Recent rainfall helped relieve some areas across Texas, but more is needed to escape drought conditions, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.
After receiving above-average rainfall in May and June, the state was hit with extremely hot and dry conditions throughout July and August.
Over the past week, the Panhandle, South Plains and parts of Central and East Texas received 2 or more inches of rain to help with crop production and planting for the next season.
Jourdan Bell, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension agronomist, Amarillo, said the rainfall will help the soil moisture profile, but the timing also could negatively impact farming schedules.
“When looking at these areas, we have to consider the intensity of rainfall we experienced this week,” she said. “Will the recent September rain negatively impact the harvest? Or will it assist the end of our summer crops?”
Rainfall in the High Plains
Across the High Plains, rainfall was extremely variable. Sporadic showers delivered anywhere from 4/10 of an inch up to 4 inches of rainfall.
“The rain we’ve received could have benefited our crops,” said Bell. “But when we received rain in some areas, cotton farmers were struck with baseball-sized hail in a production period that is extremely detrimental.”
Other areas of the High Plains that produce corn, sorghum and forages are in reproductive stages when moisture is critical. Those producers should benefit from the rainfall and move into wheat planting season with adequate soil moisture to plant the cool-season crop.
Areas that received no rainfall and were relying heavily on irrigation systems were expected to see lower yields this year due to a lack of well capacity to help fields overcome the drought.
“Generally, when we haven’t received normal precipitation, irrigation systems helped stabilize our crops,” Bell said. “But groundwater has met a point in the High Plains where wells cannot produce enough to help stabilize this production.”
What to expect
As of Sept. 14, the El Niño is anticipated for a higher chance of rainfall from January to March, said John Nielsen-Gammon, Ph.D., Texas state climatologist and Regents Fellow in the Texas A&M College of Geosciences Department of Atmospheric Sciences..
“We have gotten more rain the past week than we have in the last month,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “The El Niño is looking more and more prominent. But it’s going to take a lot more rain to break the drought since certain areas are 12-15 inches below normal water level.”
As far as temperatures go, the rain received across the state will keep those areas below triple-digit temperatures. The South and southwestern parts of the state like Laredo and Big Bend areas will continue to reach triple-digit numbers, Nielsen-Gammon said.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Widespread rainfall covered the entire district last week, ranging from 1-4 inches. Temperatures cooled with the rain to sub-100 degrees. Water stood in the pastures from ground moisture being gone for so long. Rainfalls increased animal and insect activity, including pollinators. Some producers were spraying brush. With recent rains, producers were thinking about planting small winter grains. Some fertilizer spreaders were out mid-week in anticipation of planting cool-season small grains. Armyworms could pose an issue if hay field and pasture conditions continued to improve. Cotton harvest was on hold due to the rain; some quality issues were expected. Wheat planting was expected to pick up after the rain. The cattle market for healthy cows, smaller heifers and larger steers held steady. Cattle diets were still being supplemented.
Cooler temperatures and periodic rainfall across the area provided much-needed relief for farmers and ranchers last week. Almost all counties reported at least some rain, with a few areas receiving 1-1.5 inches. The district still needed several inches of sustained rainfall to restore livestock drinking sources and improve soil moisture. Many farmers started planting winter wheat and oats, hoping for more rain in the coming weeks.
Scattered rain over the weekend yielded various amounts of rain, with some areas missing rain completely. However, the drought continued. Most producers continued cotton stalk destruction, disking and bedding up rows. Rice harvest was complete, and crop residue was baled for hay. Winter pasture preparation was expected to begin in areas with enough soil moisture for plowing. Hay supplies were critically low, and some tank water sources were a concern for producers. Most producers were feeding harvested crop residue hay and supplemental protein. Sale numbers at area markets were high, with larger numbers of cows being sold. Livestock auction prices remained strong. Pecan trees continued shedding nuts due to dry conditions.
