COLLEGE STATION – There are always winners and losers from storm systems in Texas, but last week practically everyone in agriculture won, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomist.
Last week, most of the state received much-needed rain as Hurricane Ingrid and Tropical Storm Manuel pushed moisture northward from Mexico and the Gulf, improving agricultural prospects throughout the state, said Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension agronomist and Texas A&M University soil and crop sciences associate department head.
“And with this tropical storm system, it was particularly effective because we had a cold front pushing in from the north and holding the moisture there,” he said. “If you look at a map of the rainfall, there was a line from the Big Bend area all the way to Texarkana and south, where the cold front hit the Gulf moisture and dumped a lot of rain.”
Practically everyone got some rain. Some got only a trace, but receiving 3 to 4 inches was common, with 6 inches not that uncommon, according to National Weather Service records.
Some areas along the coast got 10 inches or more.
Some areas got considerably less, according to the weather service and AgriLife Extension county agent weekly reports. In the South Plains and parts of West Texas, amounts varied from a trace to 1 inch, but that was welcomed too. In East Texas, while many counties got 6 inches or considerably more, San Augustine County reported it had gone 56 days without rain.
There were few downsides to the rain, other than some delay of cotton harvesting in the Coastal Bend and Blacklands areas. But even then, most of the cotton was already harvested, Miller said.
The moisture was a great boon on many fronts. In the northern parts of the state, it will help finish cotton, he said. And throughout Texas, it will greatly improve the prospects for planting of winter wheat and other forages for winter pasture. The added moisture should also be a big help to winter vegetables in South Texas and the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
For many livestock producers who have been cautious about rebuilding herds up from historical lows despite high market prices, the September rains would no doubt promote optimism, Miller noted.
But he warned that as good as the rains are, historically, it’s no guarantee the drought cycle is broken.
“Last year, we had a rain on Sept. 29, then no rain until Christmas, and (consequently) we had no winter pasture,” he said. “This year will be analogous to that if we don’t see weather patterns develop to give more moisture.”
However, the tropical storm and hurricane season isn’t technically over until November, Miller said, which gives reason to continue to be optimistic, though cautiously so.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Districts
Central: Rainfall throughout the region ranged from 1.25 to 6 inches, which was great news for those who had been waiting to plant small grains. The cooler temperatures that accompanied the rain were also welcomed. The countryside was greening up from the rain, and runoff replenished ponds and stock-water tanks, filling some that hadn’t held water in two years. Livestock were in good condition.
Coastal Bend: Substantial rains improved soil-moisture levels, but made harvesting of remaining cotton difficult. However, the harvest was nearly completed before the rain. Some producers were either preparing ground for planting oats for winter grazing — or had already planted. Livestock producers continued supplemental feeding of hay in some areas. Rangeland and pasture conditions were described as “dismal at best” in some areas. However, if rains continued to come, winter pastures, wheat and oats most likely will improve.
East: Much-needed rain fell across most of the region, with amounts varying from 3 to 9.5 inches. Cooler temperatures accompanied the rains. In some counties, the rain improved soil-moisture levels and filled livestock ponds, but it did not entirely roll back the drought. However, the rain did alleviate concerns about livestock water sources. Other parts of the region were not so fortunate. San Augustine County reported it had gone 56 days without any measurable rainfall. Producers there were feeding hay and protein blocks and shipping in alfalfa. Most counties remained under a burn ban. Area ranchers were planning planting of rye for winter forages. The cotton crop looked promising with 85 percent of it opening bolls. Livestock were in fair to good shape. Weaning and selling of spring-born calves and cull cows continued. Grasshoppers and feral hogs were active.
Far West: The region received from 0.5 inch to 7.25 inches of rain, which along with water releases from Mexican dams caused some flooding along the Rio Grande. The cooler temperatures accompanied the rain. Going into the fall, producers were enthusiastic about rangeland improving. Most cotton producers were getting ready for harvest. The sorghum and sunflower harvests continued and will be completed very soon. Winter wheat planting continued and will increase after fields dry out a little.
North: Soil moisture continued to be very short even though the region received 2 to 7 inches of rain. However, the rain will allow farmers and ranchers to start planting winter annual pasture grasses. The harvesting of corn, grain sorghum, sunflowers and soybeans was finished. Pastures remained in poor shape. Some producers were already feeding hay due to the lack of grazing or providing other supplementation. Livestock were in fair condition. Grasshoppers remained an issue.
