Our pasture land is starting to look more like a set up for fire to break out anytime soon.”
“Conditions in Hardeman County remain dry; wheat producers have achieved a stand on about 85 percent of acres planted and are waiting on the remaining 15 percent to emerge,” said Steven Sparkman, AgriLife Extension agent for Hardeman County, northwest of Wichita Falls. “Very few cattle are on wheat at this time.”
“Many cattle producers were able to turn cattle back on wheat pastures this week after the cold and damp weather,” said Rick Maxwell, AgriLife Extension agent for Collin County, northeast of Dallas. “Wheat and winter annual pastures are doing very well at this time.”
“Temperatures have been mild this week, giving cool season forages a chance to dry out and have some growth,” said Randy Reeves, AgriLife Extension agent for Harrison County, north of Longview. “Cattle remain in good to excellent condition; hay feeding and supplementation continues.”
“Extremely dry conditions this week kept irrigation producers applying irrigation water to all crops including small grains,” said Marcelino Valdez Jr., AgriLife Extension agent for Zavala County, in the Winter Garden area, southwest of San Antonio. “Spinach fields were reported to be in good to excellent condition. Wheat and oats also made good progress following irrigation water applications.”
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: A wet winter turned dry in January. Winter rains were needed to help replenish pond and lake levels. Some areas reported frosty nights. There were reports of oat fields damaged by the December freeze, but the crop was expected to rebound with warmer weather. Native winter grasses and cool season forages were not growing. However, small grains looked good, and it was dry enough for corn and sorghum producers to get in fields to apply weed control. Mild winter temperatures may result in some early green up. Some non-native ornamental plants were blooming three weeks early. Some producers were spraying for insects in winter. Ryegrass in pastures looked good. All cool-season plant growth slowed because of cool nights. Producers continued to provide supplemental feed, primarily hay and protein, to livestock. Row crop farmers were applying fertilizer to fields that will be planted in corn and grain sorghum this spring.
Coastal Bend: Farmers returned to doing fieldwork in preparation for spring planting. Warm temperatures and dry weather were the norm for the region. Soil moisture diminished during January. Wheat made good progress. Some fields were in good shape for spring planting; others needed more moisture. Livestock producers continued providing supplemental feed for cattle. Some producers were applying pre-plant fertilizers.
East: The weather was windy and mild, giving cool-season forages a chance to dry out and grow after incurring damage from earlier freezes. Several counties reported winter pastures had not been planted due to earlier wet conditions. Those who had been able to plant reported good stands. Hay supplies were adequate. Cattle were in good to excellent condition, with continued hay and supplemental feeding. Cows were calving. Cotton planting will begin when fields dry out. Farmers were taking soil tests on hay fields, pastures and gardens. Some farmers were planting onions. Reports of feral hog activity and damage were ongoing.
Far West: The region had fair, dry and windy weather, with highs in the mid-60s and lows in the 30s. Winter wheat was beginning to show signs of stress from the combined effects of dry soils, and warm days and freezing weather at night. Fall planted onions were at three leaf stage and still dormant. Pastures continue to decline, but producers were maintaining the condition of livestock with supplemental feed. Supplemental feeding will likely continue for the next 60 days. Consumption of mineral supplements continued to be high. Some herds began to calve.
North: Soil moisture continued to range from adequate to surplus across the region. Temperatures were in the mid-50s to mid-60s. This warmer weather helped dry out fields and pastures. Many cattle producers were able to turn cattle back on wheat pastures this week after the earlier cold and damp weather. Cattle were in good condition, and livestock producers in some counties were still providing supplemental feed. Corn producers were getting equipment ready to start planting in a few weeks, depending upon the weather. Wheat and winter annual pastures were doing well. Feral hog activity was still a problem in Kaufman and Morris counties.
Panhandle: The region was dry and windy with near average temperatures. Soil moisture continued to be rated mostly very short to short. Irrigated wheat was in fair to good condition. Some farmers were applying fertilizer in preparation for spring crops. Rangeland and pastures were in very poor to poor condition, with most counties reporting very poor. There were a few stocker cattle put out to graze on irrigated small grains fields but less than normal due to the drought.
