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Lack of Rain, Lower-than-Normal Temps Hinder Warm-Season Crops


State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon, College Station, said the current weather situation around the state reflects a lack of rain hindering some areas and lower-than-normal temperatures hindering others.

The Panhandle, gripped in drought-like conditions, has received more rain in the last few weeks than in the previous six months, he said. But more rain is needed to improve soil moisture indexes in decline from lack of rain.

Recent crop reports from the region indicate dryland farmers shouldcontinue to wait for rain before planting summer crops like cotton.

“If the rain keeps up like this they’ll be in good shape for their warm-season crops,” he said. “They’ll need more rain as temperatures rise and evaporation becomes more of an issue. The wettest months in the western Panhandle are usually July and August.”

Parts of Central, West Central and South Texas are experiencing moderate to severe drought as well, Nielsen-Gammon said. Those areas have been drier than normal for the past year.

Relatively cool temperatures have helped moisture levels in those areas, and forecasts by the Climate Prediction Center showed above-normal precipitation for Texas in May due to expected rainfall across Central and West Central Texas during the latter half of this week, he said.

“May and June are the two wettest months on average for the state,” he said. “Producers should be OK if those rains materialize.”

Averages for May and June in the Panhandle typically equal more than 5 inches, Gammon said. The region received 1.32 inches since November 2017.

Cool temperatures have slowed crop development and warm-season grass emergence in areas that have received rain, he said. This spring was the third coolest in East Texas on average in the last 20 years.

North Texas has been cooler than average as well, he said. But hotter weather is on the way in May.

Nielsen-Gammon said most producers around the state have not been plagued by severe spring weather, including major freezes, hail damage and high winds. High winds and drought that have caused wildfires in the Panhandle and Rolling Plains are expected to subside as warm-season grasses begin to green up.

“Overall, it’s been a relatively quiet spring,” he said.

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Districts

CENTRAL: Rainfall was desperately needed. High winds continued to remove moisture from the soil. Cool temperatures made poor growing conditions for summer crops. Planting, fertilizing, pasture weed control and other field work was underway. Milo was planted, and cotton was well on its way to being complete. Oats and wheat looked good. Pastures were starting to show evidence of stress. Stocker operators were shipping cattle off winter grazing to feedlots. The majority of spring calves were born. Livestock were in good condition. Stock tanks were depleting rapidly. Most counties reported good soil moisture. Overall crop, rangeland and pasture conditions were nearly all good.

ROLLING PLAINS: Rain showers were reported with amounts ranging from 0.3-1 inch. The rain allowed pastures to green up, but there was still not much growth yet. Cattle on wheat pasture were in good condition, and winter wheat seemed to be maturing. Farmers were still opting to cut some wheat for hay, chop for silage or plow it under. It did not appear freeze damage to wheat was significant. Pastures and rangeland in drier areas were in very poor condition, and producers were beginning to put cattle on wheat fields in the hopes of holding onto herds. Farmers continued to prepare fields for the upcoming crop year, but were cautious of how much they invest into this season in case it does not rain. Producers started spraying for weeds. Producers were waiting on rain and residents were holding off on garden planting.

COASTAL BEND: Warm, dry conditions prevailed. There were reports of crop damage due to cool evening temperatures and windy conditions. Soil moisture conditions were starting to get critical in some areas. Most cotton and grain sorghum should be planted soon, and corn was starting to tassel. Oat and wheat harvest should start within the next few weeks. Adult pecan nut casebearer activity was occurring in pecan orchards. Fertilizer and herbicide applications continued on hay pastures. Pastures were still in good shape, and livestock continued to do well.

EAST: Warm temperatures continued to climb during the days while night temperatures continued to fall. Trinity and Smith counties reported 1 inch of rain while others reported none. Smith County reported winter pastures were looking good for producers who planted them. Warm-season forages were making excellent growth in Gregg County, but were stunted due to cool night temperatures in Panola and Trinity counties. Houston County reported ryegrass hay was baled. Pasture and rangeland conditions were good to fair except for Houston County, which reported poor conditions. Trinity County reported some producers were still feeding hay, while others started to have adequate grass in pastures. Jasper County reported oats and wheat were in fair condition. Producers in Houston and Jasper counties reported corn was 100 percent planted, emerged and in fair condition. Topsoil and subsoil conditions were adequate. Livestock were reported in fair to good condition from all producers with some supplementation taking place in Smith County. Cattle numbers were good with prices on a downward trend in Shelby County. Herbicide applications continued in Gregg and Wood counties. Wild pigs were very active with destruction on the rise in Henderson, Shelby, Smith and Wood counties. Trinity County reported wild pigs were so active they became a problem in residential neighborhoods. Producers reported fly numbers continued to grow in Henderson and Houston counties.

