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Agriculture Today

The ‘D-word’ is being whispered in parts of Texas, shouted in others

The ‘D-word’ is being whispered in parts of Texas, shouted in others
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May 9, 2012
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By Robert Burns

COLLEGE STATION -- Though the overall percentage of the state under moderate to extreme drought has continually dropped since September 2011, producers are beginning to worry that 2012 could be a repeat performance, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

In many areas, drought recovery continued, according to this week’s reports by AgriLife Extension county agents. Producers were harvesting winter forages and small grains for hay to replace hay stocks depleted in 2011. Corn was being planted. Cotton farmers were either preparing to or starting planting, and farm ponds and stock tanks were filling up.

These signs of recovery, however, were confined mostly to the eastern half of the state, according to the reports and the U.S. Drought Monitor. Draw an imaginary line from Wichita Falls through Fort Worth and south to Houston, and every county west of that line continued to suffer one stage of drought or another. Large swaths of far West Texas have yet to come out of the extreme drought that started in 2011.

And even in counties where there has been substantial rains, there was concern that the reprieve will be short-lived.

“That ‘D’ word -- drought -- is being whispered in many corners around the county,” said David Winkler, AgriLife Extension agent for Bosque County, southwest of Fort Worth. “No one wants to say it out loud, but it is in the back of our minds as we watch plants on shallow soils turn brown from lack of water. It has been 30 days since our last significant rain event.”

“It is looking like Bermuda grass was damaged in the drought and stands will be affected after winter growth is removed,” said Randy Reeves, AgriLife Extension agent for Harrison County, north of Longview. “Conditions are getting dry again; most of the rain that we received last week and the week before was north of here.”

“Temps hit 100 -- 104 on Wednesday -- this week and it’s only April!” said Arlan Gentry, AgriLife Extension agent for Ward County, north of Fort Stockton. “Mesquite and weeds are only green stuff in pastures. All grass is old, dead, dormant, dry, etc. The drought is still here. Producers are still feeding what few cattle are left in the county.”

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries for April 23-30:

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported higher-than-normal temperatures and windy conditions caused shallow soils to dry out and crack. Winter weeds were burning up, and there did not appear to be much grass left in pastures. These conditions were once again putting pressure on livestock producers to find forage for cattle. Livestock remained in good condition. Most well-managed hay pastures were cut for the first time, but yields were low and weedy, and quality poor. Many field crops were maturing ahead of schedule due to the warmer temperatures and earlier precipitation. However, some crops were starting to show signs of drought stress. Forage sorghum and haygrazer planted early in March were about 3 feet tall and were expected to yield some good hay. However, these crops were stressed as well and in need of moisture.

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Coastal Bend District, including Karnes County, reported the lack of rain and above-normal temperatures in April caused soil moisture levels to become short. Pecan growers were spraying for nut case-bearer early this year. Crops in the western part of district were very moisture stressed.

Robert Burns has nearly 30 years’ experience writing about agriculture and agricultural-related research. He writes about Texas AgriLife Research and Texas AgriLife Extension Service activities at the Overton Center and centers in Stephenville and Temple.

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