Texas is emerging from one of the hottest, driest summers on record, but the long-term forecast suggests winter and spring will be wet, according to the state climatologist.
Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon in College Station said statewide temperatures from May through August were the third hottest on record. This summer was also drier, with precipitation levels more than 2.5 inches below average for the state, ranking this year as the 29th driest on record.
But that could change soon, Nielsen-Gammon said.
Nielsen-Gammon said long-term forecasts call for El Niño weather patterns through winter and spring. El Niño weather patterns typically mean above-average rainfall, especially for southern parts of Texas.
“September is already off to a good start,” he said. “It’s not good for cotton producers, but much of the state has received moisture in the last few weeks.”
Nielsen-Gammon said 5-15 inches of rain had fallen between Del Rio and San Antonio in the past week and that much of Central Texas picked up 2 inches or more during that same time with forecasts calling for more precipitation to follow.
“It looks like wet tropical patterns will contribute more moisture,” he said. “It also looks like things may be drying out a little following the rains, but Texas can expect more consistent rain into the fall, winter and spring as the El Niño patterns strengthen.”
Whether warmer or colder temperatures will accompany the El Niño pattern is a toss-up, Nielsen-Gammon said. While cooler temperatures typically accompany precipitation, factors associated with climate change will mitigate the overall effect of those weather events.
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“At this point, it looks like equal chances of above- and below-average temperatures,” he said.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
CENTRAL: Most counties received some excellent soaking rainfall. Rains allowed producers to turn off irrigation systems, and pastures and hay meadows were greening up. Producers hoped to get an October hay cutting due to the rain. Grain and cotton harvest continued. Producers began to think about planting oats for some early grazing. Most counties reported good soil moisture. Overall crop, rangeland and pasture conditions were good.
ROLLING PLAINS: Areas in the district received up to 5 inches of rainfall. Rangeland and pasture forage growth improved with rains. Cotton varied across the district, with some counties reporting poor fields while others were seeing good potential. Some producers took advantage of the soil moisture to start planting winter wheat for grazing. There were several reports of armyworms in pastures.
COASTAL BEND: Scattered showers were reported. Although rainfall was not excessive, daily rainfall stalled harvests of rice, cotton, soybeans and hay. Hay producers continued to fight armyworm populations by monitoring and spraying when warranted. Some hay and cattle producers applied fertilizer in anticipation of rain. Sale barns were expected to start fall runs of weaned cattle soon.
EAST: Scattered showers helped with the dry conditions, but ponds and creeks continued to go dry. The rains helped pastures and hay fields turn green and grow. Houston County reported producers were hopeful for a third hay cutting. Producers in Smith and Trinity counties continued the search for hay. Pasture and rangeland conditions were poor.
Harrison County producers started putting out hay and supplements. Marion County reported producers were forced to feed hay and grain to livestock. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were short to very short throughout the district. Gregg County cattle prices were up a bit. Harrison County reported quite a few cows were headed to market. Shelby County cattle prices were down at sale barns.
Armyworm infestations continued to be a problem for many producers in Cherokee, Houston, Trinity and Angelina counties. Fly numbers and wild pig activity continued to be high in Henderson County, and wild pigs were also a problem in Trinity and Wood counties.
SOUTH PLAINS: Counties received light showers to 4 inches of rain, which improved the subsoil and topsoil moisture levels. Irrigated cotton looked great. Other counties still needed more rain, and it would be too late for cotton this year. Producers were starting to plant winter wheat and hay grazer. Producers also continued to manage pests and weeds to finish out fall crops. Pasture and rangeland remained in fair condition. Cattle were in good condition.
PANHANDLE: Conditions were hot and windy with near-normal temperatures. Week’s end brought cooler temperatures and some moisture to most of the district. Rainfall at the end of this reporting period was expected to help reduce drought pressure on crops and forages. Rain amounts ranged from a trace to 1.5 inches. Soil moisture conditions were excellent and irrigation ceased on all summer crops in some areas. More moisture was needed throughout the district.
Drought conditions persisted in Briscoe County. Cooler weather conditions were beneficial for crops, forages and livestock. The corn crop was maturing well with some early planted fields well into the dent stage. There were scattered fields of late-planted corn that had just pollinated, and pivots were running hard and fast. Irrigated cotton fields were looking good and maturing ahead of schedule with ample heat units.
