Drought extends farther into East Texas

While conditions remained mostly favorable in much of the state, in East Texas soil-moisture levels were dropping at an alarming rate and the hay harvest was two to three weeks behind, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

Other parts of the state also were experiencing hot, dry weather with higher than normal temperatures. In most areas, however, soil-moisture levels remained adequate, and row crops, pastures and rangeland were in fair or better condition. In Central and Southeast Texas, the crops and pastures were more severely stressed by lack of moisture, but were far from being in as critical condition as those in East Texas.

Aaron Low, AgriLife Extension agent for Cherokee County, about 50 miles south of Tyler, said all area producers are suffering, particularly those who grow hay, melon and vegetables.

For example, Low said that in a 10-acre watermelon field owned by local producer Jay Jones, nothing much at all was being produced. The soil was dry and a recent shower only served to crust over the surface. Melons that should be 10-12 inches long on June 1 were only 3-4 inches long. Other melons were soft, a sign of extreme moisture stress. Watermelon vine leaves were wilting.

"You can see these melons here are not going to produce a big melon any time soon," Low said. "Jay Jones and people like him who grow produce and cut and bale hay for a living are in a terrible bind."

According to the U.S. Drought Portal, the public information website for National Integrated Drought Information System, 13 or more East Texas counties, stretching north of Longview to south of Lufkin along the Texas/Louisiana border, are now experiencing "moderate drought" conditions. The extremely dry counties extend into Central and parts of Southeast Texas.

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