COLLEGE STATION – Many areas received rain last week, further improving pastures and rangeland, filling farm ponds and stock tanks, and vastly improving the chances of successful spring planting, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service reports.
But many areas still needed more rain to make a good start on the cropping season, particularly the state’s larger cotton-growing areas, such as the South Plains and parts of the Rolling Plains, according to the reports.
In parts of the Texas High Plains, the problem of moisture-deficit was compounded by high winds. In the Panhandle, feedlots and dairies were battling wind and blowing dust that caused respiratory problems for cattle, according to reports from AgriLife Extension county agents.
“Producers have been busy fertilizing fields and trying to stop fields from blowing at the same time,” reported Rick Auckerman, AgriLife Extension agent for Deaf Smith County, west of Amarillo. “Mother Nature has continued to grace us with nonstop winds and temperatures fluctuating as much as 40 degrees in one 24-hour period.”
But other than holding topsoil in place, the large concern is whether weather patterns will break soon enough to encourage cotton planting in the South Plains, said Mark Kelley, AgriLife Extension cotton specialist, Lubbock.
“We’re still needing a lot more moisture,” Kelley said. “Seems like not long after we do get a fairly decent rain or snow event, we the 40 or 50 mph winds blowing nonstop, and that just sucks the moisture right out.”
There’s been quite a bit of field work done, fields have been tilled and bedded, as producers work hard with what moisture they have, he said.
“We’re still hopeful, and the way they talk, maybe the La Niña pattern will break by late spring and early summer,” Kelley said. “That’s what we need, for it too break, and give us some more moisture.”
But if the weather pattern doesn’t change, it will be a game changer, he said.
“Once we get around mid-April, we should know a little more about what’s going to take place,” Kelley said. “We generally start our planting around the first of May. Once we get to that mid-April point and the weather pattern continues to favor drought, then things could start looking pretty bleak.”
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 March 5 -12:
Central: The region received substantial rains with more forecast. Crops were growing well thanks to the rains. Pastures were greening up. Lake and pond levels were rising with each rain. Corn planting was slowed by the rains but was expected to resume soon. In some areas, most corn was already planted. Cherry-oat aphid numbers were high, and some producers were applying pesticides. Wheat and oats were two to three weeks ahead in maturity of where they normally would be at this time of year.
Coastal Bend: Light rain fell. Spring planting of corn, sorghum and some rice was under way. Pastures responded well to the moisture. Warm-season grasses were slowly coming on, along with lots of broadleaf weeds. Many ranchers were able to slow feeding of hay and supplements.
East: Warmer-than-normal temperatures continued until a cold front pushed through, bringing a good rain with it. Cherokee County reported as much as 7 inches of rain in some areas. Water levels in ponds and lakes improved with the recent showers. Winter pastures greened up and made good growth. Warmer-than-normal temperatures continued until a cold front pushed through the region. Feral hog damage was reported in hay fields and pastures.
Far West: Warm temperatures early in the reporting period yielded to an icy blast of cold air, with high winds of up to 40-50 mph in the northern and central parts of region. Small amounts of moisture were received, but more was needed as the region is still under drought conditions. Lawns, bar-ditches and pastures greened up, and many trees put on leaves. However, ranchers continued to supplement cattle because either the warm, windy weather dried out pastures or the green up was mostly weeds. Farmers began preparing cotton land for planting. Irrigated crops were doing well. Alfalfa fields were fertilized and watered, with early cuttings expected in some areas. Stocker cattle were doing fairly well but were not gaining weight as rapidly as normal. Heavy winds and low humidity brought dangerous wildfire conditions back to Presidio County. Grazing there was nearly non-existent and remaining cattle were on supplemental feed and consuming large amounts of mineral. In El Paso County, only 6 acre-inches of irrigation water were allocated for the rest of the year on cotton. The allocation will be distributed in late-May/early-June to carry the crop to first square set, but cotton farmers may not be able to complete the crop and losses could be heavy if they don’t receive additional allocations or rain.
