Rainfall events over the last 30 days improved soil moisture levels for drought-stricken parts of the state but also left standing water and soggy, saturated soil conditions in others, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service reports.
Much of the state has received multiple inches of precipitation from multiple storm systems since late April. Those storms delivered much-needed rainfall and subsequently improved soil moisture indexes in drought-stricken areas. But the deluge has delayed plantings and harvests in other parts of the state, as well as causing flooding and a range of other problems and potential problems for producers.
Drought was a major concern for growers in western parts of the state, including the South Plains and Panhandle. Winter wheat and other cool-season grain and forage crops performed poorly for the most part, and the outlook for warm-season crops like corn, sorghum and cotton were not positive into spring.
Many acres in those areas were dry planted. Plants emerged in some acres and were progressing slowly due to lack of rain and cooler-than-normal temperatures. Other seed failed to germinate with the lack of moisture.
Rainy weather over the past several weeks has changed soil moisture conditions and crop outlooks, at least in the short term, said Reagan Noland, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension agronomist, San Angelo.
“Everyone is reacting to the moisture we’ve received over the past two weeks,” he said. “Everyone wants to plant, and it’s drying up enough now to plant, so a lot of producers are scrambling. Earlier in April, it looked pretty bleak, and everyone was discouraged about getting a crop started, but they’re more optimistic now.”
While the rains helped the soil moisture index, Noland said additional timely rains will be necessary to carry crops to the finish line. Much of Texas croplands rely on fall and spring storms to replenish soil moisture levels lost to evapotranspiration by plants and evaporation by summer temperatures, sun and wind. But seasonal storms are especially important to producers in western parts of Texas.
Those storms not only fuel crops, but they fill ponds and water tanks and restore native rangelands for livestock and wildlife.
Scattered rainfall totals
John Nielsen-Gammon, Ph.D., Texas state climatologist, Bryan-College Station, said there had been significant improvements to rainfall counts around drier areas of the state like San Angelo and South Texas.
Much of the entire state has received more than 1 inch of rain over the past month, and many areas received double-digit amounts after abnormally dry conditions since fall 2020, Nielsen-Gammon said.
Rain events delivered scattered precipitation, he said, as indicated by amounts for individual areas around the state.
Eastern portions of the state reported significant amounts. Corpus Christi received 12-19 inches; the Lower Rio Grande Valley, 3-12 inches; Wintergarden, 4-14 inches; Victoria, 8-26 inches; Houston-Beaumont, 6-14 inches; and Tyler-Longview, 8-14 inches.
Rainfall amounts were also scattered for drought-stricken regions like the Lower Rio Grande Valley, which received 3-12 inches over the past month. The Waco-Temple area received 3-7 inches; Abilene, 5-8 inches; San Angelo, 2-6 inches; Amarillo, 1-6 inches; Plainview, 2-4 inches and Lubbock, 1-3 inches.
The near-term forecast pattern looks to be drier for southern parts of the state and wetter for northern Texas, including the High Plains, Nielsen-Gammon said. But the predictability for extended forecasts of storm activity becomes difficult going into summer.
“With the widespread coastal rains winding down, it looks like a wetter weather pattern for the Panhandle and High Plains, more of a late-spring pattern and possibility of severe weather, including high winds, hail and tornadoes for North Texas and drier conditions for the southern half of the state over the next 10 days,” he said.
Rain, rain, go away
Heavy rains delivering double-digit rain amounts over the past month have hurt growing conditions more than helped in other regions, said Greg Grant, AgriLife Extension horticulture agent, Smith County.
Rains have saturated fields in many counties east of Interstate 35 from Corpus Christi to the Red River, making them impossible to enter for weed and pest control or to harvest crops like grain wheat and cool-season forages.
Grant said soggy conditions make harvesting crops like onions difficult and create an ideal environment for plant diseases in crops, gardens, lawns and landscapes. Standing water prevents plants from taking up nitrogen, and some seedbeds or emerged crops were washed away in flooding and will require replanting.
Continued rain events could extend delays to planting and prevent harvesting crops before they degrade or spoil.
“The rain has been mostly bad from a horticultural point of view,” he said. “Producers are missing out on harvests – whether it’s hay bales or tomatoes – and they don’t get those back. Planting time is a short window, and extended delays mean you might miss out. Producers will say they’d prefer too much rain than too little, but these conditions make everything a challenge.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Rainfall totals ranged from 0.3-2.5 inches. Producers were unable to access fields to cut hay or perform fieldwork. Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels were mostly adequate. Rainfall timing couldn’t be better for corn producers as their fields entered the early tasseling stage and some early planted fields were silking. Wheat and oats were mature and combining should begin as soon as fields dry enough. Cotton and sorghum fields looked good. Fall armyworms were seen in cotton fields. There were some concerns about soil fertility due to heavy moisture levels. Pasture conditions continued to improve. Stock tanks benefitted from runoff. Livestock were doing well on pastures.
Conditions continued to be soggy with storms and rain showers, but some hail damage to crops, including wheat, was reported. Rainfall improved pasture conditions and enhanced wheat test weight potential. Cotton planting was behind. Wheat was being grazed by cattle in some areas. Bermuda grass and other improved warm-season pastures were slow to emerge due to cooler temperatures. Most producers had applied herbicides and fertilizer to improved pastures, but rains reduced weed-control efficacy. Corn, sorghum and Sudan grass looked good. Cattle and calves were in good condition on good grazing, but flies, ticks and mosquitoes were stressing herds.
