In early August, in near 100-degree heat, Larry Lambert and his grandson, Noah, cut hay near Weston, north of Dallas. (Texas AgriLife Extension Service photo by Robert Burns)
Texas Business reports: COLLEGE STATION – Only about 12 percent of the state remained drought-free as hot, dry weather patterns of late summer set in, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor and Texas AgriLife Extension Service reports.
And it was getting hotter. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 15 high-temperature records in Texas were broken on Aug. 13 alone. All NOAA stations have records going back at least 30 years.
At 110 degrees, Brown County, southeast of Abilene, had the highest record-breaking temperature on that day, according to NOAA.
Fisher County, northwest of Abilene, and Baylor County, west of Wichita Falls, came in a close seconds at 109 degrees. Dallas and Fort Worth also had record-breaking days in the last week, with recorded temperatures as high as 108 and 109 degrees.
Hardeman County, northwest of Wichita Falls, may not have shown up on NOAA’s records, but Steven Sparkman, AgriLife Extension agent there, reported the area has had “near-record heat” during the last couple of weeks, with four straight 112-degree days.
The heat has been hard on already stressed crops. All dryland cotton has been abandoned in Hardeman County, according to Sparkman, as well as a quarter of the irrigated cotton.
In Glasscock County, east of Odessa, AgriLife Extension agent Rebel Royall reported “irrigated cotton continued to look pretty good. However, as the intense heat continued with no moisture from rain the amount of underground water dwindled. Pastures are starting to suffer as well, but most are still somewhat green.”
In Collin County, north of Dallas, AgriLife Extension agent Rick Maxwell said the past two weeks of 100-degree heat and strong, dry southerly winds took a toll on pastures.
The heat was apparently good for the corn harvest, with some 100-bushel-per acre yields on a few of the better fields, Maxwell said.
“It appears the overall yield average will be above the norm of about 70 bushels per acre,” he said. “Hay supplies are above average for the year thus far, but if rain doesn’t come soon, producers may have to start feeding hay early.”
And though East Texas is better off than most of the state, it remained hot and dry there too.
“Continued daily temperatures of 100-plus degrees have begun to dry out the county, which benefited from an abnormally wet July,” said Jamie Sugg, AgriLife Extension agent for Nacogdoches County.
District reporters compiled the following summaries for the 12 extension districts:
Central: A few counties reported rain, but most weren’t so lucky. Irrigated crops still looked good, but many dryland crops had failed. Weather conditions remain extremely hot with temperatures climbing above 100 degrees all week. Corn and grain sorghum yields were good. Farmers who had grain storage were holding back as much of their harvests as possible to take advantage of higher prices. Rangeland was quickly drying up. Beef producers remained hesitant to re-stock herds. The hay harvest was over. Stocker cattle operators were preparing to plant winter grazing.
Coastal Bend: Temperatures were above normal with no significant rainfall. The cotton harvest was nearly completed and producers were shredding stubble. Many farmers were tilling fields for fall planting, hoping rains would come soon. The pecan crop was in good condition. Many oaks and other tree species continued to decline and die off as a result of last year’s drought. Luckier hay producers were finishing a second cutting. Cattle remained in fair condition with continued supplemental feeding of protein and hay.
East: A few counties had scattered showers, with some getting 0.5 inch to 2 inches of rain. However, most counties did not receive any rain, and hot and dry conditions prevailed. Creek and pond levels dropped. Pastures were drying out and showed little or no growth. Grasshoppers and armyworms continued to be problems. Cattle remained in good condition. Producers sold market-ready calves and cull cows. Feral hog activity slowed. The spring vegetable harvest was almost finished. Watermelon, blueberry and blackberry growers continued harvesting.
Far West: Highs this week were in the 100s, with lows in the mid to low 70s. Some counties received rain, from spotty showers to as much as 1 inch in Upton County, but the heat and lack of rain took a toll on much of the region. Many pastures and rangeland were turning yellow or brown. Cotton continued to suffer from lack of moisture. While irrigated cotton looked better than dryland, the intense heat continued and underground water was dwindling . Ward County reported its cotton was growing and looking good. Alfalfa fields were browning and beginning to die in some areas. Producers were still providing cattle with supplemental feed and were weaning early in hope of improving cows’ body conditions so they can be re-bred.
