Above-average temperatures and dry conditions across Texas could be a sign of things to come this summer, said the state climatologist.
Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, College Station, said he is concerned arid conditions could be prevalent through the summer following the warmest winter on record and a relatively dry spring with above-average temperatures.
March temperatures averaged 6 degrees higher than normal, he said. Cool spells in the first half of May have reduced average temperatures for the spring months, but the season was still 2-3 degrees warmer than usual.
Recent weather patterns around most of the state have also delivered very little moisture, Nielsen-Gammon said. The combination of dry, windy conditions and warmer temperatures could be the precursor to a long, hot summer.
“If dry conditions continue and soil moisture isn’t replenished, we could get into drought relatively quickly,” he said.
Nielsen-Gammon said summertime forecasts are difficult to predict as the jet stream moves further north. But dry springs typically lead to above-average summer temperatures. Water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico are also above normal, which could contribute to summertime warmth and humidity.
East Texas received reasonably wet weather this spring, but much of Central and West Texas are drying out rapidly.
“There is rain in the statewide forecast, but not enough to bring things up to normal,” he said.
Good precipitation could be in store for the Panhandle and North Texas over the next two weeks, Nielsen-Gammon said, but time will tell whether those rain events materialize.
The long-term forecast calls for El Nino conditions to arrive this winter, which could bring wetter-than-normal patterns, but it would be too late for dryland farmers, Nielsen-Gammon said. The lack of spring and summer rains and higher temperatures could also mean surface water, including ponds, would dry out faster.
“So far it’s been a dry May,” he said. “That could be a bit of a problem going into the summer months.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
CENTRAL: Very little to no measurable rainfall, and soil moisture was decreasing. High winds continued. A lack of rain caused corn and sorghum to suffer along with pasture and rangeland conditions. Some wheat harvests started, and cotton planting was ongoing. Some Bermudagrass hay cuttings started, and oat harvesting was steady. Ryegrass pastures were headed out and still offering some grazing for livestock.
Numerous summer storm systems produced damaging winds, hail, and tornadoes. Cattle and other livestock were in good shape. The cattle market was still holding steady. Stocker operators were nearly finished moving cattle off wheat and oat fields. Tanks were still full. Most counties reported good soil moisture. Overall rangeland, pasture and crop conditions were good.
ROLLING PLAINS: Conditions were hot, dry and windy. No rain was reported, and temperatures were in the high 80s. The windy dry conditions were making fire risks higher. Rangeland and pastures were in good condition. Soil moisture was drying out. Field crops and pastures were beginning to stress due to lack of moisture.
Wheat harvests began in some counties and will continue to increase over the next week as the crop rapidly matures. Early reports were that grain size was small, and seed heads were not filled out. Supplementing pastures with hay began on a small percentage of farms. Producers were planting Sudan. Milo was planted, but rain was needed soon.
COASTAL BEND: A good rain would be beneficial. Weather conditions were dry, and crops were beginning to show signs of stress with soil moisture conditions becoming critically low. Corn and grain sorghum yields were poised to be above average. Wheat and oat harvests should start soon. Cotton crops were squaring in many fields.
Pasture herbicide applications continued as weather permitted. Growers were scouting for sugarcane aphids which continued to pose a threat to grain sorghum. Some insecticide applications were applied. Pastures were beginning to dry and change colors. Available forages were declining. Livestock remained in good condition.
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EAST: Rainfall around the region was scattered. Some areas of Gregg County received heavy rain while only trace amounts were received in Shelby County. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were adequate. Ponds and creeks were full in Cherokee County. Pasture and rangeland conditions were mostly fair to good. Rusk and Gregg counties reported excellent conditions.
Shelby County had poor conditions. Weed control was underway in several counties. Hay production was in full swing in Cherokee County. Producers in Smith County worked around the storms as they entered the area. Most of the hay was winter forage mixed with warm-season grasses. Cool nightly temperatures slowed warm-season grass growth. Jasper County was behind on hay cutting, and winter wheat was in very poor condition.
Wild pig activity remained high in Cherokee County hay meadows and pastures and continued to be a problem in Shelby County. Farmers were beginning to harvest onions and potatoes. Producers were getting produce out of their gardens in Marion County. Insect and disease pressure was reported on some plant material, especially turf grass, in Smith County.
Cattle were gaining weight and calves were growing well in Marion County. Prices were about the same as the previous reporting period at the livestock barn in Shelby County. Livestock were doing fair to good in Wood County.
SOUTH PLAINS: Scattered precipitation occurred in some counties while others stayed warm and dry during the reporting period. The 5-day forecast provided a chance of precipitation. Area pastures and rangeland were in fair to good condition and needed moisture. Subsoil and topsoil moistures were short to adequate. Wheat was maturing and turning color. Producers continued to plant cotton with an estimated 15 percent complete. Cattle were in good condition.
PANHANDLE: Conditions were warm and windy. Temperatures were near normal for most of the reporting period. A few areas reported some moisture. Rainfall reports ranged from 0.34-2.5 inches. A good general rain was needed throughout the district. Soil moisture was mostly short to adequate and excellent in areas where significant rain fell.
