As dog days of summer drag on, drier conditions prevail
Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLEGE STATION – Except for a few isolated areas, the entire state received some rain in the last seven days, from barely a trace to as much as 2 inches in parts of the Panhandle and West Central Texas, according to the National Weather Service.
For most, the moisture received was not enough to prevent soils from drying out as the dog days of summer wound down, according to the following reports by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agents throughout the state:
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— Andy Holloway, Hemphill County, northeast of Amarillo: “August heat plus some winds have zapped a lot of the moisture on the topsoil profile we have been enjoying. Pastures that are overgrazed most particularly are getting very dry again. Overall, the summer has been excellent with above average moisture and cooler temperatures for the most part.”
— Bryan Reynolds, Lynn County, south of Lubbock: “Continued hot and dry conditions are stressing the crops. Irrigation systems are operating to try and keep up with water demand. Many cotton fields are starting to cut out and finish up setting bolls because of the heat and lack of moisture.”
— Justin Gilliam, Archer County, south of Wichita Falls: “Hot dry days have really taken a toll on soil moisture. Areas of the county did receive some rain this week but more is needed. Lake levels are still extremely low.”
— Ralph Davis, Kaufman County, east of Dallas: “Hot, dry weather has eroded pasture conditions across the county. Producers are busy getting in the hay harvest. Grasshoppers are still heavy in some areas.”
— Caleb Eaton, Ward County, southwest of Odessa: “Parts of eastern Ward County received up to 0.75 inch of rain. Triple-digit highs continue to plague Ward County, with range conditions deteriorating. Many ranchers are weaning and shipping calves early due to dry conditions.”
— Wade Hibler, Burnet County, northwest of Austin: “Very hot and dry conditions have stopped all hay operations and put our pastures in fire danger.”
— Roy Stanford, Orange County, east of Beaumont: “Dry hot conditions are stressing pastures and timber stands. Pastures that have not been grazed off are in fair condition. Timber die off is more evident in the last 30 days.”
— Austin Kirmer, Uvalde County, west of San Antonio: If drought-like conditions persist, livestock herds will have to be culled back to adapt.”
— Robert Valdez, Zapata County, south of Laredo: “This week, the weather ranged from the high of 106 degrees to a low of 72.”
More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/ .
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Central: The dog days of summer dragged on. Most all forage sorghum was harvested for silage. There was a large population of sugar cane aphids reported in forage sorghum. A second crop of corn and some forage sorghum was planted under irrigation for silage production. Parts of the area remained very dry, with no rain forecast. Livestock were in good condition. Pecan trees were dropping nuts. Corn yields were good, in the 120- to 160-bushels per acre range. In some counties, yields of 200 bushels per acre were reported. Grasses were starting to dry down with continued hot and dry conditions. Hay production slowed considerably. Cotton growers were running irrigation pumps wide open. The grain sorghum harvest was nearly over, with yields ranging from 4,500 to 8,500 pounds per acre.
Coastal Bend: High temperatures continued to dry out soils. Harvests were on schedule. Cotton yields varied widely depending on precipitation and planting dates. Several fields will not be harvested at all, and stalks shredded. Corn yields were good. Rangeland and pastures continued to decline due to the extreme heat and lack of rain. Some hay was being made. Livestock prices remained high at the local markets.
East: Drier weather returned to the region. A few counties reported spotty, light showers, but most counties received no moisture. Temperatures finally reached the upper 90s. Most counties reported topsoil moisture was adequate. Subsoil moisture continued to be adequate in most areas, with only Harrison County reporting mostly short. Spring vegetables neared harvest. Forages were still making excellent growth, and producers continued to cut and bale hay. Armyworms were an ongoing battle for some producers. However, the severity of the armyworm infestations decreased in some areas. Grasshoppers were also active. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Producers were weaning calves, which were selling for premium prices. Horn flies were plentiful. Feral hogs were active.
Far West: Conditions remained hot, dry and muggy, with the exception of Ward County, which got 0.75 inch of rain. Upton County received only a trace. Topsoil and subsoil moisture were mostly rated short to very short. Pastures and rangeland were in fair to very poor condition. Cotton was mostly in fair to poor condition, with all the crop squaring and setting bolls. Corn and sorghum were in fair to good condition.
North: Topsoil moisture varied throughout the region, with most counties reporting adequate levels. Most of the region remained dry, but days were cool for this time of year with highs in the low 90s. The corn and grain sorghum harvests began. Summer pasture grass growth slowed with the dry weather. The hay harvest continued in a few counties. Overall, cattle were in good condition. However, Rockwall County reported the weather had caused noticeable stress to livestock. Armyworms and grasshoppers continued to be problems. Feral hog activity was still high.