Rolling Plains: High winds and above-normal temperatures made already dry conditions worse. The cotton harvest neared completion, with irrigated acres producing above-average yields and dryland acres producing below average yields. Farmers were preparing fields for spring planting. Wheat was starting to look very bad. Earlier planted wheat looked better than later planted wheat. Rangeland, pastures and field crops all needed more moisture. Runoff water was needed to fill local tanks and lakes. Some livestock were in good condition, with producers feeding hay and protein cubes.
South: The region had cool nights and warm days with very windy conditions. No significant rainfall or precipitation was reported by any county. Soil moisture in the northern parts of the region was 60 to 100 percent short. Rangeland and pastures were in fair condition as there was some earlier recovery from drought conditions. Some areas, such as southern McMullen County, remained drought stressed.Frio County reported poor rangeland and pasture conditions due in part to the lack of rain and persistent windy conditions. Also in Frio County, potato planting was in full swing, and wheat and oats under irrigation continued to develop. Livestock supplemental feeding was steady. In the eastern part of the region, very windy conditions dried subsoil and topsoil moisture. In the western part of the district, there was not much field activity except in Zavala County, where producers were irrigating all crops. Zavala County spinach fields were in good to excellent condition. Also in that county, cabbage harvesting resumed, and wheat and oats were in fair condition. Livestock producers were providing supplemental protein. In the southern part of the region, farmers were preparing land for spring planting. Cameron County onion crops were progressing well. In Hidalgo County, citrus and vegetable growers were harvesting their crops. In Starr County, fall vegetable crops were progressing well.
South Plains: The region had dry, windy and warm weather with a few cold snaps mixed in. No counties reported any precipitation. The winds were blowing dust. The National Weather Service in Lubbock issued several hazardous weather alerts for extreme wildfire danger for most counties. The cotton harvest and ginning were finished except for a few stragglers. Winter wheat was in dire need of rain. Pasture and rangeland that hadn’t been overgrazed earlier looked good. Fewer stocker cattle were being turned out on wheat pasture due to lack of moisture. Farmers were doing general fieldwork in preparation for next year’s cotton crop. However, some producers were beginning to lose hope for a profitable 2014 cotton crop without rain soon.
Southeast: The region was generally dry with warmer weather. Though winter annuals needed a good rain, the dry weather allowed producers to do fieldwork in preparation for spring planting. In Montgomery County, hay supplies were good. Soil moisture throughout the region varied widely, mostly in the adequate range, with some counties reporting from 30 percent short to as much as 100 percent surplus. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely too, from poor to excellent, with fair to good ratings being the most common. In Brazoria County, livestock were in good condition. In Chambers County, more dry weather was needed before fieldwork could be done. Orange County reported consistently cool weather with low humidity and a trace of rain.
Southwest: Drought conditions persisted, with high winds and above-average temperatures. Rain was forecast along with an approaching cold front. Rain was needed to continue winter pasture growth and to improve soil moisture and other crops. Winter wheat and oats continued to be in good condition, as were livestock. Cattle, sheep and goat sale prices climbed while feed costs dropped.
West Central: Drought conditions continued with a very high risk of wildfire. Days were warm, dry and windy with chilly nights. The warm, dry days allowed producers to get a lot of work done, from building and repairing fences to brush clearing. Farmers were also shredding cotton stalks and preparing fields for spring planting. Soil moisture was very short. The cotton harvest was mostly completed with average to good yields reported. Most winter wheat was off to a fair start but could use a good rain. Some wheat was set back by the December ice storm and hard freezes. Most fields recovered but some went dormant. About 50 percent of oats froze out in some areas during the hard freeze. Remaining oats were doing fair but also needed moisture. Rangeland and pastures were declining due to lack of soil moisture. All forages showed signs of stress and slowed growth. Livestock remained in fair condition with increased supplemental feeding.