Texas crop, weather: Rains make a difference but drought not over

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COLLEGE STATION – Much of the state received rain the last of July, greening up rangeland and pastures and improving the outlook for all crops except those already nearing maturity, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

But though the rains helped, much more will be needed to catch the state up to something resembling normal conditions, said Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension agronomist and Texas A&M University soil and crop sciences associate department head.

“We’re still in widespread drought,” Miller said. “The rains we got mid-July were fairly extensive, and yes, they’ll make a difference. We’re seeing some grass and hay made on it. It will certainly improve the cotton crop and the sorghum crop in the Plains. In South Central Texas, the grain crops are already made. They’re harvesting corn right now, but we’ll make some cotton off the rain.”

The rains were unseasonable for late July as the period is usually one of the driest times of the year, he noted.

It’s important to remember, he said, that drought is a measure of how much below average moisture an area has received over a longer time than just a few weeks — usually three to six months. And much of the state has had from only 25 to 75 percent of normal precipitation over the last six months.

Still, the rains certainly helped many crops, particularly cotton in the High Plains and South Central Texas, though the crop remains late, he said.

“We got a very late start (with cotton),” Miller said. “As you remember, we had an unusually cool and very dry spring. A lot of cotton was planted late, right at the crop insurance cut-off date. Then the Plains had high winds and hail that damaged seedling cotton in some locations.”

He also noted a significant increase in sorghum acres this year, not only because of the replantings to lost cotton acres, but because of favorable prices.

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:

The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Districts

Central: The corn harvest was nearly complete as was that of most forage sorghum. The grain sorghum harvest began. Bermuda grass meadows were looking good after rains from last week. Hay producers expected to get one more cutting. Grasshopper pressure continued to be heavy.

Coastal Bend: The harvesting of corn resumed after last week’s rains. Earlier-planted cotton benefited from the recent rains. Cotton was filling bolls. The rain also helped pastures, and some were nearly ready for a second cutting of hay. Rice was heading, with some producers already harvesting. Water quality for livestock was an issue in some areas because of low ponds. Some cases of prussic acid toxicity in cattle on johnsongrass were reported.

East: Light scattered showers fell across parts of the region, with accumulations ranging from a trace to 2 inches. Pastures were in good condition where there were substantial rains. Producers continued to bale hay and spray for weeds. Many producers were taking their second cutting of hay with fair to good yields. Grasshoppers continued to be a major problem for both producers and homeowners. Corn was drying down. Cotton was in good shape but would benefit from more rain. Growth of warm-season vegetable crops slowed down, though harvesting continued. Field preparation for fall vegetables continued. Cattle remained in good condition. Buyer demand was good. Horn flies continued to be an increasing problem for beef producers. Feral hogs were active.

Far West: Most afternoons, the region received scattered showers, with accumulations from a trace to about 2 inches. Temperatures were in the mid 90s. Area ranchers reported some grass growth returning to pastures and were hoping for more rain. While feeding livestock supplements slowed, producers were skeptical of any long-term relief.

North: Soil-moisture levels continued to range from short to adequate. Most counties got more rain, as much as 3 inches in some areas. Hay and crops were in very good condition for late July. There was enough rain during the last of the month to improve pastures and summer forages. Summer hay production increased. Hay producers have taken a second cutting in some counties. Corn, sorghum and soybeans were looking very good. Early planted sunflowers neared being ready for harvest. Grasshoppers were still an issue, damaging pastures, crops, gardens and shrubs. Horn fly counts slightly increased. Mosquitoes were also starting to become an issue. Kaufman County reported high feral hog activity. Livestock throughout the region were in good condition.

Panhandle: The region received more rain, from a trace to as much as 2.5 inches. Corn was generally in good shape; the extra moisture brought much of the crop to just past the pollination stage. The later-planted corn was catching up but still had a way to go. Grain sorghum was in fair condition, with most in pre-boot to heading stages. Cotton was doing well with the extra moisture and average heat units this week. But it was still behind, with blooming at least two weeks away. Southwestern corn borer numbers were up in some fields, and spider mites were a problem in others. Rangeland and pastures were starting to green up where stands were not earlier killed by overgrazing.

