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Agriculture Today

Texas crop, forage production ‘pretty much shut down’

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May 18, 2011 | 3,594 views | Post a comment

Crop and forage production has “pretty much shut down” due to severe to exceptional drought conditions, said a Texas AgriLife Extension Service statewide crop expert in a May 10 press release.

“If you look at the U.S. drought monitor, about 26 percent of the state of Texas is an exceptional drought,” said Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension program leader and associate department head of the soil and crop sciences department, College Station.

“Exceptional” means it is a one-in-50-year occurrence, Miller explained.

Much of the rest of the state was in what’s classified as moderate, severe, or extreme drought. The distinctions are being based largely on how much damage and losses are expected to crops, forage production, livestock, and water sources, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor classification scheme.

There were scattered pockets -- mainly in North Central Texas -- that got some substantial rain a few weeks ago, Miller noted.

“But statewide, it’s a pretty grim picture,” he said. “And it’s not just Texas; it’s New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and parts of Arkansas. It’s an exceptional drought across a big area.”

Corn along the Gulf Coast is stunted and tasselling early, Miller said. “It’s in a lot of trouble.”

Blacklands/Central Texas corn, though planted later, is in much the same shape, he said.

“We’re seeing leaves twisting (from heat/moisture stress) by midday,” he said.

Much of the Texas wheat crop has failed as well, Miller said.

“Probably in the order of 50 to 60 percent of the wheat crop won’t be harvested,” he said.

From a national standpoint, Texas is a “minor player” in feed grains, he said. But Texas typically plants about half the cotton acreage in the United States, so a large-scale crop failure there could have an impact on prices, Miller said.

Cotton is typically planted later than corn, and cotton growers ran into dry soil conditions as the planting window opened. As a result, Miller said, a very small percentage of the total cotton crop, less than 20 percent, has been planted to date.

More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/.

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported some areas received rain, but overall the region remained very dry. Oct. 1 through April 30 was the driest period on record, the region only getting about 10 percent of the long-term average cumulative rainfall for the period. The region remained on red-alert status as unseasonably hot temperatures, dry forages, and high, dry winds continued to trigger roadside and field fires. San Antonio was still in Stage I water rationing, and authorities were considering moving it into Stage II. Uvalde banned daylight-landscape irrigation. Irrigated spring wheat was drying down. Most dryland wheat and oats, as well as most other dryland spring crops, had failed. Irrigated corn, sorghum, peanuts, sunflower and cotton, fruits, nuts, sod, watermelons, green beans, potatoes, sweet corn, and nursery crops made good progress under heavy irrigation. Pastures and rangeland grasses remained dormant due to drought conditions. Forage availability was below average, and livestock that had not been sold required supplemental feed.

Compiled from Texas A&M University and Texas AgriLife Extension Service reports.

Download drought map below.

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