Winter Garden vegetable irrigation outlook OK; farmers remain optomistic
COLLEGE STATION -- While Hurricane Ingrid has been a terrible, destructive houseguest in eastern Mexico, Texas Winter Garden growers would have welcomed her with open arms, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulturist.
Most years, hurricanes and tropical storms are a mixed blessing to South Texas, but this year, with reservoirs critically low, heavy rains could have made a big difference, said Dr. Larry Stein, AgriLife Extension horticulturist of Uvalde.
One of the leading producers of irrigated winter vegetables in the United States, the Winter Garden area has been particularly hard hit by the long-standing Texas drought, he said.
While Winter Garden vegetable farmers remain optimistic about this year’s crop despite the drought, the hope was Hurricane Ingrid would turn north and bring in moisture from the Gulf to replenish water levels, Stein said.
“We actually got a little bit of moisture,” he said. “It’s been spotty showers, and it’s been more so to the south of Uvalde and west of San Antonio. We’re hopeful we’ll get a little more later in the week.”
However, a little rain, though welcomed, is not going to turn things around. Many rivers have stopped running, and though the Edwards Aquifer still has “pretty good water,” regional farmers are facing stage 3 or stage 5 drought restrictions, depending upon where they’re located, according to Stein.
“Others are pumping out of the Carrizo Sands and that seems to be holding. And there are a few other wells that are also holding,” he said.
“As far as the outlook goes, it’s not good, but it looks like we’re going to have water to plant some crops starting in October,” he said. “There has been cabbage planted back in late July, the cooler weather has helped, and the brief showers have helped a bit too. We’re okay, but we need help.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported though there were scattered showers, dry conditions continued. Some rain brought localized relief, though armyworms were a concern after the showers. Fall corn was tasseling. Farmers were harvesting cotton and finishing harvesting other row crops. Burn bans were still in effect in some counties.
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Coastal Bend District, including Karnes County, reported rain in much of the district stopped cotton and sesame harvesting. In areas that did not receive rain, harvesting continued and preparations for fall planting began. Pastures were improving where there was rain.
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the South District, including Atascosa County, reported soil-moisture levels continued to be short to very short throughout the region. A few counties reported adequate soil-moisture conditions. More rain was needed to fill livestock stock tanks. Livestock supplemental feeding was still active throughout most of the region, though it was light in some counties such as Webb and Zavala. Rangeland and pastures improved in many parts of the region due to frequent showers. Cattle body condition scores remained fair. Atascosa County growers were harvesting cotton while peanuts neared maturity.
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.