SOUTH PLAINS: High winds and varied temperatures were creating less than ideal conditions for growers. A few scattered storms passed through, and rain amounts ranged from a trace to 1 inch. Producers continued to prepare for spring planting, and cotton seed may be planted soon. Winter wheat, pastures and rangeland were in poor condition. Corn and oats were in fair to good condition.

PANHANDLE: Conditions were windy and extremely dry, but some moisture was received. The winter wheat crop was surviving on the small amount of moisture received last reporting period. Most wheat started to head in Collingsworth County. Deaf Smith County producers were waiting on the next rainfall event. Producers were just now starting to plant corn and will turn on irrigation pivots to get the crop up. Cotton planting will follow corn planting, but many producers will wait for moisture until the last minute.

NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels ranged from mostly adequate with some reporting shortages across the counties. Temperatures were cool with highs in the 70s. Rain was sporadic, and more was in the forecast. Almost all corn was planted and looked good and recovered nicely from a freeze. Soybeans were in the ground except for those typically planted after wheat and oat harvests. Some young soybean plants may have been damaged by late freezes. Wheat and oats were in the dough stage now, and are in acceptable condition after tough conditions. Winter grasses looked good, and some producers were talking about bailing soon, but cool temperatures were keeping Bermuda grass suppressed, and there has been little growth so far. Winter pastures were cut for hay. Yields were decent but down a little from last year. Cotton, soybean and grain sorghum plantings were in progress. Pastures were doing much better after the temperatures warmed up. Cattle looked good with calving finished and spring breeding starting. Stocker cattle were fat and happy too. However, 30-degree temperature changes on a daily basis was were causing stress in livestock.

FAR WEST: Temperature highs were in the mid-90s and with lows in the 40s. Rainfall amounts were less than 0.6 of an inch in the southwestern parts of the district. Severe hail storms also occurred in those areas. The variable temperatures and high winds played havoc on young corn, sorghum and watermelons. Typical cotton planting should begin in two weeks, but soil was too dry to start except on some better dryland fields. Pima cotton planting was coming to an end with 25-35 percent emerged. Upland cotton was being planted and will continue to be for the next few weeks. Alfalfa was being irrigated, cut and baled. Pecans were on their second irrigation. Pecans were blooming with full catkins. Fire danger remained high due to excess dry matter and winds. Fruit trees were showing promise.

WEST CENTRAL: Rain amounts averaged between 0.25-0.5 of an inch with strong winds. Pasture forages were drying up, and grasses were showing no growth. Most wheat was baled for hay as the grain outlook was poor. Producers were supplemental feeding livestock. Although livestock were in poor condition, demand continued to be good with all classes selling steady.

SOUTHEAST: Walker County experienced good growing conditions as nighttime temperatures elevated somewhat. Brazos County was still experiencing mild temperatures. Dry weather allowed farmers to finally get into the pastures. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely, from excellent to very poor with good ratings being most common. Soil moisture levels ranged from adequate to surplus with adequate being most common.

SOUTHWEST: Weather conditions in some counties were favorable with some spotty showers keeping pastures and rangeland plentiful with forage while other counties remained dry and in need of a steady rainfall. There was limited water flow to creeks and rivers. Nighttime and morning temperatures continued to be cool. Livestock conditions remained good throughout the counties. Fall lambs were weaned and shipped due to predicted drought conditions.

SOUTH: Conditions were mild to warm with short to very short moisture levels in most areas and adequate to short moisture levels in eastern parts. Western and southern parts of the district received rain. In Zapata County, rainfall during one precipitation event ranged from 0.75- 2 inches followed by drizzle and cooler temperatures on other days. Jim Wells County reported 0.5-1 inch of rain arriving with a cool front that dropped temperatures into the 60s. Red potato fields were prepared for harvest, and chipper potatoes were under irrigation. Wheat and oat harvests started, and corn was starting to tassel. Cotton planting was complete and most had emerged. Bermuda grass was being cut and baled. Pasture and rangeland conditions remained fair to good in areas that received recent rainfall but other areas continued to decline. Supplemental feeding increased, and cattle body condition scores were fair, but producers in some areas were culling herds as summer approaches. Market conditions remained steady for cull cows while feeder calf prices rebounded in the last 30 days. Irrigated crop fields like Coastal Bermuda grass and vegetable crops were in good condition. Most summer crops were emerging normally with no issues reported. In Zavala County, wheat was maturing with dry, hot conditions helping the crop reach harvest stage, which was expected in the next 10 to 12 days. Cabbage harvest was active. Pecan producers reported trees were approaching flowering stage. There were still some spinach fields in production, which was very rare, butgood for growers since demand remained steady. Corn, cotton and sorghum all made good progress, and no insect pressure was reported. In Hidalgo County, harvest of sugarcane was in its final weeks, harvest of citrus was winding down, and harvest of vegetables continued.

Source: Texas AgriLife Extension

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