Although some agricultural producers in South Central Texas and the state’s Winter Garden area have suffered losses due to recent rains and flooding, many others will benefit from them in the long term, said Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.
Dr. Rob Hogan, AgriLife Extension agricultural economist in Uvalde, said though persistent rains have had a negative impact in both urban and rural parts of the region, damaging or destroying property and crops, producers should expect positive returns from future crops and livestock.
The Winter Garden agricultural region consists primarily of Dimmit, Frio, La Salle and Zavala counties, and includes parts of Atascosa, Maverick, McMullen, Bexar, Medina, Wilson and Uvalde counties.
“The rains have been really tough on some wheat producers in the area as they came near harvest time,” Hogan said. “Many lost a good portion of their crop, and in some instances lost their entire crop.”
He said some of the wheat fields he had looked at in the region had some incredibly big heads, and when they filled out, they became top-heavy to where light winds and rain knocked them down. He also noted that many area producers who planted oats did not fare well due to the rains, and that the soil must have sustained some damage to its balance, as it had turned to sludge and mud. There are alternatives to fixing all of these concerns thankfully. For example, you can hire a topsoil service to come and provide fresh soil ready to be fertilized and used to replace what was damaged by the strong winds and rain promptly.
“The amount of rain we received this spring was devastating to our onion crop,” said Bruce Frasier, president of Dixondale Farms in Carrizo Springs. “Typically we hope to get 20 inches of rain during an entire growing season, and it’s rough when you get about that much over a few weeks. I don’t think there are any vegetable crops that can withstand that much rain.”
Frasier said the replenished water table may be of future benefit, but Winter Garden producers have already lost millions of dollars due to crop damage and loss.
“It will take quite a while to plant and harvest enough crops to make up for those losses,” he said.
“While some of the area’s producers took a pretty hard beating this year, overall I suspect the rains will ultimately be a blessing,” Hogan said.
He said due to the timing of their planting, upcoming corn, cotton and grain sorghum crops will likely benefit the soonest from recharged water sources and the improved soil profile.
“I think area producers can expect some pretty good yields from corn and really good yields from cotton,” Hogan said. “But due to timing, those producers who are planting grain sorghum will most likely get the greatest benefit. In all, I think producers can expect a ‘golden time,’ not only for crops currently in the ground, but also for those that haven’t yet been planted.”
He added that having additional moisture in the region’s soil will help reduce the amount of water typically used to irrigate crops, which will help lower producer costs and improve their bottom line.
“Vegetable crops will likely fare well in the near future, as they will get all the water they need through additional rainfall or irrigation,” he said. “And in coming months and even into next year, the region will probably continue to reap benefits from the soil moisture situation.”
Hogan said area producers planting summer and fall crops this year have reason to be hopeful.
“Spinach planting won’t begin until the fall, and since the rains have done much to recharge the aquifer and fill water reservoirs, this will help ensure future water availability for irrigation,” said Ed Ritchie, president of the Winter Garden Spinach Producers Board, based in Uvalde.
The region’s fruit and nut trees will also get a boost from the rains, said Dr. Larry Stein, AgriLife Extension horticulturist in Uvalde.
“The additional soil moisture will provide for exemplary fruit and nut tree growth and provide optimum greening conditions for pecans and citrus,” he said.
Livestock too will be beneficiaries of recent rains, though not without some potential trouble, said Dr. Rick Machen, AgriLife Extension livestock specialist, Uvalde.
“While the rains are providing lots of forage in area pastures, which is good for all area livestock, some livestock, especially sheep and goats, likely will experience greater parasitism due to the wet conditions,” Machen said. “We’re asking that producers do their best to try and stay on top of this problem, particularly by taking whatever proactive and preventive measures they can to protect their animals.”
Machen said young calves are also more likely to have parasites this year than in the past several years due to these conditions.
“Livestock producers will see these rains mainly as a blessing since there will be tall grass and other forage for their animals to eat,” Hogan said. “Livestock will have a good opportunity to get fat by grazing on lush green pastures. And there will be little or no need for supplemental feeding of cattle, which will help lower producer expenses and increase profitability.”
He said the improved conditions will also provide an opportunity for beef producers to replace or restock cattle they were forced to sell during the extended drought, which would bode well for a possible resurgence in the state’s cattle industry.