Panhandle: Most of the region received rain, from a trace to as much as 6 inches in some isolated cases. The rains will definitely benefit planted winter wheat, but they came too late for summer crops. Temperatures were near average for the week. The corn harvest loomed, with a few fields already harvested. Cotton progressed, but the crop still needed more heat units. Insect problems decreased. The exception was some bollworm and fall armyworm problems in a few cotton fields. Winter wheat planting proceeded well, though slowed by rains in some areas. Grain sorghum was also coming along well, with most irrigated sorghum turning color and getting one less irrigation before harvest. Rangeland and pastures declined as fall approached and temperatures cooled, but grasses and forbs still benefited from the rains. Fall calving was underway.
Rolling Plains: Cooler temperatures and rain improved conditions. Some areas received from 0.5 inch to 4 inches of rain, which perked up some cotton fields and may have even given plants the moisture needed to finish out the year. This year’s cotton crop will not be a bumper crop, but farmers were glad to have something to harvest as it’s been two years since some have made a crop. Cotton was setting bolls with some fields beginning to open. Some dryland cotton looked good, but irrigated cotton looked much better. Some producers believe they will be stripping cotton in about a month and have started preparing harvest equipment. Where there was rain, wheat-planting prospects improved, but more rain was needed. Livestock were in good condition as producers continued supplemental feeding. Hay supplies were short, but some failed cotton acres that were planted back to hay were being bailed with promising yields. Water well levels were still low, and lakes and stock tanks needed runoff. Peanuts looked good.
South: Rains continued to improve rangeland, pastures and soil moisture levels throughout most of the region but halted fieldwork. Counties in the northern parts of the region received from 0.5 inch to about 3 inches. Significant rainfall amounts were also reported in the western part of the region. Maverick County reported about an inch and Webb County reported 2 to 3 inches. The southern part of the region received from 2 to as much as 12 inches of rain as Hurricane Ingrid moved into Mexico. Soil moisture conditions were mostly 50 to 100 percent adequate, with just a few counties reporting short conditions. Rangeland and pastures improved, with mostly fair conditions reported. Supplemental feeding was light, and cattle body condition scores remained fair.
South Plains: A few counties reported very spotty showers, from a trace to nearly an inch in Dawson County. Daytime highs and nighttime lows, though still above average, were lower. Some producers reported problems with woolly bear caterpillars. Most irrigation pumps were still running, though some were being shut down as crops matured. Some producers began planting winter wheat, and some grain sorghum and corn was being harvested. Peanuts were in good shape and awaiting harvest. Cotton was nearly mature in many fields, and producers expected to apply harvest aids over the next few weeks. Rangeland and pasture ranged from poor to good condition and needed rain.
Southeast: Conditions varied county to county, with some receiving 1 inch to 5 inches of rain and others continuing to be hot and dry. Some areas of Orange County received more than 9 inches. The rain was welcomed, and along with cooler temperatures, it lessened stress on plants and livestock. Brazoria County temperatures ranged from the high 90s to the low 70s. Most of the first crop of rice was harvested in Chambers County. There were many farmers trying for a ratoon crop. A lot of ground was being prepared for next year’s rice planting. Where there were substantial rains, moderate temperatures and adequate or better soil moisture was expected to support good forage growth.
Southwest: Most of the region received 1.5 to 6 inches of rain with cooler temperatures. Armyworms continued to be a problem in some areas. Producers were planting winter wheat and oats. Cotton remained in good condition. Rangeland and pastures improved. As a result of improved forages, the decline in livestock condition slowed, with the possibility of improvement in the coming weeks.
West Central: Tropical Storm Manuel brought much-needed rain to all counties late in the week, improving soil moisture for winter forage planting. Temperatures were cooler, with daytime highs in the mid-80s and nighttime lows in the 50s and 60s. The corn harvest was completed with fair to good yields reported. Some field preparation for small-grain planting continued. Producers were cutting and baling late-season hay. Already planted winter wheat and oats were expected to benefit from recent rains. Rangeland and pastures improved as the rains promoted the growth of both winter grasses and weeds. Runoff helped fill some stock tanks.