Though an improvement over last year, many ponds and stock tanks remain low or completely dry. (Texas AgriLife Extension Service photo by Robert Burns)
Texas Business reports: COLLEGE STATION – According to National Weather Service records, large areas of the state have received 100 percent or more of normal rainfall since Jan. 1. Many other areas have gotten 50 to 75 percent of normal.
The precipitation statistics aside, much of Texas still suffered from drought conditions, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel. Of concern to many are low pond and stock-tank levels. Conditions often vary county to county within a region.
For example, though most of East Texas is officially out of the drought, there are still pockets of abnormally dry weather.
According to the service, Marion County has received about 75 percent of normal rainfall for the year, but you couldn’t tell it by local conditions, said Brock Fry, AgriLife Extension agent for Marion County, northeast of Longview. Many ponds there are dry or down about 6 feet, creating issues for livestock producers, even though herd inventories are down by about 50 percent.
Rocky Vinson, AgriLife Extension agent for Shackelford County, north of Abilene, reported about 3 inches of rain fell there in the last week. Though the rain helped the soil moisture situation, stock tanks remained very low.
West of Fort Worth, Stephens County also received some much-needed rain this week, from 0.5 to 1 inch, but conditions are so dry, much more rain is needed to fill tanks, ponds and lakes to standard levels, according to Leslie Neve, AgriLife Extension agent for Stephens County.
From South Texas, George Gonzales, AgriLife Extension agent for Webb County, reported high temperatures there continued to run in the 100-degree-plus range last week, and evaporation rates were very high. Most ponds remained completely dry or were about to go completely dry. Webb County has had 50 to 75 percent of normal rainfall for the year, according to the weather service.
There’s a simple reason ponds and reservoirs remain low in many areas despite considerable rainfall this year, said John Nielsen-Gammon, state climatologist and Regents professor at Texas A&M University.
Soils are so dry deep down and soak up any rain received before it can runoff to fill ponds and reservoirs, he said.
AgriLife Extension reporters compiled the following summaries for the 12 service districts:
Central: Native rangeland remained in poor condition from last year’s drought. Some areas received significant rains, from 2 to 4 inches, but there was little runoff. Temperatures became more moderate. Harvesting of sunflowers, corn, milo and soybeans wound down, while the cotton harvest was just beginning. Corn yields averaged just over 100 bushels per acre, and grain sorghum yields were 3,900 to 4,500 pounds per acre. Sunflower yields were better than expected. Where rain was received, warm-season grasses responded. Producers expected to be able to take another cutting of coastal Bermuda grass before the year is out. Where they fertilized and controlled weeds, they may be able to take two more cuttings. Pecans were looking good.>/P>
Coastal Bend: During the last three weeks, no rain and temperatures in the upper 90s to above 100 degrees temperatures brought down soil-moisture levels. There were isolated showers in some counties, but not enough to make a difference in soil-moisture conditions. The corn and grain sorghum harvests were completed, and the cotton harvest was nearly finished. Early maturing pecan varieties such as Kanza and Pawnee were looking good prior to harvest. There were some reports of limb breakage from heavy nut loads.
East: Dry conditions were the general rule, with some counties reporting cooler-than-normal temperatures. Rainfall was sporadic, with only a few counties getting moisture. Burn bans were in place in several counties. Armyworms and grasshoppers continued to trouble hay producers. Most pasture growth slowed because of lack of moisture. Some producers were preparing fields for planting winter forages. Livestock remained in good condition, with calves being weaned and sold.
Far West: Highs were in the mid to upper 90s, and lows in the upper 60s and lower 70s. Soil moisture was far below average for this time of year due to the drought. Irrigated hay crops looked good with more moderate temperatures. Light rains and cooler temperatures in Martin County led to a slight increase in soil moisture, but row crops and rangeland remained in very poor condition. Culberson County received from a trace to more than 1 inch of rain. Andrews County reported small parts of their county showed green forage. Lehman lovegrass was tall and green in Crane County. Green pastures were very spotty with grasses headed out and curing. In El Paso County, pecan nuts were beginning to fill, alfalfa growers were taking a fifth cutting, and cotton neared the cut-off stage. In Presidio County, supplemental feeding of livestock and wildlife continued.
