Texas Field Reports: Moisture Levels, Water Availability Looking Mostly Good

    Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Kathleen Phillips

    Moisture levels in most of the state appear adequate or better, but producers in some areas are still hoping for rain.

    Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, state climatologist, College Station, said rain events over the past two weeks delivered quality rains to much of the state, benefitting Texas crops and available surface water.

    Some moisture-stressed areas received measurable rains this past week, but some areas missed out, he said.

    “It seems like the Panhandle missed out on recent rains that were in the forecast,” he said. “There’s been a lot of expansion in that area with regard to unusual dryness.”

    Nielsen-Gammon said June is typically a wet month for the Panhandle, but short-term forecasts for weather patterns across most of the state will bring drier conditions.

    The Texas Water Development Board Water reservoir tracking map showed more than 87 percent of reservoirs monitored by the agency were full. The few reservoirs that were water stressed were located near San Angelo and in the Panhandle.

    Nielsen-Gammon said multiple counties received rains that would relieve concerns, including Young, Stephens and Throckmorton counties. Much of Throckmorton County received more than 8 inches.

    Kloey Cargill, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent, Throckmorton County, said the city of Throckmorton received 10 inches of rain over six hours last week. Areas of town had to be evacuated due to fears that a nearby lake levee might be compromised by the downpour.

    Cargill said the downpour caused some damage to a local Little League baseball field but that there were no reports of livestock losses or damage to producer operations. The rain did fill surface water impoundments in time for summer.

    “It was pretty dry,” she said. “Everyone was praying for rain. We needed moisture because it’s been three months since our last good rain. But there is standing water in a lot of places still, and stock tanks are overflowing.”

    Nielsen-Gammon said the area in and around those three counties averaged 3 inches of rain. But there is still a moisture shortage for the year.

    “Swaths of the southeastern part of the Panhandle, including Cottle and Donley counties, have received 25 percent of their normal rainfall for the past 30 days and 50 percent of their normal rainfall for the past 60 days.”

    Nielsen-Gammon said the South region “had been doing better lately.

    “Brownsville is still dry, but Live Oak County and a lot of places between were helped this past week,” he said.

    In other regions of the state, including East Texas and southeastern portions, rain has provided adequate moisture. Recent rain events over the past two weeks have provided surplus, even detrimental surplus to those regions.

    Reports from East Texas indicate corn field losses in low-lying areas due to standing water.

    “As of late March, Beaumont was running 8 inches below normal for the calendar year,” he said.  “It’s now 1 inch above normal.”

    AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

    CENTRAL: Rainfall was sporadic throughout the district with some areas receiving large amounts of rain while other areas still needed more. Low areas flooded after receiving 3-6 inches of rain. Temperatures were normal. Fields were in quality shape. Field work continued. Most sunflower fields were sprayed for moth head, and wheat harvests were nearly complete.

    There were reports of increased incidents of tree diseases. Producers were making their first cutting of hay. Cotton was planted and was off to a good start. However, storms hailed out small amounts of cotton. Corn fields should be bountiful. Grain sorghum was heading, and sugarcane aphid populations were low.

    Cattle and other livestock were in good condition. Tanks and area rivers were full. All counties reported good soil moisture. Overall crop, rangeland and pasture conditions were good in nearly all counties.

    ROLLING PLAINS: Rain fell across parts of the district with amounts ranging from 0.25 of an inch in one county to 6 inches in another. The wheat harvest was almost complete. Yields ranged from 15 to 60 bushels per acre on dryland. Canola crop yields were less than desirable. Grain sorghum and early planted cotton looked good. Cow/calf operations were doing great with above average grass available and stock tanks filled to the brim.

    COASTAL BEND: Recent rainfall benefited row crops and pastures. Soil moisture conditions were excellent. Corn was in the blister to soft dough stage. Cotton was squaring and starting to bloom. Herbicide applications in pastures continued. Some hay was harvested with relatively low yields.

    EAST: Strong thunderstorms with lightning and heavy rains moved across the district. San Augustine County received 4 to 6 inches of rain. Some areas of Anderson County reported up to 14 inches of rain in the last two reporting periods. Flash flooding occurred in several counties. Too much water in low lying areas hampered corn and cotton crops. Some fields may be lost because of too much water.

    Vegetables from Anderson County were coming to local farmers’ markets with some produce going to Houston, Dallas and Tyler markets. Marion County gardens were producing well. Farmers were still working and harvesting gardens in Smith County. Ponds were full. Pastures and rangeland conditions were good in most counties. Rusk, Marion, and Gregg counties reported excellent conditions.

    Hay meadows and pastures were showing good growth due to the rain and warmer night temperatures. Hay production was in full swing in Cherokee County. Some producers could not cut hay due to rain and saturated pastures. Topsoil and subsoil conditions were mostly adequate with surplus reported in Angelina, Upshur and Gregg counties.

    Weed control was underway in Trinity and Upshur counties. Cattle were in good condition with prices consistent in Shelby County and up quite a bit in Gregg County. Horn flies continued to be a major problem. Wild pigs were active.

