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Agriculture Today

Drought recedes a little

Drought recedes a little

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Robert Burns
June 11, 2014
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COLLEGE STATION -- The drought may be far from gone, but from all indications it has been pushed back somewhat in the last couple of weeks, according to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and other sources.

The National Weather Service’s precipitation analysis shows all but extreme South Texas and Far West Texas received 1-6 inches and more of rain in the past two weeks. In some isolated instances, the rainfall totals were 10 inches or more.

About half the state remains in severe to exceptional drought, according to the May 29 U.S. Drought Monitor report, but the percentage under exceptional drought conditions dropped from 25 percent to about 11 percent since May 20. Extreme drought percentages dropped about 8 percent.

Though the recent rains as well as moisture received during the last six months have been helpful to agriculture, they haven’t done much to replenish water reservoirs, according to Dr. Guy Fipps, AgriLife Extension irrigation engineer, College Station.

“In the watersheds where we have the most critical shortages, such as the Colorado River, we didn’t get much relief,” Fipps said. “In the last weather pattern, the counties that got the heaviest rains are closer to the Gulf. Unfortunately, in those areas the runoff doesn’t go to any major reservoirs. Most of the reservoirs depend on rainfall in West Texas, the Hill Country, or Northwest Texas.”

According to the Texas Water Development Board, the state’s reservoirs, taken as a whole, are about 67 percent full. But this average is skewed by many large reservoirs east of Interstate 45 being 80 to 100 percent at capacity. West of I-45, it’s a different picture, with most reservoirs being nearly empty or at critically low levels.

Other than imposing water-use restrictions, there’s not much these communities can do but cross their fingers and hope for rain soon, Fipps said. But it’s unlikely they will see relief anytime soon.

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries for May 27 through June 2:

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported the region received from 4-6 inches of rain, which heavily saturated topsoils, but greatly improved pastures and rangeland. Medina Lake levels rose an estimated 5-6 feet, with some reports of flash flooding in the Hill Country.

Early variety peaches were being harvested, with the harvesting of later varieties expected to begin in the next couple of weeks. Irrigated cotton and grain sorghum were planted. Winter wheat and oats were mostly harvested, but the harvesting of the last fields was delayed due to saturated soils. Stock-water tanks caught a lot of water, and livestock conditions remained fair to good throughout the region.

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Coastal Bend District, including Karnes County, reported from 1-9 inches of rain fell across the region. Row crops responded very well to the moisture.

However, some cotton was drowned out and needed to be replanted. Approximately 200 acres of cropland suffered some hail damage. Fieldwork has stopped temporarily due to wet conditions in some areas. Some cotton fields had standing water, but cotton will tolerate standing water in rows better than grain crops. The biggest impact to cotton was expected to be from delays in making insecticide and herbicide applications. Sunflowers were being sprayed for head moth and were in full bloom. Much of sorghum was heading, and some was starting to color. Much of the crop has been sprayed for sugarcane aphid, but major infestations were only observed in a few fields. Cotton and corn were in good condition with some producers spraying cotton for fleahoppers where field conditions permitted.

Warm-season grasses were growing due to all the moisture and rising temperatures. Rangeland and pastures continued to improve, but for those areas that received little rain, more moisture will be needed soon for improvement to continue. Many stock tanks were full, though some were only at 50 percent capacity.

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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