Near-record August rains brought most of Texas out of drought conditions and improved water availability and soil moisture indexes, said weather and water experts.
Dr. Kevin Wagner, deputy director of engagement at the Texas Water Resources Institute, College Station, said atypical August storm systems around the state delivered needed relief to some areas.
Wagner said rain events that brought 3 inches or more of rain to areas improved soil moisture indexes and likely produced runoff capable of filling farm ponds.
Most major water-supply reservoirs around the state are full or holding good amounts of water after several inches of rain fell over a week–long period in August, Wagner said. He suspects farm ponds are in better shape than major reservoirs because they require much less runoff to impact smaller bodies of water.
“Generally, if an area is out of drought, we can assume that the farm pond levels are going to be in good shape,” he said. “Producers in the South Plains and other arid areas of the state typically use groundwater as their predominant water source for livestock.”
Wagner said he visited the San Angelo area recently, where several major reservoirs remained at 15-20 percent capacity but farm ponds were in good shape.
Water availability can change dramatically, especially during summer months when livestock consume water and liquid evaporates at a higher rate amid high temperatures, he noted.
The Climatic Atlas of Texas, produced by the Texas Department of Water Resources in 1983, compiled almost 30 years of weather-related data between 1950 and 1979 and remains the go-to reference for annual climate information.
The atlas showed the January monthly average evaporation for lakes was 2 inches in East Texas and 3.5 inches in far West Texas. Evaporation numbers around the state begin climbing in earnest in April — 3.25 inches in East Texas and 7.5 inches in far West Texas — and peak at between 5.5-7.5 inches in East Texas and 10.75-11.75 inches in far West Texas during July and August.
Evaporation rates begin a rapid descent starting in September, according to the report.
Overall, the two regions of the state are on both sides of the extreme, with East Texas losing between 45-61 inches and far West Texas losing 80-95 inches of surface water to evaporation annually.
But this year, August was one of the wettest on record in Texas, said State Climatologist Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon in College Station.
“Two corners of the state with severe drought at the beginning of August, the South Plains in the Lubbock area and northeast Texas, both got enough rain to improve considerably if not eliminate drought completely,” he said.
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Nielsen-Gammon said the average rainfall for the state was more than 5 inches during August.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
CENTRAL: Wheat pastures were being planted. Small amounts of oats were in. Fieldwork resumed with grain and cotton harvests. Cotton remained in fields, with much of it having sprouted bolls. Lint quality was down. Producers were finishing up last cuttings of hay. Soybean harvests were delayed by recent rains. Range and pastures were in good condition due to August rains. Livestock and cattle were in good condition. Soil moisture conditions were good in all counties
ROLLING PLAINS: Cooler weather followed a few hot days. Wheat preparation and planting continued. Armyworms were reported. Cotton looked good and the milo harvest will begin soon. Livestock were in good condition.
COASTAL BEND: Consistent rainfall in some areas held up the cotton harvest, although most growers harvested remaining cotton. Quality grades and turnout were mostly good. Producers continued to spray and plow out cotton stalks. Hay production was in full swing with record inventories of hay available. Pastures benefitted from recent rains and were in good condition. Winter pasture and wildlife food plot preparations were underway. Armyworms began hitting pastures. Cattle and calves were in good condition, but fly numbers increased.
EAST: Most counties received scattered showers. Pastures and hay fields continued to produce plenty of forage due to moisture conditions. Pasture and range conditions were fair to good. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were adequate. Hay production was in full swing. Some producers were on their third or fourth cutting.
Producers in Polk County were having difficulty cutting hay due to rain. Winter pasture preparations were underway. Armyworms, flies and mosquitos continued to be a problem in most counties.
Cherokee County reported widespread armyworm infestations.
Wood County producers were spraying or cutting for hay to control the armyworms.
Producers were planting fall gardens in Marion County.
Cattle prices dropped again in Houston County. Livestock were in fair to good condition overall.
Producers continued to sell market-ready calves and cull cows in Polk County. Feral hogs were active.
SOUTH PLAINS: No report available.
PANHANDLE: Good general rains were received early, with approximately 1.5-6 inches in some areas. Producers were slowly getting back in the field after rains subsided. Wheat fields were planted, and some early planted fields were already making a stand. Silage choppers were running again, trying to catch up after rain delays. The corn crop was starting to dry down, and harvest of the early plantings was just a few weeks away. Grain sorghum was in all stages with some dryland fields starting to tiller out again, which will extend the harvest period.