Rainfall ranged from 4-15 inches over the week. Topsoil was saturated. Most crops will benefit from the rain, but there was concern about standing water and washed-out areas affecting plant health. Grain sorghum was heading. Cotton condition was not what it should be due to cool temperatures and heavy moisture. Moisture levels were expected to delay further late-season rice planting. Many rice farmers did not need to flood rice and had to rebuild levees compromised by heavy rainfall. Weather conditions delayed herbicide applications on pastures and hay fields. Rangeland and pasture conditions were improving in well-drained areas. Stock ponds were full. Livestock were doing well, but flies and mosquitoes were problematic. Cattle market prices were holding steady.
The district continued to be extremely wet. Houston County reported areas had received up to 20 inches of rainfall. Hay production was falling behind due to pasture conditions. Jasper County reported home gardeners had problems with wind blowing down corn. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were surplus. Livestock were doing fair to good. Feral hog activity continued. Fly populations were abundant.
Northern and central areas reported adequate soil moisture levels while southern areas reported short to adequate soil moisture. Pasture and rangeland conditions were poor to fair. Winter wheat was in poor to good condition and heading. Corn conditions were fair to excellent. Sorghum was fair. Widespread moisture and cooler temperatures were good for grain crops. Producers continued to plant corn and cotton. Hay and silage production continued.
Topsoil moisture ranged from adequate to surplus. The past few weeks brought heavy rain events to areas. Many areas across the district received up to 10 inches of rainfall, including 2-3 inches during short timespans that produced flooding and saturated soil. Winter wheat was behind schedule but beginning to turn. Corn was doing well, but some later-planted areas were beginning to look waterlogged. Cotton and soybeans were delayed due to wet conditions over the last month. Pastures were thriving but still a few weeks behind normal due to cooler temperatures. Livestock were in good condition. Spring-born calves were doing well. Feral hog damage continued to be a problem.
Daytime temperatures ranged from 75-95 degrees with nighttime lows from 55-70 degrees. Precipitation varied widely with areas reporting trace amounts up to 3.5 inches. Hailstorms affected areas. Farmers continued to plant cotton and peanuts. There were still pockets of dryland cotton acres where the seed was not expected to germinate, or producers continued to delay planting. Ranchers were preparing to wean calves soon. Beef cattle were in overall good condition. Pecan producers were monitoring pecan nut casebearers. Winter wheat was still being harvested or used as a cover crop. Irrigated corn was making good progress while watermelons could use warmer weather. Sorghum was finally emerging but slow to grow. Pastures began to bounce back with new growth, but producers continued to provide supplemental feed in areas. Dry conditions were forcing wildlife to utilize land closer to towns, and several mountain lion sightings were reported near Alpine.
Rains were on and off all week and helped break the drought pattern. Soil moisture levels were good. Haygrazer fields were off to a good start, and the first cutting of Bermuda grass was underway. Cotton planting should begin as soon as fields dry enough to access. Weed management continued. Stock tank levels were replenished and looked good with summer approaching. Livestock body conditions were improving as well.
Significant rain was received with flooding in some areas. Water was unable to drain from some fields due to backed up canals. Many fields still had standing water in them. Livestock were in good condition, but producers were concerned about hoof issues if conditions remain wet. Rice planting was delayed. Rangeland and pasture ratings ranged from very poor to excellent. Soil moisture conditions were very short to surplus.
Up to 5 inches of rainfall was reported across the district. Pastures and rangelands continued to improve with added moisture. Fertilization of hay pastures and weed spraying continued. Guadalupe County reported that moisture levels delayed the wheat harvest a bit. Caldwell County reported corn and sorghum looked good. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Producers reported hay and supplemental feeding use was down. Caldwell County reported steady cattle prices with sheep and goat prices remaining high. Shearing of sheep and goats continued.
Temperatures were cooler than normal. Another series of rain events occurred throughout several counties, leaving adequate to surplus soil moisture conditions in areas. Rainfall totals ranged from 1.5-15 inches. Wheat harvest was halted by rains. Peanut planting continued but was limited. Sweet corn was being harvested. Grain corn was silking. Cotton fields continued to emerge and progress. Some cotton fields reached the squaring stage with very little pest pressure. Row crops responded well to rainfall and yields were expected to improve in most fields. Some fields were underwater. Some areas continued to report short soil moisture levels despite multiple inches of rainfall. Rains were expected to help pastures, corn and sorghum the most. Heavy rainfall may have hurt late-planted cotton and sesame. There were reports of fall armyworms in corn and sorghum fields. Very few sugarcane aphids were reported in sorghum. Sorghum midge were appearing in blooming fields. Soybean fields were blooming as well. Pasture and rangeland conditions continued to improve. Livestock body conditions were improving as well. Livestock tanks were at capacity in many areas, and rivers were running. Sunflowers and sorghum were growing quickly due to additional moisture. Producers were fertilizing and spraying for weeds. Local feed stores reported fewer sales of supplemental feed. Watermelon, cantaloupe and Coastal Bermuda grass continued to receive irrigation, and harvests were beginning. Some harvesting was delayed due to wet conditions. Some producers were concerned about fruit rot. Delays may extend beyond one week. Pecan orchards continued to develop, but one orchard in Maverick County was devastated by a hailstorm. Calves looked good. Citrus trees still looked damaged, but those that were pruned back were showing new growth and development.