While recent rains have provided a needed respite for agricultural producers in some parts of Texas, the majority of producers did not benefit and continue to hope for more, according to Texas A&M AgriLife experts and others.
“There has been a patchwork of rain throughout the state recently,” said John Nielsen-Gammon, Ph.D., state climatologist in the College of Geosciences Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University. “Some rains in North Central and South Texas have improved prospects for agricultural production, but it’s been very dry overall in most of the state.”
Nielsen-Gammon said thunderstorms in the High Plains area provided some relief for producers, while the area from San Angelo to Abilene in West Texas was mostly dry with below-normal rainfall. He also noted there had been little to no rain throughout most of the Panhandle.
“The system that came through recently may be the last big weather system we see for a while,” he said. “There may be some storms in West Texas in the near future, but then you can expect it to get hotter and drier.”
Recent rains help some areas of Texas
The Coastal Bend area, especially around Corpus Christi, has also continued to be unusually dry.
“Much of the Coastal Bend area missed the recent rains,” said Corpus Christi-based Joshua McGinty, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialist in field crops and forages in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences.
“The Alice area received anywhere from 0.5 to over 3 inches of rain, but most of the area closer to the coast only got a few hundredths of an inch,” he said. “The persistent high wind the last few weeks is just further drying us out.”
McGinty said cotton crops around the Corpus Christi area are mostly dry-planted and waiting on rain.
“Corn and sorghum stands are good, although both are showing signs of moisture stress by mid-morning on most days,” he said.
He also noted much of the Lower Rio Grande Valley received some good rains since late April, but that moisture will only carry the crops for a short while and more will be needed soon.
The recent rains probably had their greatest positive impact in East Texas, said Larry Redmon, Ph.D., associate department head in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences and AgriLife Extension program leader, Bryan-College Station.
“They have greatly helped with forage and hay production in that part of the state,” he said. “But agricultural production anywhere west of I-45 has been generally poor, unless there has been irrigation.”
Redmon said one of the more significant missed opportunities for producers has been in wheat production.
“With what’s happening in Ukraine and Russia, there has been little to no wheat exportation to the U.S. and wheat prices here have been very high,” he said. “But the general lack of rain in the state has kept producers away from planting wheat or has had a negative impact on wheat crops. As a result, many producers have lost out on what could have been a very good opportunity for them.”
Some beneficial rains, but irrigation continues
Ben McKnight, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension state cotton specialist in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, Bryan-College Station, said the rains have brought some good progress to both corn and cotton crops in Williamson and Milam counties.
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“It has also helped cotton crops in Brazos County and surrounding counties,” McKnight said.
“However, I’ve seen some ‘skippy’ fields where some of the stands received adequate moisture and others did not. Even there, the soil moisture appears to have been inconsistent.”
While cotton in the Blackland Prairie area and Texas High Plains still needs rain, he said cotton, corn and sorghum crops in the Brazos Valley area all benefitted from recent rains.
Jourdan Bell, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension agronomy specialist for the High Plains region, Amarillo, said much of the recent rainfall moved through that region very quickly so only a few localized areas received beneficial rain.
“Most irrigated producers were applying pre-irrigation,” she said. “And along with the rain came a lot of hail, some of it up to baseball size, that damaged structures and destroyed a good amount of the wheat crop.”
She said generally the soil moisture profile was poor and soils were badly depleted.
“Even where good rainfall was received, it wasn’t going far with the hot windy days,” Bell said. “Some producers are proceeding with planting irrigated ground, but most are still waiting for more rainfall for dryland planting.”
Larry Stein, Ph.D., horticulturist based at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Uvalde and associate head of the Department of Horticultural Sciences, said rains have been “hit and miss” throughout the Texas Winter Garden region.
“Cotton in this area has come up very well this time around,” he said. “A lot of that was due to our getting adequate rains recently.”
He said spinach, onion and cabbage crop production in the Winter Garden was generally steady but down somewhat from last year.
“The onion bulbs this year were also a little smaller than what we usually see because of the drier-than-normal weather,” Stein explained.
Future chances for rain
Nielsen-Gammon said rain is usually reliable in April, but this year has been unusually dry and those producers who received rain were fortunate.
