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Agriculture Today

Most of the state winners because of tropical storm rain

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Robert Burns
October 2, 2013 | 3,882 views | Post a comment

COLLEGE STATION -- There are always winners and losers from storm systems in Texas; the week of Sept. 16, practically everyone in agriculture won, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomist.

In that time, most of the state received much-needed rain as Hurricane Ingrid and Tropical Storm Manuel pushed moisture northward from Mexico and the Gulf, improving agricultural prospects throughout the state, said Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension agronomist and Texas A&M University soil and crop sciences associate department head.

“And with this tropical storm system, it was particularly effective because we had a cold front pushing in from the north and holding the moisture there,” he said. “If you look at a map of the rainfall, there was a line from the Big Bend area all the way to Texarkana and south, where the cold front hit the Gulf moisture and dumped a lot of rain.”

Practically everyone got some rain. Some got only a trace, but receiving 3-4 inches was common, with 6 inches not that uncommon, according to National Weather Service records. Some areas along the coast got 10 inches or more.

Some areas got considerably less, according to the weather service and AgriLife Extension county agent weekly reports. In the South Plains and parts of West Texas, amounts varied from a trace to 1 inch, but that was welcomed too. In East Texas, while many counties got 6 inches or considerably more, San Augustine County reported it had gone 56 days without rain.

There were few downsides to the rain, other than some delay of cotton harvesting in the Coastal Bend and Blacklands areas. But even then, most of the cotton was already harvested, Miller said.

The moisture was a great boon on many fronts. In the northern parts of the state, it will help finish cotton, he said. And throughout Texas, it will greatly improve the prospects for planting of winter wheat and other forages for winter pasture. The added moisture should also be a big help to winter vegetables in South Texas and the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

For many livestock producers who have been cautious about rebuilding herds up from historical lows despite high market prices, the September rains would no doubt promote optimism, Miller noted.

But he warned that as good as the rains are, historically, it’s no guarantee the drought cycle is broken.

“Last year, we had a rain on Sept. 29, then no rain until Christmas, and (consequently) we had no winter pasture,” he said. “This year will be analogous to that if we don’t see weather patterns develop to give more moisture.”

However, the tropical storm and hurricane season isn’t technically over until November, Miller said, which gives reason to continue to be optimistic, though cautiously so.

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported most of the region received 1.5 to 6 inches of rain with cooler temperatures. Armyworms continued to be a problem in some areas. Producers were planting winter wheat and oats. Cotton remained in good condition. Rangeland and pastures improved. As a result of improved forages, the decline in livestock condition slowed, with the possibility of improvement in the coming weeks.

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Coastal Bend District, including Karnes County, reported substantial rains improved soil-moisture levels, but made harvesting of remaining cotton difficult. However, the harvest was nearly completed before the rain. Some producers were either preparing ground for planting oats for winter grazing -- or had already planted. Livestock producers continued supplemental feeding of hay in some areas. Rangeland and pasture conditions were described as “dismal at best” in some areas. However, if rains continued to come, winter pastures, wheat, and oats most likely will improve.

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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