North: Rain rejuvenated pastures, and brought soil-moisture levels into the adequate range. Producers were preparing fields for fall plantings. Hay production on summer grasses was at an all-time high. The corn and grain sorghum harvests neared completion, with good to excellent yields. There were some reports of armyworms. Livestock were in good condition.
Panhandle: Scattered and spotty showers fell throughout the week, providing a little relief to drought conditions, but many of the storms were accompanied by hail and high winds. Irrigators were still watering in an effort to finish up the corn crop and prepare fields for early planted wheat. The silage harvest was in full swing in some areas and coming to an end in others. Corn-mite pressure continued to be high, and producers were spraying pesticides. Fall armyworms were feeding on corn ears in some areas. Irrigated sorghum was doing well, but dryland fields had not had enough moisture. Cotton was in mixed condition, from very good to very poor. Pastures have been overgrazed, leaving very little grass available.
Rolling Plains: The weather turned cooler and wetter. Some areas received from 0.5 inch to as much as 6 inches of rain. Although the rains were beginning to turn pastures green, they were too late in coming for producers who had already shipped cattle off. Although parts of the region received several inches of rain, the area remained in a drought. A large percentage of cotton either played out or was disastered-out by crop insurance adjusters early due to the drought. What was left didn’t look very good. Some cotton began shedding bolls after the rain, and producers worried the boll loss would continue. The rains reduced the threat of wildfires, and wheat producers were considering planting. Peanut producers continued to expect average and above-average yields. Pecans also benefited greatly from the moisture. Weed pressure in rangeland and pastures was above normal.
South: Soil-moisture levels were mostly very short, except for Atascosa County, which reported 100-percent adequate levels. Hot temperatures, 90 to 100 degrees and above, continued to dry out rangeland, pastures and stock ponds. Some stock tanks were completely dry. Poor rangeland and pasture conditions forced livestock producers to continue to provide supplemental feed to their livestock. McMullen County producers were weaning calves early so as not to have to further reduce herds. In Atascosa County, the cotton harvest continued, peanuts were progressing well and late-planted corn looked good. In Frio County, the cotton harvest began, peanut crops continued to develop, and producers harvested some hay. In Jim Wells County, row-crop harvesting was nearly complete, with many producers plowing under acres of failed crops. In Maverick County, hay producers continued harvesting coastal Bermuda grass for hay. Also in that area, producers were preparing fields for fall planting. In Zavala County, the cotton harvest was very active after the crop responded well to defoliation. Cotton yields on irrigated fields in that area were good to excellent. In Cameron and Hidalgo counties, the cotton harvest was winding down, while it was ongoing in Starr County.
South Plains: Temperatures in the region were more moderate, with highs in the mid- to upper 90s and lows in the upper 60s to low 70s. Several counties got rain. All of Lubbock County received rain, with amounts varying from 0.5 inch to about 1.6 inches, which brought above-average total rain for August. Several other counties reported scattered light rains, with Cochran County getting some hail damage. Cotton, peanuts and milo continued to mature. Dryland was opening bolls and moisture-stressed in some areas. Some severely stressed fields will not be harvested; insurance adjusters were scheduled to evaluate fields in mid-September. Some forage sorghum producers were cutting and baling. Rangeland and pastures were in poor to good condition and still needed rain. Livestock were in mostly fair to good condition.
Southwest: Some areas received from 0.5 inch to 2 inches of rain, but overall, hot, dry conditions prevailed. The rains were not enough to improve pastures very much. Water-use restrictions and burn bans were in effect in some counties. Livestock conditions remained steady or were declining, depending upon the county. The corn and grain sorghum harvests neared completion with producers reporting modest yields. Cotton growers began defoliating and harvesting. Some producers were preparing fields for planting wheat and oats.
West Central: The weather was cloudy and windy, with temperatures below 100 degrees all week. Many counties reported scattered showers, which will help cotton mature, but soil-moisture levels remained poor in most areas. Most cotton continued to be irrigated. The hay harvest was complete for the most part, though more rain could mean another cutting for some. Farmers were preparing fields for fall planting. Rangeland and pastures continued to decline and show moisture stress. Stock tanks remained very low. Pecans were in good condition.