Cooler conditions could possibly affect cotton growth and development. Winter wheat was planted including some dryland acres. Sugarcane aphids were a problem in sorghum in Lipscomb County. Rangeland conditions were very good. Cattle were performing well.
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NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels ranged from mostly adequate to short across most counties. Some counties experienced measurable rainfall from 1 inch to around 5 inches while other counties reported light rains and very little improvement in topsoil moisture. Hay was still in short supply, but recent rains brought expectations that conditions would improve. Soybeans and cotton were looking good. Livestock were in good condition. Armyworms were reported in some counties but caused little damage so far. Feral hogs were becoming active.
FAR WEST: Temperatures were in the low 100s with lows in the 60s. Rainfall averaged 1-6 inches. Recent rains improved soil moisture conditions, but most dryland cotton failed prior to precipitation. Producers began to plant winter wheat in earnest. Livestock and wildlife continued to receive supplemental feed. Fire danger was expected to be a concern as fall nears.
WEST CENTRAL: Heavy rains fell on much of the district during the week. Rainfall amounts ranged from 1-7 inches in isolated areas, with most areas receiving 1-2.5 inches. Cotton fields were in mostly fair condition. Some insect pressure was reported, with producers anticipating increased pest populations following recent rains. A few wheat acres were planted before the rains. Many other producers expected to start planting when conditions dry enough to enter fields.
Armyworm presence was being reported in various areas. Producers were concerned about larger outbreaks of the pest. Rangeland, pasture and forage crops improved with rains. Watering tanks also improved. Cattle demand was very strong with stocker steers selling $5 per head higher and stocker heifers $2 higher. Feeder steers and feeder heifers were $3-$4 higher while pairs and bred cows were $50-$75 higher. Bull and packer cow prices were steady.
SOUTHEAST: Counties received scattered rains with some areas received heavy rains. Some counties reported 1-2 inches of rainfall. Galveston County experienced heavy rains, and there was standing water in many areas. Walker County received a scattered rain shower, which helped moisture levels.
The rice crop was progressing, and very little rice was sold to date. Mills and storage facilities were not able to ship rice out. Due to these circumstances, there were limited places to go with rice from the field. Many farmers with rice left were having to truck green rice as far as 150 miles. The rain also brought mosquitos which caused problems for livestock, but livestock were in good condition.
Cotton yields varied from three-quarters of a bales per acre to 3 bales per acre, depending on planting time, soil conditions and rains. Recent rains slowed harvest and were expected to negatively affect grades. Grasses were responding to increased rainfall. Pastures appeared to be in good condition. Livestock were in good health throughout the district. Rangeland and pasture ratings were excellent to poor with good ratings being most common. Soil moisture levels ranged from adequate to short with adequate being most common.
SOUTHWEST: Much needed rain fell throughout the counties. Rangeland and pasture conditions were expected to respond positively. Springs, rivers and tanks were full. Livestock and wildlife were expected to benefit from recent rains.
SOUTH: Northern and western parts of the district reported wet weather conditions with soil moisture increasing to adequate levels. Eastern and southern parts of the district reported wet weather, but soil moisture levels remained short to very short. Rain amounts ranged from 2-12 inches for the reporting period in wetter areas and traces to 2 inches in drier areas. More rainfall was in the forecast.
Some flooding possibly affecting crops was reported in some areas. Producers were monitoring crops, water gaps and fences. Temperatures were milder. Cotton harvest was halted due to rain, and peanut fields continued to develop in good condition. Pasture and rangeland conditions were improving with recent rainfall, and livestock supplemental feeding was reduced or halted in some areas but continued in others.
Body condition scores on cattle remained fair to poor. Some areas reported tank water levels improved significantly while levels remained low in drier areas. Some producers continued to haul water. In Live Oak County, all crops were harvested with corn and sorghum yields about 60 percent of average, and average to slightly above-average cotton yields. Oat planting was delayed due to wet conditions. Seedbed preparation and spinach, cabbage and wheat plantings were expected to resume once field conditions allow.
Extremely hot temperatures and high humidity followed rains in some areas. U.S. Department of Agriculture met to discuss excessive rainfall received in some areas that caused yield losses of up to 30 percent in black-eyed peas, China peas, grain sorghum and watermelons.