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Rains rescue reservoirs; bail out small grains
Rains rescue reservoirs; bail out small grains   | colsta_bry_txbz, Travis Miller, rain,

Rain clouds moving over Texas pastures.

Texas Business reports:  COLLEGE STATION – Practically the entire state got at least 1 inch of rain during the last week of September to Oct. 1, with many regions getting as much as 9 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

At least 80 percent of the state got at least 1 inch of rain, according to Travis Miller, associate department head and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service program leader in the Texas A&M University soil and crop sciences department.

“The downside, somewhat, was that it was too late to benefit some cotton in the field, and if it was ready to harvest, we may have some quality issues,” he said. “But overall, it was a major ‘upside.’ We had almost none of our wheat crop up, though there was quite a bit dusted-in (planted on dry ground), and this will get it up.”

Getting winter wheat emerged was a major benefit not just for those who will harvest it for grain, but for those who graze cattle on it and harvest it for hay, Miller said.

The Far West, West Central and South Plains regions were the greatest beneficiaries, he said. Because of the drought, the area had very little, if any hay stocks going into the winter, and the prospect of winter grazing will mean they will likely be able to carry remaining cattle through the winter.

“It didn’t get out much in the El Paso area, but the Midland, Odessa area and over to Abilene and south to San Angelo got a tremendous rain, up to 10 inches or more,” Miller said.

This means a lot of other cool-season forages will be planted as well, he said. And it’s even a benefit for those cotton growers who disastered-out their cotton earlier. Insurance policies allow them to plant another crop, usually wheat, after the cotton crop is destroyed, the moisture will now make a good crop possible. Current prices for wheat make it an attractive prospect, even if the cotton farmer doesn’t have cattle to feed.

The rains were also good news for many small towns and rural communities as reservoirs they relied upon for drinking water were at historically low levels because of the drought. For example, Twin Buttes reservoir, that serves San Angelo, gained 8 feet soon after the rains, according to Steve Byrns, AgriLife Extension communications specialist, San Angelo.

O.C. Fisher, another reservoir at San Angelo, was completely dry before the rains, but gained 6.5 feet, Byrns said. Water levels of other reservoirs in the region rose just as dramatically.

“The O.H. Ivie Reservoir, reportedly gained 16 feet, and the E.V. Spence, which has gotten so much press in the last year, rose 22 feet — this was a shocker,” Byrns said.

The water levels of all reservoirs could be further raised by continued run-off, he noted.

District reporters compiled the following summaries for the 12 extension districts:

Central: Substantial rain, from 3 to 5 inches, during the last of September was expected to greatly benefit winter wheat and help finish late cotton. Irrigated cotton yielded as much as 2.5 bales per acre, while dryland cotton averaged half a bale per acre. Pecans were doing well. Early winter wheat emerged. Many hay producers were taking their final cutting for the year. Armyworms were damaging crops and coastal Bermuda grass fields in some areas.

East: Parts of the region received as much as 9 inches of rain, which greatly improved soil-moisture ratings. The slow and steady rains raised many creeks and ponds up to normal levels. Most hay producers finished their third or fourth cutting, and surplus hay supplies were becoming common. Most winter forages were planted before the rains. Livestock were in good condition, and producers were weaning, culling and vaccinating cattle herds. Reports of feral hog damage continued to increase in some areas.

Far West: Highs were in the mid- to upper-80s, with lows in the mid-60s. Much-needed rainfall was received in many areas, from as little as 0.5 inch to as much as 5 inches. Farmers prepared to harvest cotton. Brewster County reported rangeland grasses were rapidly growing, with most headed out. In Glasscock County, growers were defoliating dryland cotton this week, with the harvest expected to start soon. In El Paso County, Pawnee pecans were 10 percent harvested with the Western variety still at the end of the filling stage. In Winkler County, pastures were providing more than adequate grazing for the limited number of cattle remaining. The body condition of cattle was improving there, and many stockers were being shipped. Some ranchers began weaning and backgrounding calves and palpating cows.