Panhandle: Hot weather returned to the region. Some moisture was received near the end of the week, from a trace to 2 inches. Irrigation was active in most areas. Cotton received good heat units, but soil moisture was severely depleted due to hot and dry conditions. Collingsworth County producers continued to contend with high disease and weed pressure. Deaf Smith County producers were busy running pivots, controlling weeds, and applying manure and compost. Many producers were trying to find field workers to hoe pigweed in fields where herbicides failed. The corn crop was coming along well. With reduced water inputs this year, the harvest should be profitable. Hansford County producers cut off water to corn that was going to be cut for silage. Some have cut off water for early corn. Wheeler County cotton was showing signs of moisture stress, but irrigated cotton looked good. Rangeland and pastures continued to improve after earlier rains. Cattle were in good condition. Horn flies continued to be a problem. Deaf Smith County producers had to dramatically increase spraying for southwestern corn borer and spider mites. The main insect problem was grasshoppers. Their numbers increased to biblical proportions in some areas. Producers were applying pesticides in hopes to control them in crops and rangeland.
Rolling Plains: Hot, dry conditions persisted, and lake levels remained extremely low. Pastures and native rangeland were currently in fair condition, but declining and in need of moisture. Livestock were in good condition. Most stock tanks needed runoff water. Cotton was in fair to good condition with need of soil moisture, but was benefiting from the extra heat units received. Sudan hay was being cut with good yields reported. Grasshoppers were still a problem in most pastures and hayfields. Wheat pastures were being prepared for planting.
South: In the northern part of the district, extremely hot temperatures took a toll on rangeland and pastures. Crops, though, were doing well with the help of irrigation. Atascosa County corn, cotton and peanuts were all in good condition. In Frio County, corn harvesting was nearly finished, and the harvesting of grain sorghum began. McMullen County reported several trucks with hay being shipped in the county due to poor pasture conditions. Stock tank water levels in small and shallow tanks throughout the county were completely dry, and cattle remained in low to fair condition. Soil moisture conditions were short. In the eastern part of the district, there were a few scattered showers but not enough to help with range and pasture conditions. Corn and hay were being provided to livestock and wildlife to offset the lack of good grazing. In Jim Wells County, cotton harvesting began and progressed well throughout the week. Soil moisture conditions throughout the area were mostly adequate. In the western part of the district, triple-digit temperatures continued. Soil moisture ranged from largely adequate to 100 percent short. A high of 106 degrees was reported in Zapata County. Crop producers continued preparing soil for next season’s crops. Producers continued applying irrigation water to cotton, pecans and sunflowers. The corn and sorghum harvests were completed. Native rangeland and pastures remained in mostly fair condition. In the southern part of the region, cotton harvesting continued, with excellent yields reported. Producers were pre-watering for fall plantings of vegetable and row crops. The grain sorghum harvest was completed in Willacy County, with yields way above average. Soil moisture ranged from very short to adequate.
South Plains: High temperatures across the region generally remained in the 90s, with lows dipping into the upper 60s. Some counties reported rain, from 0.25 to 0.5 inch. Crosby County received hail with the rain, but damage estimates were not in yet. The warmer temperatures helped cotton catch up on development and white flower count. Cotton development ranged from a very good boll load on irrigated fields to premature cutout on dryland fields. Some late-planted sorghum fields were headed out, and late-planted corn was tasseling. Early corn was in full dent, and late-planted sunflowers were blooming. Rangeland and pastures were showing signs of stress due to no rain. Native grasses were starting to mature, but additional rain was needed for the grasses to have higher protein. Cattle were mostly in good condition. Adult grasshopper numbers were increasing in Swisher County fields, as well as fall armyworms. The latter caused some cosmetic damage to grain sorghum. Corn producers are finishing up the last irrigation.
Southeast: Soil moisture was mostly in the adequate to short range, with Galveston County reporting 100 percent very short, and Hardin County 100 percent adequate. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely too, from excellent to poor, with good ratings being the most common. In Brazoria County, the sorghum harvest was completed, with good yields reported. Hay producers continue to cut and bale, with good yields and quality grass. The corn harvest began in some counties. Livestock still remained in good condition. In Chambers County, the rice harvest will be in full swing this next week. Weather should be favorable for harvest with a few Gulf showers for the southern parts of the county.
West Central: Days were extremely hot and dry with warm nights. A few areas reported scattered showers early in the week. Soil moisture was critically low. Wildfire danger became a concern again, and burn bans were reinstated in some counties. Irrigated cotton looked good, and some dryland was in good condition too, but could use a rain. The corn harvest was underway, with fair yields being reported. Row crops continued to suffer from moisture stress. Field preparation for fall planting began. Small grain farmers will begin fertilizing this week. Producers were cutting and baling hay in all areas. Grasses looked good for August, and another hay cutting was expected. Some were taking a second cutting of coastal Bermuda grass hay. Most haygrazer crops will only get one cutting and then will be grazed out. Rangeland and pastures were in fair shape in areas that recently received rain. Grasshoppers continued to be a problem in many areas. Livestock remained in good condition. Livestock producers who had good pasture conditions were buying stocker calves. Stock tank water levels continue to decline.