    SOUTH PLAINS: Some fields received beneficial rainfall, while many dryland fields were still in desperate need for topsoil moisture. Cotton continued to be slow to emerge due to lack of moisture in many fields.  Some thrip infestations were detected in seedling cotton in Hale County. Producers continued to finish planting and were supplementing with irrigation.

    Wheat harvests were in full swing. Most irrigated corn looked good and was progressing well. Heat unit accumulations were good this reporting period. Some Holcus Leaf Spot was observed in corn in Hale County but should not be of economic significance.  Pastures, rangelands and winter wheat needed moisture. Cattle were in good condition.

    PANHANDLE: Texas Panhandle temperatures were near normal. Warm and windy conditions were reported for most of the region. Some moisture was received in some areas. Amounts ranged from a trace to 4 inches of rain. Soil moisture was short in most areas.  Deaf Smith County producers were running pivots as much as possible.

    Spray rigs were running hard and fast to apply needed herbicides on corn and cotton fields. Cotton plantings were complete with many fields up to at least 2 leaf stage with some at 4 leaf stage. Soil moisture was good to excellent at planting time but conditions dried due to warm, windy days. The wheat crop was very close to harvest.

    Pastures continued to decline, and cattle conditions were expected to decline without rain. Rain was in the forecast. Grass was very green in some areas. Winter wheat looked good. Some wheat fields looked great, but closer inspection revealed there was no wheat in the head, which could be freeze damage.

    NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels ranged from mostly adequate to short with a few counties reporting surplus. Much needed rain fell with amounts ranging from 2-4 inches around the district. The challenge with excess rain and moisture could be preventing fungal development in crops and pasture grasses. Wheat and oat harvests were about 75 percent complete when rains came.

    Corn, soybeans, grain sorghum and cotton looked very good. Small grasshoppers were reported. Livestock pastures were doing well. All winter pastures were harvested for hay. Cattle looked good. Fly numbers were beginning to increase on livestock.

    FAR WEST: Temperature highs were in the 100s with lows in the 50s. Precipitation averaged 0.3 of an inch to 2.5 inches of rain with severe lightning reported. Great progress was made planting cotton, and the soil was now warm enough for emergence. Wheat harvests progressed well with reports of respectable yields.

    Corn and sorghum made good progress with no sugarcane aphids reported in sorghum. Rain was needed on dryland fields and would help irrigated acres. Producers continued to feed livestock and wildlife, and spring/summer branding continued.

    WEST CENTRAL: Weather conditions were very seasonable. Temperatures were above normal, followed by cooler temperatures and rain showers in most areas. Fields were wet, and wheat harvests were delayed but will resume as fields allow. Cotton planting was expected to continue as fields dry. Cotton was emerging in fields planted before the rain.

    Grain sorghum looked very good. Planting will be underway for row crop producers as soon as conditions allow them to access fields. Rangeland and pasture conditions improved. Good rains improved soil moisture levels and grasses should respond favorably and start to green-up and grow. Livestock remained in mostly fair to good condition. Cattle were in good condition due to good grazing conditions. Cattle markets remained steady. Pecan crops were off to a good start.

    SOUTHEAST: Some conventional and organic rice has yet to be planted. Some areas received heavy rains, including 4 inches in one county. Field and pasture conditions were wet. With recent rains, there may not be an opportunity for further planting. Pastures improved with recent rains. Livestock were in good condition. Soil-moisture levels throughout the district ranged from adequate to surplus with most reporting surplus.

    SOUTHWEST: Good rains were reported. Rangelands and pastures were recovering from a dry period, and new growth developed quickly. Rains received ranged from 0.25 of an inch to 3 inches. Rains should enhance grazing in to the summer. Some farmers received hail damage to corn, cotton and sorghum. Pecan trees were light and minimal spraying occurred due to the light crop. Livestock and wildlife continued in good condition.

    SOUTH: Temperatures were mild throughout the district with just about every county reporting good amounts of rainfall, and improving rangeland, pasture and soil moisture conditions. Peanut planting was in full swing. Potatoes and sweet corn continued to be harvested.  Early-planted cotton in Frio County was entering the squaring stage. Corn was starting to mature and sorghum was in the heading stage.

    Most pastures and rangelands were in fair condition but many areas needed moisture. Scattered rainfall in northern portions of the district over the past two reporting periods amounted to 2-4 inches. Eastern portions of the district received 4-5 inches on average. Western portions of the district received between 0.50 of an inch to 3.5 inches. Rainfall amounts in southern portions of the district amounted to 1-2.5 inches.

    Body condition scores on cattle remained fair. Good pasture conditions and rain events in some areas also led to an increase in live cattle prices. Some stock tanks were in need of replenishing rainfall. Coastal Bermuda grass fields were producing good hay bales, but most of the fields were irrigated. Other crops like onions, watermelons and cantaloupes were also showing good signs of growth in response to the rain.

    The rainfall kept wheat harvesters in Zavala County at bay but provided valuable moisture for dryland sorghum and corn crops. Irrigation activities were also stopped by the abundance and surplus of subsoil and surface moisture. No supplemental feeding was reported in Zavala county. Cotton, corn and cucumbers all made good progress in Zavala County.

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