North: From 1 inch to 4 inches of rain benefited crops and pastures. Farmers started planting corn, but were slowed by the rain. Winter-annual pastures and small grains continued to do very well. Warm-season forages were coming out of dormancy. Livestock were in good to fair condition. Feral hogs were still a major problem in some counties.
Panhandle: Temperatures were near to above average for most of the week, but turned colder by the weekend. Some much-needed moisture accompanied the cooler weather, but a good rain was still needed in most of the region. Soil-moisture levels were mostly very short. Wheat was in very poor to fair condition, with most counties reporting poor to very poor. Producers continued to try to stem soil erosion. Field preparation continued, and irrigation on winter wheat was still active. Rangeland varied from being in very poor to fair condition, with most counties reporting very poor to poor. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued.
Rolling Plains: The region received from a trace of rain in some areas to 3 to 4 inches in others. Pastures were looking better with the grown winter annuals. Bermuda-grass pastures, hay meadows and native grasses started to show some green as well. In areas that did not receive rain, warm, windy days stressed wheat. Producers were scouting fields for insects. There were some reports of greenbugs and cherry-oat aphids. In many fields the insect counts were below the economic threshold; other producers were spraying. Livestock were generally in fair condition. Producers continued to de-stock herds due to high cattle prices and help pastures recover. Hay was still being fed, but less was being consumed due to winter annuals coming on. Peach trees were nearly in full bloom.
South: Rainfall amounts varied, with some areas getting as much as 2 inches. Coupled with mild temperatures, the rains improved rangeland and pastures throughout most of the region. Cattle body-condition scores have slightly improved. Soil moisture ranged from adequate in almost all of the northern, eastern and western counties except for Webb, Kleberg, Kenedy and Jim Hogg counties, where it was short. In the more southern counties, soil moisture was reported as being short to very short except for Hidalgo County, where it was 50 percent adequate. In McMullen County, winter-annual grasses and forbs provided good grazing for livestock, but forage supplies remained short. In Atascosa County, most of the corn crop was already planted. In Frio County, potatoes were flowering. In Jim Wells County, field activity increased and planting was in full swing. While some cornfields had already emerged in that county, producers were planting other fields in corn, expecting a good season. With good rainfall in Zavala County, dryland wheat and oats were making seed heads. Also in that area, spinach and cabbage harvesting was very active, onions made good progress, and corn and sorghum planting began. In Cameron County, row-crop planting was under way, sorghum planting continued, and onions and melon crops progressed well. In Hidalgo County, cold and wet conditions put a halt on planting. In Starr County, farmers were preparing to harvest onions.
South Plains: The region received some light precipitation in the form of rain, mist, sleet and snow. Accumulations were generally less than 1 inch. Before the moisture arrived, there were warm days with high winds. Winds were blowing dust during the wintery mix precipitation. Producers were pre-watering fields and applying herbicides in preparation for spring planting. Topsoils remained very dry throughout the region. Much more precipitation will be needed for spring planting of cotton. Winter wheat was struggling, and rangeland and pastures were in fair to poor condition. Livestock producers were still providing cattle with supplemental feed.
Southeast: The region had warm temperatures and varying amounts of rain, with at least 2.5 inches in parts of Liberty County. Winter feeding of livestock continued. Except for very large private containments, ponds and lakes were full. Livestock were in fair condition. Land preparation for spring planting was delayed due to the wet conditions.
Southwest: Precipitation ranged from 0.4 inch to 2 inches, providing a much-needed boost to spring green-up, with an abundance of cool weather forbs and weeds. Overall, pasture conditions remained fair to good. Livestock further improved, though bloat continued to be a threat in areas with an overabundance of clover. Spring lambing and kidding continued. Corn planting was under way, and wheat crops looked good.
West Central: A cold front brought low temperatures, high winds and scattered showers. Freezing rain and hail was reported in some areas. Small grain crops continued to do very well. Farmers were preparing fields for spring planting, cultivating, spraying weeds and servicing equipment. Rangeland and pastures further improved with green-up of cool-season grasses and winter weeds. Ranchers decreased supplemental feeding of livestock due to better grazing. One main concern for producers continued to be bloat. There were reports of cattle and sheep dying before bloat blocks could be put out. Most fruit trees were blooming.