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“There may be some rainfall in the near future, but unfortunately it will also be hotter, drier and windier across much of the state,” he said. “This will worsen the situation in some of the places that got rain, as they may lose a good bit of it to evaporation. And for the other areas that did not receive adequate rain, the situation will be even worse.”
However, Nielsen-Gammon said there is still the possibility of longer-range prospects for rain, and “you can get into a wet-weather pattern pretty quickly,”
“May and June are typically the wettest months of the year in Texas, so even if we get less than average rainfall over those months, we still may get enough to help with agricultural production,” he said. “Time will tell.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Soil moisture was about 80% short. Overall, rangeland and pasture conditions were about 55% fair. Livestock condition was mostly good. The district received decent rains, with totals from 1-3 inches across the area, and runoff was able to recharge some area stock tanks. Wheat, however, continued to dry down with harvest approaching.
Recent rains and hotter temperatures caused some wheat rust, but crops were past the point of applying a fungicide. Corn continued to look good across the area, and the cotton crop was doing well, with some fields being replanted. Cotton fields ranged from just emerging to as late as the 3-4 true leaf stage. Cattle were in good condition.
While the western part of the district received good rains, a tornado caused damage to homes, barns and farm equipment, and livestock were lost. The Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Vernon had extensive damage, as did Texas A&M AgriLife Foundation Seed. A storm system moved through parts of Baylor County with decent rain but also damaging hail and wind.
Clay, Hardeman, Palo Pinto and Stephens counties reported decent rains, while rainfall almost completely missed King County. In Knox County, high temperatures and winds were quickly curing out wheat and forages. Scattered thunderstorms brought hit-and-miss rains to the rest of the district. Winter wheat was maturing quickly, and cotton planting should start soon. Some cotton farmers were concerned about damaging farm equipment while getting seed into the dry ground. Some wheat hay was baled with about half a bale per acre reported.
Sorghum and corn appeared to have ample moisture in most locations. Calf numbers were looking good and pasture grasses were improving. Winter grasses were providing a little grazing, but were headed out and, once grazed, will be finished. Some wheat was harvested, but the majority of harvestable wheat was lower quality, with the exception of some wheat in the bottom fields.
Overall wheat yields were expected to be low. Sorghum planting in some areas was about a month later than normal. Sudan and hay grazer were planted. Cattle conditions improved, and spring calving was over for most ranchers.
Unseasonably hot weather with strong winds continued to deplete topsoil moisture. All field crops needed moisture. Early planted corn was silking. A considerable amount of cotton failed, but it was too early to know the full extent. Rangeland and pasture conditions worsened, and livestock conditions declined. Producers began to decrease their herds and pulled calves ahead of schedule. Hay supplies were getting low, and supplemental feeding was still necessary. Pecan nut casebearer spraying began.
Drought conditions improved in the district, but more rain was needed. Polk County reported as much as 4 inches of rainfall. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair to good. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were adequate. Cherokee County reported many producers were beginning to cut and bale ryegrass and clover. Fertilizer prices remained a concern. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Wild pigs continued to cause problems for most producers.
Some farmers began planting cotton while others were planning to start in the next few weeks. Other producers planted corn, and it started to emerge. It was extremely dry across most of the district. Many irrigated cotton farmers were cutting back on the number of planted acres with a majority reporting they planned to irrigate 60%-70% of the acres they irrigated last year. Many producers were selling off cattle due to the lack of grazing and higher cattle prices. Most cattle were being supplementally fed, with a few herds grazing irrigated oats or leftover winter wheat.
Overall soil moisture was very short to short. Crop, rangeland and pasture conditions were very poor to poor. The southeastern part of the district suffered damages, including buildings and vehicles, due to large hail and high winds. Crop and livestock losses were also reported. The rest of the district received some light, scattered showers and cooler temperatures before heat and high winds returned.
Wheat was heading, but rain was needed to fill the head with grain. Rangeland was still dormant in most areas, and cattle diets were being supplemented. Most of the area continued to struggle with drought conditions.
Soil moisture was adequate to surplus after the area received some much-needed rain. Crops and pastureland were responding well, and ryegrass in pastures was growing dramatically. Winter wheat was progressing well, and corn looked good. Oats were in fair to good shape, but insect pests in all crops increased, including aphids, stinkbugs and some worms. Spring pastures were in good shape and being used for grazing. Cattle were in good condition.