North: The region remained hot and dry for most of the week, with soil moisture short to adequate. However, some counties got a good slow rain during the weekend of Sept. 29-30. Cotton harvesting wound down, and farmers were preparing fields for planting winter grains. Hay producers continued to cut and bale late-season hay. Hay supplies were much better than last year. Grasshopper populations were still high in some areas, and feral hogs continued to be a problem. Pond levels remained low.

Panhandle: Most of the area received some rain, from a trace to more than 5 inches in isolated areas. Soil-moisture levels varied from very short to surplus, with most counties reporting short. The rain caused a temporary halt to the corn harvest in some areas. Cotton was mostly in fair condition. Winter-wheat planting was ongoing, with earlier plantings up and in good shape. Cattle were in fair to good condition.

Rolling Plains: Conditions remained favorable for much of the region with cool, wet weather. Rainfall ranged from 0.5 inch to 5 inches, which greatly benefited pastures and late-planted cotton. Some farmers had planted winter wheat right before the rains, while others planted soon after. Livestock were in good condition thanks to the improved grazing. Late-planted cotton was in fair to good condition. Early planted cotton had burned up over the summer and was disastered-out for insurance. Producers are hoping for a late frost. The peanut harvest started about five to 10 days earlier than usual and was going strong. Irrigated peanut yields were expected to be from 3,000 to 4,000 pounds per acre. Some early pecan varieties began shuck split.

South: Parts of the region received rain. Atascosa County reported 2.6 to 4 inches; McMullen County, 2.5 to 5 inches; and Maverick County, 1 inch. Several other counties got only light, scattered showers. Soil-moisture conditions were mostly short to very short throughout the region. The exceptions were Atascosa and Frio counties, with 100 percent adequate levels; Duval and Maverick counties, with 40 percent adequate; and Willacy County with 70 percent adequate. Pastures and rangeland in many areas improved, but still showed heavy damage from the drought. Heavily grazed areas were not expected to recover before winter. Wheat and oats were being planted in many areas. In Atascosa and Frio counties, peanuts were progressing well. In Zavala County, cotton gins were running at full capacity, and cabbage crops were in good shape. In Cameron County, farmers were irrigating and preparing fields for planting spring crops. In Hidalgo County, sugarcane harvesting began, and the early citrus harvest and fall vegetable planting were ongoing.

South Plains: A cold front brought rain, some hail, high winds and thunderstorms. Accumulations ranged from 0.4 inch to 2 inches. Floyd County reported some damage to cotton. In Bailey County, the corn and silage harvests were ongoing, and cotton, grain sorghum and peanuts continued to mature. Hockley County had some hail and wind damage. Lubbock County also had some wind damage. About 5 percent of Lubbock County cotton was harvested, with the grain sorghum and sunflower harvests continuing as weather and field conditions allowed. Lynn County wheat emerged and was doing well after the rain. The cotton harvest there was expected to begin within two weeks. Scurry County reported about 1 inch of rain, which will start cool-season grasses growing.

Southeast: Many counties reported continued hot and dry conditions. In Montgomery County, producers were planting winter pastures. In Orange County, the dry weather allowed producers to harvest hay.

Southwest: Much-needed rain fell throughout the region, and fall temperatures replaced the hot days of summer. Rangeland and pastures began to improve. Sheep and goats grazed cool-season forbs. Cattle still needed supplemental feed and hay. Farmers were planting oats and ryegrass for winter grazing. Fall corn made good progress. The cotton harvest was nearly complete.

West Central: Days were warm and nights cool. Most counties saw heavy rains, from 1 inch to 9 inches, over the weekend of Sept. 29-30. Early fall planting was in full swing but slowed by the rains. Wheat planting was expected to resume as soon as fields dried out. The rains may make a late hay cutting possible. Overall, hay production has been short for the year. Rangeland and pasture conditions were also expected to improve with recent rains. Livestock remained in good condition, with ranchers increasing supplemental feeding. Stock-tank levels rose because of runoff from the heavy rains. The pecan harvest was under way.