Tropical weather across the Upper Gulf of Mexico has been slow to form this summer but a mid-season tropical low pressure system has been pumping moisture-rich air masses into the state in recent days bringing significant rain showers to the Coastal Bend and spotty showers to the Upper Coast and Deep South Texas.
So far, the heaviest rain concentrations—up to six inches since the weekend—have been limited to areas that failed to produce significant cotton, corn and soybean crops this year because of the drought. Heavily laden cotton fields up the coastline, on the other hand, have received moderate showers that have delayed harvest operations but have not damaged crops so far.
"As amazing as it sounds, most of the heavy rains across the southern half of the state have fallen just where they needed to fall," reports David Fields, CEO and President of Gulf Compress in Corpus Christi, a cotton cooperative facility representing gins all across southern and coastal areas of the state. "The Lower Coastal Bend was a wash as far as cotton was concerned and very few could get even get a sorghum crop out of it because of dry conditions, and this is where the greatest rainfall rates have been noted, and this is a good thing."
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Fields say of most concern were cotton crops around Port Lavaca, Victoria and points northeast up the coast where crop conditions are reported good but slow maturing because of late planting and cool spring weather.
"Some of the cotton up the coast is in really good shape with good quality and expected good yields, but so far the rain has just halted ongoing harvest operations because of wet fields but has not affected the crop negatively," he adds.
To the south, the Lower Rio Grande Valley has also received spotty rains. Hidalgo County Extension Agent Brad Cowan says most harvest operations have been completed there by this point and what remains has not been adversely affected by wet fields.
"If we get a little sun in the days ahead they should be able to finish up and get the remainder of the crop out, but we are already mostly finished with cotton for the season down here anyway," he said.
Inland cotton gets rain as well
Fields says some cotton harvest is delayed across the Texas Winter Garden.
"These have also been mostly beneficial rains in spite of coming late in the summer season. A few dry days and cotton harvest can continue and the moisture that has fallen may give us a leg up for next year's cotton crop. That's what we are hoping for at this point," Fields said.
Earlier this year nearly all cotton producers west and south of Corpus Christi zeroed out cotton in favor of insurance claims. A few tried to raise grain sorghum but that also failed to produce because of drought conditions.
At a Cotton Foundation exchange tour in Corpus Christi last month, NCC Chairman Jimmy Dodson, a Robstown farmer, told visiting tour participants this marks the first time in 14 years he failed to raise a crop. Not only was cotton a wash, but by the end of the season only 400 acres of sorghum was worth harvesting.
While forecasters say the chance of significant showers continue in the days ahead, especially for coastal regions of Texas, Fields says most farmers on the central coast are hoping to receive "a lot of rain" before next spring.
"We are so far behind, we need the rain to boost up soil moisture and we desperately need to replenish reservoir levels all across South Texas, so a lot more rain is needed as we look to the 2014 planting season," he said. "We don't need another year of dry weather, so more rain is a good thing for many who couldn't make a crop this year."