Rolling Plains: Rains over the last week really helped rangeland and pastures. Some counties reported as much as 6 inches during the last two weeks. Hay prospects also greatly improved with many fields having the potential of a producing a second cutting soon. However, weeds were thriving as well. Cotton was looking good. Cattle were in good condition. Area lake levels rose over the past couple of weeks but were very low. Stock tanks still needed runoff water. Grasshopper pressure remained constant. The harvesting of an extremely light peach crop was winding down.

South: The northern part of the region received more rain, from scattered showers to 3 inches and more in some areas. Ranchers in those areas reported an increase in stock-tank water levels, as well as improved rangeland and pastures. The eastern part of the region did not receive much rain, except for Jim Wells County, which got 3.5 inches. The remainder of the region was rainless but with high humidity, and windy with 90 to 100 degrees and above temperatures. Rangeland and pastures were reported to be in fair to good condition in most of the northern region, fair in the eastern and western parts of the region, and mostly poor in the southern parts of the region. Supplemental feeding increased, and cattle body condition scores remained fair. In Atascosa County, peanuts were in good condition, corn was silked, doughed and dented, with 90 percent of the crop mature. Sorghum and cotton crops in that county were in fair condition. In Frio County, the corn harvest slowed, and sorghum was beginning to mature. In Jim Wells County, the few row crops that remained were sesame, sunflowers and guar. Production estimates were difficult to accurately predict, but producers expected moderate yields. In Maverick County, seedless watermelons and onions were good. In Zavala County, corn was drying down and in good condition as a result of extremely hot temperatures, and pecans were progressing well with little insect pressure. Also in that county, early planted corn was being harvested, but the harvest of the rest of the crop was a week to 10 days away. Cotton in Cameron and Hidalgo counties was being defoliated, with picking expected to begin soon. In Starr County, hay and sorghum harvesting wound down.

South Plains: Crops progressed very well because of rain. Garza County received from 0.4 inch to 1.2 inches, while Mitchell County reported about 3 inches. In Bailey County, corn maturity ranged from four-leaf to kernel-blister stage and looked good overall. Much of the cotton crop was finally blooming; most fields were progressing rapidly. Sorghum was also rapidly progressing, but later-planted fields will be lucky to mature before the first frost. Producers were dealing with increased weed pressure, but disease pressure was minimal. Rangeland and pastures were improving after the rain. Cattle were improving as well. Rangeland that had been severely damaged by continual drought and/or wildfires was beginning to recover, but the biggest concern was weed pressure in bare ground.

Southeast: Soil-moisture levels ranged from short to adequate throughout the district. Corn and sorghum were in good condition. Soybeans were fair. Cotton was in fair to good condition, as was rice. Rangeland and pastures were in poor to good condition. Rains greened things up, but heat was still an issue. Hay harvesting slowed where there was frequent rain.

Southwest: Extremely hot and dry conditions continued. Dryland corn and grain sorghum were being harvested. Hay producers reported good yields and quality, with second and third cuttings probable. Overall, rangeland and pastures improved from fair to good condition. Cotton and some sorghum also showed signs of improvement thanks to rain a week ago. Livestock generally remained in good condition thanks to readily available forages.

West Central: Days were hot as expected for this time of year, but unseasonable for July, and many areas received substantial, slow rains. Soil-moisture conditions improved. Field preparation for fall planting was underway. The rains jump started dryland row crops and gave irrigated acreages a much-needed boost. Hay fields looked very good, with cutting and baling ongoing. Producers expected to get another hay cutting thanks to the recent rains. Rangeland and pastures continued to improve. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Most producers were able to cut back on supplemental feeding.


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