State climatologist: Say goodbye to the rain for a while
Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, email@example.com
COLLEGE STATION – Tired of it always raining? You’re in luck; the rains will likely cease for the rest of July.
“I think you can say goodbye to the rain for a while,” said Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, state climatologist, College Station. “We’re entering a dry spell, and it looks like the second half of July is going to be quite dry. Many parts of the state may not see a single drop of rain.”
According to weekly reports from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service county agents across the state, most producers will welcome the drier weather. As of July 12, the somewhat drier weather had allow field activities such as herbicide and fertilizer applications to resume, but there were still some areas that were too wet to traverse with equipment.
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Hay producers, according to the reports, were also rushing to take advantage of the drier weather but still worried about having enough consecutive dry days for cut hay to cure before baling.
In some areas, the AgriLife Extension agents reported, irrigators had to turn on center pivots and would have liked a little more rain to save pumping costs.
But most crops should be okay, Nielsen-Gammon said.
“For most of the state, the rains we had in the spring put enough moisture into the soil profile that crops won’t have trouble making it through the dry period,” he said.
The reason for the drier weather is the usual cause this time of year, Nielsen-Gammon said. An upper level high pressure region over Mexico pushes weather disturbances away and keeps warm air aloft, inhibiting thunderstorms.
Summer temperatures have also been a little cooler than normal, which was a result of the heavy spring rains, he said.
As the moisture evaporates from the soil and transpires from plants, it cools the air in much the same way as houses used to be cooled by swamp coolers, the water-spray machines that pre-dated modern air conditioning, Nielsen-Gammon said.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Central: Rangeland, soil moisture, pastures, livestock and most crops were all rated as being in good condition. Most corn was mature, and early planted grain sorghum looked good, though there was some that required treating for sugarcane aphids and stink bugs. Late-planted sorghum crops may require spraying too, but there was concern the spraying costs would be excessive as sugarcane aphid pressure was likely to increase later in the growing season. Wet conditions were slowing harvesting of already mature corn and sorghum silage. Otherwise, it was one of the best years in quite a while for many dryland corn and forage sorghum growers. Hay yields were great because of abundant rain toward the end of the growing season. Pastures were in good condition. Cotton began to flower.
Coastal Bend: Some parts of the region needed rain to sustain current growing conditions, while crops in other areas were in poor condition due to excessive rainfall. Cotton generally looked good, and corn was drying down and will soon be ready to harvest. Some farmers will start harvesting corn before grain sorghum. Producers were harvesting a lot of hay, and livestock were doing well with good grazing. Rangeland and pastures looked great, though weedy because of excessive rain. There was some disease pressure on grain sorghum, as well as a large boll-weevil egg count and some stink bug activity in cotton. But other than the scattered reports, insect problems were not severe. Some cotton producers were applying growth regulators.
East: Weather conditions were hot and dry, with only a few counties reporting scattered showers. Ponds and creeks were full. Windy days dried out topsoils somewhat, but in most counties topsoil moisture was adequate, with a couple of counties reporting surplus moisture. Hay producers were taking advantage of the dry weather, baling as fast as they could. Because of earlier wet conditions, it was the first cutting for some producers. Some low-lying areas were still too wet to enter. Producers were also spraying or shredding pasture weeds where conditions permitted. Blackberries, blueberries and vegetables were being harvested with good yields. Disease problems on vegetables and ornamental plants leveled off with the drier and hotter weather. Cattle were in good condition. Livestock producers continued weaning and selling market-ready calves and cull cows. Horn flies and mosquitoes created problems for livestock producers.
Far West: The district received from 0.5 inch to 3 inches of rain. Hudspeth and Culberson counties were without electricity for one to two days because of damage to power lines from high winds that accompanied the thunderstorms. Livestock were in good condition. Pastures were in good to fair condition, and corn and sunflowers were in fair condition. The fourth cutting of alfalfa was underway. Cotton began to square and was in good to fair condition. Topsoil and subsoil moisture were adequate.
North: Topsoil moisture was mostly adequate, with some areas reporting short. Weather was generally normal for early July, with high temperatures in the mid 90s. Some areas received from 0.5 inch to 5 inches of rain. Most all fields and pastures dried out enough to allow fieldwork and harvesting operations. Hay producers were taking either their first or second cutting of Bermuda grass hay. Yields were about average. The wheat harvest was mostly completed. Corn plants were short and not looking good. Late-planted cotton was behind in development. Pastures looked good despite some grasshopper pressure. Livestock were in good condition. Feral hogs continued to damage pastures and crops. Flies and mosquitoes were abundant.
Panhandle: Thunderstorms swept through the region, bringing hail, high winds and 1 inch to 6 inches of rain. While many producers escaped major damages from the storm, others weren’t so lucky. In Deaf Smith County, 2,000 to 4,000 crop acres were damaged, with some fields a total loss. Cornfields, with most of the crop in pre-tassel, were mainly affected. Sunflowers and grain- and forage-sorghum fields were also damaged but to a lesser extent. Producers across the region were gearing up to battle pests and weeds brought on by the wet conditions. Generally, crops were about two to three weeks behind normal development. Grasshoppers were becoming a serious problem in many areas. Cattle were doing well. The breeding season was almost over and calf weights were expected to be excellent as pastures were in good condition over most of the region.