Temperatures were brutally hot with high winds causing soil moisture to evaporate quickly. More rain and irrigation moisture were evaporating than fields could absorb. There were reports of dead grasses and trees. Aphids were reported. Some hay grazer began to emerge. Corn was beginning to show stress, but melons were holding on as they were just starting to grow. Pastures were generally bare, and cattle were becoming scarce. Livestock were being fed more cubes due to decreased pasture quality.
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Producers continued to feed livestock and wildlife. Kid goats and lambs were being worked. In El Paso County, all Pima cotton was planted as was about 95% of upland cotton. Most cotton emerged or was emerging. Pecan orchards were being fertilized, with zinc applications and granular fertilization at this stage. Irrigation water in the lower valley was limited to City of El Paso effluent water and some lower-quality well water. The Upper Rio Grande Valley was hit by a massive hailstorm, and there was damage to some cotton fields and pecan trees.
Conditions were extremely hot and dry. Some counties received a little ran, but the majority stayed dry. Pastures were starting to turn dormant, and stock tanks were drying up or extremely low. Wheat producers were choosing to bale wheat pastures as they anticipated little grain production and a short hay crop. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued, with most producers culling numbers. Insect pest problems increased. Pecan trees were progressing, but slowly.
Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely from very poor to excellent with good ratings being the most common. Soil moisture levels ranged from very short to adequate with adequate levels being the most common. Temperatures exceeded 100 degrees, and high humidity caused a higher heat index. More favorable weather improved winter wheat growing conditions. Summer forages began to emerge from dormancy.
Chambers County received heavy rain but there was a lot of runoff. Producers were getting close to completing rice planting. Recent rains from 2-5 inches in Madison Country revived grasses. Brazos County also received a good amount of rain. Ryegrass in the region continued to decline due to warmer temperatures and several producers cut and baled remaining stands. Warm-season forages benefitted from the rain and were growing well with no pests reported. Rice was slow to emerge, and grass was growing in many rice fields, but rice had started to grow well.
Rain ranging from about 0.5-2.5 inches in some areas brought some much-needed, but temporary, relief to dryland crops and pastures. Some hail was reported, but it caused very little damage. Temperatures rose, and pasture and rangeland conditions were poor.
Recent rains helped, but soil moisture levels were still low. Some dryland producers destroyed poor stands of grain sorghum. Corn and hay emerged, but hay producers were still struggling to control weeds in Bermuda grass pastures. Markets for sheep and goats were up, and cattle prices remained steady. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued.
The district reported generally hot weather conditions with very short soil moisture levels. Hot, dry and windy weather conditions prevailed, but spotty rains helped some crops develop, though many fields were two to three months behind schedule. Some areas saw beneficial rains for grass and forb development.
Livestock and wildlife body conditions were expected to improve. Irrigated Coastal Bermuda fields were producing good hay bales. Watermelons and cantaloupes were offering some production or in a developing stage. Sporadic rains helped pastures, but producers still relied on supplemental feed and hay. Stock tanks were full. Feral hogs were beginning to encroach into more residential areas and cause damage. Producers were still hauling hay and water.
Fewer cattle were auctioned, but prices remained steady. Topsoil and subsoil conditions improved in spots, as did pasture and rangeland conditions. Ranchers and deer breeders were supplementing their livestock and wildlife. Hay producers were cultivating fields. Hay grain sorghum was being planted. Prices increased for all supplemental feed and hay.
Cotton aphid pressure increased throughout the Rio Grande Valley. There was light sugarcane aphid pressure in grain sorghum and a few armyworms. A few soybean loopers and alfalfa hoppers were found in soybeans and a few earworms were found in non-Bt corn. Sesame in dryland fields had emerged and looked good. Grain sorghum was starting to head, and corn was tasseling.
Irrigation was taking place on most crops. Cotton was beginning to square in the earliest planted fields, and corn had begun to tassel but yields may be low due to lack of moisture. Farmers were irrigating corn and sorghum crops, but some were holding off watering cotton in expectation of irrigation water likely being limited.
Overall, crops were in fair condition, and irrigated pastures were doing well. However, dryland pastures were overgrazed and distressed. Some citrus producers were irrigating their trees and hoping for higher yields this growing season.