Recent rainfall relieved some of the strain from drought in many counties, but it was not enough to reverse overall drought conditions. Topsoil conditions were very short to short, while subsoil conditions were very short. Panola County reported rain multiple times over the last four weeks helped forages begin to rebound. Pastures and rangeland conditions across the district were very poor to poor. Hay shortage remained an issue, with some producers bringing hay in from out of state. Livestock were in fair to good condition, with some supplementation taking place, and market prices remained solid overall.
Areas received much-needed rain with rainfall amounts ranging from 0.3-3 inches. Severe storms damaged multiple irrigation pivots and fields from wind, hail and downpours. Cotton bolls were opening, and farmers started working with insurance adjusters on crop claims. Much of the early dryland cotton plants were brittle from the lack of rain from mid-July through mid-September. Irrigated cotton was in average to poor condition across many of the counties. Some gin managers were reporting a substantial decrease in cotton that was expected to be harvested. Pastures were improving with recent rains, which should help with some late-season grazing before fall arrives. Corn silage yields were lower than expected.
The district received 2-5 inches of scattered rainfall, which should help fall planting of wheat. Land preparation continued with compost and manure being applied. Late sorghum and corn should benefit from rainfall. Silage harvest continued with corn for grain maturing well. Grain sorghum maturity levels were all over the board, with some blooming and some coloring and some close to harvest.
Sporadic showers with cooler temperatures appeared over several counties during the past week. More rain would help crop conditions. Subsoil and topsoil moisture were short. Corn, grain sorghum and soybeans were harvested. Soybeans were being rolled up for hay due to a lack of pod fill. Pastures and rangelands were in very poor to fair condition. Nuisance flies were still in high numbers around livestock. Livestock conditions were fair to good.
Scattered showers delivered approximately 1-4 inches of rain to some areas and led to cooler temperatures throughout the district. The rain helped tremendously with top and subsoil moisture, but it wasn’t enough to supply running water. Some producers were cutting and baling hay in irrigated fields. Hay fields should benefit from the rain, depending on late-season temperatures. Some producers could have enough for one more cutting of hay. Field preparation for small grain planting started. Livestock were in good condition with an adequate amount of supplementation. Cattle were selling high and packer prices were still strong.
The district received rain through the week and weekend, ranging from 6/10 of an inch to 4 inches. Even though there was rainfall, it wasn’t enough to pull the district out of drought, and burn bans were still in effect. Producers began cutting rice. Tree losses to drought were a significant concern. Producers were concerned about armyworms affecting fields if the rain continued. Cattle prices at local sale barns were steady as producers continued thinning their herds.
Weather conditions were cooler and slightly wetter. Precipitation ranged from 1-2 inches, with heavier rainfall reported in western parts of the district. Rainfall should benefit winter crops. Sporadic showers improved topsoil moisture in some locations, but overall range conditions remained extremely poor. The cotton harvest ended with no yields reported yet. Producers prepared for winter wheat planting. Row crop harvests were complete. More trees were lost due to the drought. Hay inventories were dwindling, and producers were trying to find hay. Precipitation was not enough to relieve drought conditions, but reduced temperatures relieved heat-stressed livestock and wildlife. Rangelands continued to be de-stocked as weaning and shipping were complete. Culling and supplemental feeding of livestock continued. Producers were still selling livestock weekly to reduce pasture pressure. Many cows were in poor body condition even after early weaning.
The district received little rain, ranging between 0.25-2 inches. Despite the rainfall, the district was still under severe to extreme drought conditions. Many rangelands and pastures were bare, with small amounts of grass available for livestock. Cotton harvest was about 98% complete in some areas. Irrigation continued on citrus and sugarcane crops. Sesame harvest neared completion, with yields slightly below average. Most producers were hauling hay, feed and water to their herds. Cattle prices continued to rise as many producers thinned their cattle herds. Supplemental feeding continued. White-tailed deer and other wildlife were seen around water sources. Dove populations were good as the season started.