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Agriculture Today

Frequent rains help crops, but Texas drought perseveres

Frequent rains help crops, but Texas drought perseveres
Graphic courtesy of the NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE During the last 30 days, Texas rainfall ranged from 4 to 8 inches — with instances of 10 inches reported.

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Robert Burns
July 31, 2013
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COLLEGE STATION -- All of the state received rain during the last seven days, from 1 inch to 2 inches in most locations, according to the National Weather Service.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service county agent reports indicated there were instances of 6 inches -- or even 10 inches -- but according to weather service records, amounts more than 4 inches were extremely isolated events.

The good news came from the South Plains, Rolling Plains, and Panhandle regions where the rains fell slow and steady, allowing the moisture to soak into soils and replenish soil profiles rather than run off.

The rain came too late in many areas to save dryland crops such as cotton, but it did come just in time for High Plains corn that was tasseling, allowing irrigators to let wells rest for a few days. The rain also quickly greened up pastures and rangeland and made another cutting of hay a possibility.

In the Central and Northern regions, where the drought hasn’t been so severe, the rains mainly improved crop yield-potentials.

Most Coastal Bend counties that border the Gulf Coast and were under extreme drought conditions on July 16 received from 1 inch to 2 inches.

The rains created a few minor problems along with the benefits. For example, Corrie Bowen, AgriLife Extension agent for Wharton County, southwest of Houston, noted that the rains, from 1 inch or less, not only slowed corn harvesting but caused some seed sprouting.

The rains of the last week continued the wetter-weather trend that started about 30 days ago. According to the weather service, many parts of the state have received totals of 4 to 8 inches or even more during the last month.

Despite the rains, drought still reigns in Texas. According to the July 16 U.S. Drought Monitor, more than 94 percent of the state remained under moderate to extreme drought conditions.

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries for the week of July 16-22:

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported the region received from 1 inch to 6 inches of rain, though days continued to be hot and humid. Despite the rain, pastures and rangeland showed severe signs of drought stress. Cattle feeding slowed.

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Coastal Bend District, including Karnes County, reported much-needed rain brought relief from the heat and drought. The rain halted the corn harvest for a couple of days. The rain may have come in time to benefit cotton and sesame. Soybeans were filling pods. Pastures showed some improvement, but ponds remained low or dry in many areas. Livestock producers were still feeding, with some having to buy hay.

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the South District, including Atascosa County, reported scattered and isolated showers occurred in the northern, eastern and western parts of the region, slightly improving soil-moisture levels, as well as rangeland and pasture conditions. Soil-moisture levels were mostly short to very short in the in the eastern and western parts of the region, short to very short in the southern parts of the region, and 80 percent short to 100 percent adequate in the eastern parts of the region. Supplemental feeding declined throughout the region due to improvement of pastures that have received frequent though light rains. Crops were also looking good in Atascosa County where corn-harvesting preparations were under way.

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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