Rolling Plains: Parts of the region received from 0.3 inch to 4 inches of rain. Pastures were green, and livestock were generally in good to excellent condition. Stock-water tanks were full. Hay production was ongoing with very high yields. Peach growers were also seeing high quality and good yields. Most wheat was harvested. Wheat yields and test weights varied widely. Cotton and peanuts were slow to develop. There was some insect pressure from grasshoppers and fleahoppers in cotton.
South: Temperatures rose throughout the region, drying soils in rangeland, pastures and croplands. Only a few areas in the western parts of the region had substantial rainfall. The rest of the region only received light showers. Rangeland and pastures generally were in fair to good condition. In the northern part of the region, corn and sorghum were drying out and maturing, cotton was forming bolls and early planted peanuts were flowering. Hay harvesting continued. Some producers began irrigating crops due to the drier conditions. Soil moisture was mostly adequate in the northern counties. In the eastern part of the region, most row crops were steadily maturing, and some were about ready for harvesting. However, harvesting of these crops will be spread out over time, as planting times and growth stages of most crops varied widely. Soil moisture remained adequate throughout the eastern counties. In the western part of the region, growers in Maverick County were able to harvest most vegetable crops before the heavy rains came. In Zavala County, some producers began irrigating cotton and some late-planted grain sorghum. The irrigation was likely the last needed to finish the crops. Watermelon growers were busy harvesting, and pecan producers were on the lookout for second-generation pecan case bearers. Soil moisture was mostly adequate in the western counties, except for Zavala County, which had 100 percent short subsoil and topsoil moisture. In the southern part of the region, corn and grain sorghum harvest was ongoing, and livestock remained in good condition. In Hidalgo County, sunflower harvesting wound down with disappointing yields. Sugarcane harvesting continued. In Starr County, grain sorghum harvesting just began. Soil moisture was rated as adequate throughout the southern counties.
South Plains: Many counties received rain, from 2 to 7 inches, which kept producers out of the fields for a few days. The timing was perfect for irrigators, as the dry conditions had resulted in center pivots being run around the clock. Muddy conditions in Hale County were delaying cotton and causing some lameness in livestock. The Bailey County wheat harvest was nearly complete. Grasshoppers were a serious problem there, with many producers having already sprayed three times. Cochran County cotton was squaring. There was very little insect pressure on field crops there, and corn continued to mature. Peanuts were in full bloom, developing pegs and beginning to form pods. Lubbock County cotton was late but looked good. Grain sorghum and corn were entering reproductive stages. Some Garza County cotton fields were in standing water and others were saturated after 6 inches of rain. Rangeland and pastures were in mostly excellent condition. Some stock-water tanks received much-needed runoff. Mitchell County lakes were at higher levels than they have been for years after the rains. Rangeland was recovering from the multi-year drought, and grass was growing. Scurry County cotton was struggling with wind damage and standing water in fields after the thunderstorms brought 7 inches of rain.
Southeast: Soil moisture throughout the region was mostly adequate to short, with adequate ratings being the most common. Rangeland and pastures were mostly in fair to good condition, with good ratings being the most common. With drier weather, many producers were harvesting hay while struggling to control weeds. Hay quality was down due to producers not being able to apply herbicides and fertilizers in a timely fashion, but yields were good. Waller County corn was stunted and yellowed due to excessive moisture, but pastures continued to improve and rangeland was in good condition. Cattle were stressed by high horn fly numbers. Mosquitoes and houseflies were nuisances. Grasshoppers were active. Watermelon growers were harvesting. In Fort Bend County, the drier weather allowed many producers to begin harvesting grain sorghum. Cotton there was progressing, and corn neared being harvest-ready.
Southwest: Higher temperatures were the rule for the week, though generally mild for mid-July. Producers continued cutting and baling hay. Some sugarcane aphids were found in grain sorghum. Corn was rapidly maturing with the hotter and drier conditions. Some areas were having problems with rust in corn. Livestock were generally in good condition. Rangeland and pastures were also in good condition.
West Central: Days were hot with warm nights. Heavy rains mid-week caused flash flooding in many areas. Stock-water tanks, ponds and soil moisture levels were in good condition. Field activities were slowed by wet conditions. Most cotton and early planted grain sorghum was in excellent condition. However, some cotton stands were expected to be lost due to standing water in fields. Summer forages were being harvested for hay, with excellent yields reported. Rangeland continued to recover from severe drought conditions. Pastures were in better shape than they have been in several years. Hay harvesting continued, with above-average yields. More hay had already been harvested in 2015 than in several years. A second cutting was expected to be taken soon on some fields. Livestock were in good to excellent condition. Livestock prices remained high, and herd rebuilding increased.