High wildfire risk between Fort Worth and San Antonio

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COLLEGE STATION – Many areas of Texas remained hot and dry, and though fuel loads may not be as high as last year, the risk of wildfire is building, said Megan Clayton, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service range specialist, Corpus Christi.

Though there haven’t been any large wildfires to match those of 2011, AgriLife Extension and Texas A&M Forest Service experts are already working on preventing outbreaks and limiting the damage they do, Clayton said.

“There’s definitely a growing concern for landowners on how to protect themselves and their property,” she said.

Clayton recently attended a Forest Service workshop in New Braunfels where the emphasis was on the risk of wildfire in the “wildland-urban interface.”

“That’s the area just outside of major urban areas where more and more people are moving in Texas,” Clayton said.

These are often the highest risk areas because of the concentrated fuel loads that build in and around rural home landscapes, she said.

On the Forest Service’s Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal at http://www.texaswildfirerisk.com/map, the highest risk areas are highlighted on a map. In early September, the highest risk was in the central part of the state, along the U.S. Interstate 35 corridor from Fort Worth to San Antonio.

The Forest Service site also has information on judging wildfire risk for any particular area and the likely intensity of a wildfire if it starts.

Clayton said more information on wildfire prevention can also be found on the Texas Extension Disaster Education Network at http://texashelp.tamu.edu/ .

“Wildfire continues to be a risk for Texas as many of the regions – and pockets within the regions – have not experienced any rain in the past months.

 

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

 

Central: The region had cooler temperatures, but most counties remained hotter and drier than usual for this time of year. Soil-moisture levels declined. Producers were planting small grains, including wheat and oats. Some were pre-watering. Irrigated cotton was in good condition. Pecans looked good.

Coastal Bend: Temperatures were above normal with no measurable rain. Most areas finished harvesting corn, sorghum and cotton. Rangeland and pastures needed rain. Cattle were being sold due to lack of forages.

East: Lack of rain and high temperatures continued to dry out soils. Trinity County reported water rationing in many areas. Hay producers battled armyworms and grasshoppers. Producers and hunters were planting winter forages for livestock and wildlife. Cattle remained in good condition. Homeowners were reporting gray-leaf spot and take-all root rot in lawns.

Far West: Spotty showers brought from 1 inch to 2 inches of rain throughout the region. Temperatures remained in the 90s and 100s most of week but cooled by the weekend. Fall rains will be a must for local farmers and ranchers to maintain crops and current livestock numbers. Most cattle were in fair condition, but still have to be supplied supplemental feed. Cotton approached cut off, the stage of growth prior to boll opening. Farmers ceased irrigating, hoping there was enough soil moisture for boll and fiber development. Planting of small grains for winter grazing was ongoing. Where no rain was received, rangeland and pastures continued to decline. Pecan nuts were filling.

North: Several days of triple-digit temperatures depleted soil moisture. In more than 95 percent of the counties, soil moisture was reported as short. Corn, grain sorghum and wheat yields were above average in many areas. Farmers were preparing fields for fall planting. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Producers expect to begin feeding hay very soon.

 

Panhandle: Most of the area received some rain, from a trace to as much as 2.5 inches. Soil moisture continued to be short to very short in most counties, with a few reporting adequate levels. The corn harvest began. Grain sorghum was maturing. Soybeans were in good condition. Cotton was in mostly fair condition. Producers started planting winter wheat. Some were pre-watering fields to get a jump on wheat grazing for fall stocker cattle. Rangeland and pastures were in very poor to good condition.

Rolling Plains: Some counties received rain, but much more was needed. Dryland cotton was not doing well, but irrigated cotton made good progress. Peanut producers planned to begin harvesting in the next couple of weeks, and were expecting average yields. Pecan nuts were reaching maturity, though yields were expected to be light because of the dry conditions. More rain would help with nut development. Pecan weevil pressure increased. Rangeland and pastures continued to slowly improve in most areas, but vegetation was still short due to the drought and overgrazing. Cattle were in fair condition.

South: Extremely hot and dry weather caused high evaporation rates, rangeland and pastures to further deteriorate, and soil moisture levels to drop. Soil-moisture levels were very short in the northern and eastern counties, and short to very short throughout the western and southern counties. Stock-tank levels continued to drop. Many ranchers further culled herds because of forage shortages. Cattle were in poor to fair condition. Cotton ginning was ongoing in the Zavala and Hidalgo counties, and the harvest was reported as finished in Frio County. Fall-planted corn and peanuts in Atascosa County were progressing well. In Maverick and Hidalgo counties, the harvesting of most crops was finished, and farmers were preparing fields to plant next season’s crops, and vegetable planting continued. Zavala County cabbage and spinach growers were irrigating. Pecan producers in that area predicted below-normal yields because of the drought. Willacy County reported 0.75 inch to 1.5 inches of rain.

South Plains: Storms brought from a trace to 2 inches of rain to isolated areas. Highs remained in the mid to upper 90s during the week, with a cool front dropping temperatures to the 80s over the weekend. Cotton was opening bolls throughout the region, and most producers stopped irrigating. Harvest aids were applied on cotton that was maturing earlier than usual. Peanuts and grain sorghum were also maturing. Some producers were planting winter wheat. High grain prices stimulated interest in planting more wheat. Most rangeland and pastures were in fair condition. Cool-season grasses were growing where there was rain. Cattle were mostly in fair to good condition.

Southeast: High temperatures and wind dried things out considerably. The cotton harvest was progressing without major problems. Brazoria County producers were harvesting hay. Overall, pasture conditions remained fair. Forage growth in Orange County was good.

Southwest: Conditions remained hot and dry with no rain forecast, but with slightly cooler days. Some pecan growers were harvesting early this year. Crows were a problem in some orchards. The corn and cotton harvests continued. Pastures and rangeland further declined.

West Central: Extremely high temperatures and dry conditions continued. All areas needed rain. Cotton remained on track, with below-average yields expected. Some dryland cotton began to open bolls. Most irrigated cotton producers had stopped pumping to allow the crop to mature. Producers continued preparing land for planting small grains. A small percentage of winter wheat was dry-planted, but most were waiting for rain before planting. Some hay producers were still cutting and baling. Rangeland and pastures were in very poor condition. The risk of wildfire increased. Stock-tank water levels dropped more. Livestock remained in fair condition. Some cattle producers began an early feeding program due to the drought. Pecan growers were at their peak irrigation time.


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