Corn planting was behind schedule due to wet soil conditions. Dry weather was in the forecast, and planting was expected to resume as fields dry. Cotton planting was expected to start as well. Rangeland was greening up well. Some movement of cattle to pastures was delayed due to wet conditions. Horn flies started to become more numerous. Silage choppers and swathers continued harvesting some wheat fields.
Corn planting was ongoing, but more than 80 percent was planted. Cotton plantings were ongoing, and cotton acres were expected to be up significantly this year. Some producers were planting around the clock, and some were at a standstill due to wet conditions. Grain sorghum planting will be down due to the sugarcane aphid fears.
Forages will still be planted but in small amounts due to the aphids. Some producers were talking about planting millet for forage since it has shown no aphid problems so far. Storms pelted Hall County with golf ball-sized hail that destroyed some wheat acres and caused damage to homes, buildings and vehicles.
Rain helped green up of pastures and increased cattle condition scores. Cotton and peanut planting started and will be in full swing soon. Wheat was harvested or near harvest. Some producers were concerned about some wheat after two freezes.
NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels ranged from mostly adequate to short with a few areas reporting surplus. Daytime temperatures were in the 80s. Some counties received some rain, but most were left dry. Rain was in the forecast. Winds were gusting. Tornadoes ravaged crops, which were still being surveyed for damage. Residents continued cleanup efforts from tornadoes in late April.
Corn was doing well, and most cotton, grain sorghum and soybeans were planted. Winter wheat was maturing and getting close to harvest. Soybeans were doing well. Livestock pastures were also doing well. Cool-season grasses were harvested for hay and yielding well. Cattle prices increased. Livestock were in good condition, and spring-born calves looked nice. Flies were very prevalent on livestock and causing some stress. Wild hogs were still causing damage.
FAR WEST: Temperature highs were in the 90s with lows in the 60s. Precipitation averaged 0.2 of an inch. Dry, windy conditions, with wind gusts averaging 30-50 mph, prevailed. Topsoil moisture was declining quickly, and subsoil moisture was starting to go. A good general rain was needed. A few producers put cotton seed in the ground here and there, but most were holding off for a rain and warmer, more consistent soil temperatures.
Producers continued to prepare for cotton planting. Sorghum and corn were coming along but needed warmer temperatures. Wheat harvests will be here soon. Pastures were drying out quickly with very little green grass left. Some producers began to bale some wheat for hay. Producers continued to feed livestock and wildlife. All sheep marking and shearing was complete.
WEST CENTRAL: Weather conditions were seasonable with warm, dry and windy conditions. Much needed rainfall was reported in some areas. All areas needed more moisture. Soil moisture conditions continued to decline rapidly due to strong, high winds. Fire dangers continued to increase, and burn bans were in effect in most areas.
Wheat was maturing rapidly or was ready for harvest. Wheat harvests started and were in full swing, but there were no reports yet on yields. Producers continued to prepare for cotton planting. A few cotton planters were starting to run on irrigated ground that was pre-watered. Some sorghum and hay was planted but was slow growing due to limited moisture. Most warm-season forages will not be planted until soil moisture improves.
Rangeland and pastures remained in fair to good condition. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Cattle looked good as the summer months begin. Buyer activity and demand was strong in the cattle market. Pecan trees looked good but will need rain soon. Pecans were being sprayed for nut case bearers.
SOUTHEAST: Some scattered rainfall was received, but amounts were very light. The rice planted was growing fast amid warmer temperatures and humidity. There was still a bit of organic rice left to plant. Pastures were drying out. Parts of the district were very dry and other parts that received rain a few weeks ago were starting to dry out, as well.
Grass was not growing very well due to lack of moisture. Livestock were in good condition. Most pastures and field crops needed rain. Soil moisture levels were short to very short. Vegetables were doing well under irrigation. Pastures were changing from cool-season forage production to warm-season.
In Montgomery County, the warm temperatures have caused all winter annuals to finish their growing cycle. Brazos County experienced strong winds and hail. The lack of moisture and the cool evening temperatures slowed the Bermudagrass and Bahia grass growth. Livestock condition remained good.
SOUTHWEST: Conditions were dry, and soil moisture levels declined. Corn looked good while grain sorghum was not good. Rangeland and pastures continued to look good. Irrigation of crops and pastures was done as needed. Some rain was needed. Livestock were doing well.
SOUTH: Conditions were hot, dry and windy with no measurable rainfall. Soil moisture, rangeland and pasture conditions throughout the district were affected by those conditions. Grasses were showing signs of stress, and dry forage could be seen throughout most of the district. Crops were in fair condition but could be better with rain. Wheat harvests were completed while sweet corn and potato harvesting continued.
Corn fields were in the silking stage, and sorghum crops were entering the heading stage. Cotton fields also needed moisture soon or yields might be affected. Peanut planting began, and all fields were under irrigation. Irrigation was applied to cotton, corn, sorghum and cabbage where available. Pasture and rangeland conditions remained fair but were starting to decline due to the lack of good rainfall.
Body condition scores on cattle also declined some, but most herds remained in good condition. The cattle market was picking up with a noticeable price hike. Onion harvests began. Pecan growers were busy applying irrigation. Vegetable and citrus harvests were winding down for the season.