North: Soil moisture was short to adequate as weather remained hot and very dry. Pastures were beginning to turn brown. Hay stocks were about average for August, but without rain soon, producers feared they might have to start feeding hay early. Dryland corn and soybeans were in good to fair condition. The sorghum harvest neared completion, but there were no yield reports yet. Grasshoppers and feral hogs remained a problem in some areas. Livestock were in good condition.
Panhandle: The region continued to be hot and dry. Soil moisture levels were short to very short. Corn was mostly in fair condition. Soybeans were in fair to good condition. Cotton was very poor to good, with most counties reporting fair to good. Irrigated crops looked good where water was plentiful, but irrigators were pressed trying to keep up with crop demands. Rangeland and pastures were in very poor to good condition, with most reporting very poor to poor.
Rolling Plains: The region had record-breaking heat during the last couple of weeks with some areas reporting four straight 112-degree days. Cattle producers reported poor rangeland conditions and short hay supplies. Some ranchers were weighing the option of selling off more cattle or buying feed and hay. Some were already supplementing cattle with range cubes weekly along with hay. Stock tanks were getting low. In Hardeman County all dryland cotton was abandoned, as was about 25 percent of the irrigated cotton. Irrigated cotton was generally losing yield potential quickly. Many irrigated cotton producers had wells drying up. Peanut producers were having similar problems with irrigation. In some areas, farmers were trying to prepare fields for sowing fall wheat. Grass fires were plaguing Palo Pinto County again. The pecan crop was heavy, but it was questionable if nuts will fill. The peach harvest wound down.
South: Hot, dry and windy weather continued. With no rain and high evaporation rates, soil-moisture levels declined to short to very short. Some livestock water tanks had slightly improved after the rains a few weeks ago but were quickly dropping as the temperatures continued to rise. Rangeland and pasture conditions were also deteriorating with temperatures in the high 90s to above 100 degrees. Dry forage posed high wildfire risk, and was deterring livestock producers from feeding supplemental feed. Hay remained very expensive. Cattle body-condition scores were fair, and producers were only lightly culling herds. The grain sorghum and corn harvests were complete or nearly complete in many areas. In Atascosa County, peanuts were progressing well. In Frio County, cotton was opening bolls, and peanuts under irrigation were pegging. In Jim Wells County, cotton was maturing, though crop-insurance adjusters zeroed-out several fields. Most vegetables in Maverick County were harvested. In Zavala County, corn and sorghum producers reported good to excellent yields. Also in that area, cotton under irrigation was progressing well. In Hidalgo County, cotton defoliation continued. In Starr County, growers were getting ready to harvest cotton.
South Plains: Most of the region remained hot and very dry. High temperatures were in the mid to upper 90s. Lubbock County had a few isolated, scattered showers, with accumulations ranging from a trace to 0.3 inch. Producers with irrigation were struggling to keep up with crops’ water demands. Most cotton was now in cutout — the stage of growth prior to boll opening. Producers were spraying weeds. Grain sorghum was in the vegetative to grain-fill stage. Sunflowers were maturing and filling seed kernels. Rangeland and pastures were in fair to good condition depending on whether they received rain in the last few weeks. Livestock were in mostly fair to good condition.
Southeast: There were scattered showers in some areas. The grain sorghum harvest of late-planted fields was ongoing. Most cotton was defoliated. Recent hay yields were good to very good.
Southwest: Landscapes were stressed by heat and dry weather. The corn and grain sorghum harvests began. Cotton looked good.
West Central: A few areas reported scattered showers, but generally, the region continued to be extremely hot and dry. Farmers were preparing fields for fall wheat planting. Insect problems were ongoing in some areas. All crops were under heat and moisture stress. The corn and sorghum harvests were nearly finished. Some producers were still cutting and baling hay, but most hay fields needed more moisture to produce another cutting. Producers who were irrigating were having a hard time keeping up with crops’ water demands. Irrigated cotton fields looked good. Dryland cotton was blooming and setting bolls. Rangeland and pastures were in poor condition and declining. There was very little forage and grass for grazing. Stock-tank water levels dropped further. Livestock remained in good condition under continued supplemental feeding. Most livestock producers were feeding protein and hay. Pecans were in good condition, but some trees were dropping nuts due to heat stress.