Drought recedes, but conditions still dicey in some Texas regions
By Robert Burns
COLLEGE STATION -- The drought continued to recede with less than 14 percent of the state rated as being in an exceptional or extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor and Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.
Farmers’ optimism rose in many areas as soil-moisture levels improved, making the harvesting of hay possible, improving pastures and rangeland, and bettering the chances for spring plantings to be successful.
“Winter wheat and oats have been harvested with less than outstanding results that have been attributed to dry conditions at planting,” said J.D. Folbre, AgriLife Extension agent for Karnes County, southeast of San Antonio. “However, a crop was made, and we are in better shape than last year at this time so many producers have a positive outlook. Range and pasture conditions are improving but effects of the drought will take one to two consecutive years of average to above-average rainfall to overcome the effects.”
But in other areas, particularly parts of the Rolling Plains and South Plains, despite a partial rollback of the drought, the outlook for some crops remained dire.
For example, Ryan Martin, AgriLife Extension agent for Motley County in the Rolling Plains, reported conditions were becoming dry again.
“Pastures are beginning to play out with little to no grazing left for cattle,” Martin said. “If nothing changes within the next few weeks, farmers are afraid they will be in the same shape as they were in last year. Soil moisture is minimal to 24 inches deep, and it’s not enough to plant or support summer grasses.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries for May 15-21:
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported most counties received rain, with amounts varying widely, from 1 inch to 8 inches. The rain, plus below-normal daytime temperatures, greatly benefited field crops and pastures. Stock tanks were replenished in many areas.
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Coastal Bend District, including Karnes County, reported the region received rain with high winds. There were reports of a few tornadoes, but most rain fell in a slow and gentle fashion, giving the area a nice soaking. Most corn was in the silk stage and looking good. Grain sorghum was in varying stages of development, with only about 30 percent of the entire crop headed. Cotton was still very immature, needing warmer weather to begin to grow well. The winter wheat and oat harvests were finished with less than outstanding yields because of dry conditions at planting. However, most farmers were glad to have made a crop at all, feeling they were in a lot better shape than last year at this time. Sunflowers were in full bloom, and some sesame was planted. Pastures looked good, but the growth of some warm-season grasses slowed by competition from cool-season forages.
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the South District, including Atascosa County, reported heavy rains and persistent showers throughout the region helped rangeland, pastures, and many crops. Soil moisture was 100 percent adequate in the northern part of the region. Stock-tank water levels rose in areas where there was rain runoff. Cattle remained in good to fair condition, and cattle prices were high. Livestock producers were only having to supply supplemental feed at minimum levels due to improved range and pasture conditions. Atascosa County farmers began to plant peanuts.
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.