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Rain helps, but exceptional drought still the rule here
Nearly all of the state received rain during the last two weeks, but even where the rains were substantial, the drought was far from over, according to an Oct. 18 Texas AgriLife Extension Service press release.
Since early October, the Rolling Plains, Central, and North regions received the most rain, with accumulations of 6 inches and more, with 2 to 3 inches common, according to the National Weather Service’s daily precipitation analysis. San Antonio and surrounding counties received 2 inches or more. With a few exceptions, the rest of the state received from a trace to about 2 inches.
Where the rains were substantial, the agricultural benefits were great, replenishing livestock water tanks and ponds, and encouraging farmers to plant winter forages and prepare fields for fall planting.
However, the general consensus from AgriLife Extension county agents was that much more rain is needed to sustain winter crops.
“Most of the county received 1 inch to 2 inches of rain this week,” said Steven Sparkman, AgriLife Extension agent in Hardeman County, northwest of Wichita Falls. “This is the first rain in a year, measuring over an inch at one time for most of the county. Wheat producers will wait several days for volunteer wheat and weeds to come up then spray to kill it and plant the 2012 wheat crop. ... This rain was nice, but leaves us about 18 inches below normal.”
“After a good rain this past weekend, farmers are firing up tractors and grain drills to get wheat planting under way,” said Justin Gilliam, AgriLife Extension agent in Archer County, south of Wichita Falls. “While some farmers are having to replant, most are just now putting seed in the ground. Tanks and streams are all at least half full, while some are overflowing.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported the district received from 0.5 inch to 6 inches of rain, but pastures remained barren and dryland farming operations were still at a standstill. Livestock producers continued to reduce herds as forage was in short supply. Cooler nighttime temperatures prevailed.
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Coastal Bend District, including Karnes County, reported a few areas received 2 to 4 inches of rain, but the drought continued. Producers were skeptical about planting winter annuals such as wheat, oats, and ryegrass unless additional moisture is received. As grass was scarce and hay hard to find, livestock producers continued to sell cattle or feed supplements. Some farmers were light plowing. Most counties needed an additional 6 to 8 inches of rain to bring subsoil moisture to adequate levels. Most farm ponds were still empty or nearly so.
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the South District, including Atascosa County, reported some counties received rain, greening up rangeland and pastures, but overall there was not enough to improve soil-moisture levels. Soil moisture remained very short throughout most counties. The exceptions were Atascosa and Zapata counties, where they were reported as being adequate because of rains a couple of weeks ago. Webb, Dimmit, and Zapata counties reported from 1.5 to 5 inches. Although some stock tanks were partially filled by runoff, lack of water remained a concern for most ranchers. Hay was still in short supply, and livestock producers continued culling herds.
Compiled from Texas A&M University and Texas AgriLife Extension Service reports.
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