Cotton was in a holding pattern from the lack of sunshine and heat units. Warm temperatures and sunshine helped the development of the cotton and peanut fields in southern parts of the region. Irrigated grain sorghum acres looked good with average to above average yield prospects. Sugarcane aphids were eating into slim profit margins for many producers who were forced to apply insecticides a second time to control the pest. Winter-wheat planting was starting again after the fields began to dry down. Pastures continued to improve, as did cattle conditions.
NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels were mostly adequate. Conditions were dry and warmer with temperatures back in the mid-90s. Corn harvest was almost complete with above-average yields. Most dryland corn yielded 80-100 bushels per acre and irrigated corn yielded nearly 200 bushels per acre. Grain sorghum harvests were about 60-70 percent complete.
Most yield reports were average. Sugarcane aphids were not as much of a problem this year in sorghum or summer annual hay fields. Pastures were doing very well for this time of year following late-August rains. Hay was also plentiful due to the heavy rains in the late spring.
Livestock were in good condition, and spring-born calves looked good, but the cattle market was down. Armyworms hit the county hard after recent rains. Many producers treated fields with insecticide. A second round of treatment was expected. Some feral hog activity was reported.
FAR WEST: Temperatures stayed in the high 80s and low 90s. Conditions were overcast, and rain showers covered most of the district. Heavy rains caused standing water in ditches and low-lying areas. Rainfall ranged from zero to 3 inches. Rains improved range conditions, and rangeland grasses were growing rapidly and turning green. Late-planted sorghum crops were experiencing sugarcane aphid activity. Supplemental feeding of livestock and wildlife continued.
WEST CENTRAL: Weather was fair with hot, humid days. Some scattered showers were reported in a few areas. Soil moisture was good. Field preparations for fall planting were underway. Some early winter wheat and oats were planted for grazing. Producers were starting to cut and bale their third cutting of hay on Bermuda pastures.
Cotton was in mostly good condition following recent rains. Bolls were beginning to open and defoliation will begin soon. Sorghum and corn harvest was near completion after delays by rain. Range and pasture conditions continued to improve. Growing conditions were good to excellent due to warm days following recent rains.
Stock tanks were full from runoff. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. The cattle market was struggling as prices continued to drop. Pecan crops were slowed by hot, dry summer conditions.
SOUTHEAST: Rainfall was isolated. Some areas received 3-4 inches while others received about 1 inch. Pastures still remain saturated in certain areas; however, producers and farmers are able to get into their fields and harvest crops. Soil moisture levels throughout the region ranged widely from adequate to surplus, with mostly adequate ratings.
In Chambers County, there was still rice to harvest. Most remaining rice was organic.
Spotty showers continued to slow cotton harvests in Fort Bend County. Some producers were able to start defoliating and have made minor progress harvesting. Livestock were in good condition, and hay producers could use some dry weather to catch up on cutting and baling. Fields were currently being planted. Fall armyworms caused damage in pastures and hayfields, and pastures were infested with weeds. Producers were treating for armyworms.
SOUTHWEST: Pastures and fields were in good condition due to recent rainfall. Corn harvests neared completion, and fall wheat fields were being prepared. Available forages were increasing due to recent rains which were followed by sunny days. Some areas had cotton harvests delayed due to wet conditions. Livestock were in good condition, and white-tailed bucks were cleaning their horns.
SOUTH: Scattered rainfall occurred throughout the district delivering 0.2-3 inches. Conditions were dry in some areas, and moisture levels declined in others. Crops across Atascosa County looked good. More cotton was being defoliated, and some fields were being harvested. Rains delayed harvesting in some areas. Producers reported yield losses of up to 300 pounds of lint per acre due to the rains and delayed harvest.
Peanut producers were beginning to dig up peanuts. Hay was being harvested in large amounts. Fall armyworm activity was observed and could become a problem for improved pastures and hayfields. Some producers sprayed for armyworms. Calving was in full swing. Range and pastures looked fair to excellent throughout the district. Farmers prepared land to plant oats and to get crops plowed under. Body condition scores on cattle remained good to excellent.
Overall soil moisture conditions remained 50-100 percent adequate throughout the district. Wildlife populations of deer, dove, quail and turkey remained excellent. Some producers began planting oats, and some early spinach producers prepared field beds for planting. Pecan quality and yields were expected to be good as a result of rainfall across the county earlier in the season.