More rain came to most of Texas, improving drought-damaged pastures and rangeland, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.
The rains greatly improved the agricultural situation, according to weekly reports, but many ranchers were still feeding hay, though the green-up allowed them to cut back. The warmer-than-normal weather and moisture also brought on weed growth in pastures, particularly those pastures damaged by last year’s drought.
“Grass stands are thin from last year’s drought, and weeds are making a comeback with a vengeance,” said Randy Reeves, AgriLife Extension agent for Harrison County, north of Longview. “Winter forage is growing well.”
“Recent rains and moisture have really greened things up in the county. Unfortunately right now a large percentage of that appears to be weeds and small forbs,” said Tyler Bobinmyer, AgriLife Extension agent for Mason County, north of San Antonio. “Good grazing for sheep and goats.”
“Calving, lambing and kidding season are in full swing, with winter wheat and weeds in pastures providing a lush feed source,” said Steve Sturtz, AgriLife Extension agent for Tom Green County, San Angelo. “With moist weather, producers are scouting fields for fungus and insects as we have a good chance of having a bumper wheat harvest.”
“Cool-season annual weeds continue to grow, and burnt areas are still ‘hairing over’ with new grass,” said Caleb Eaton, AgriLife Extension agent for Crane County, south of Midland. “Perennial grasses have yet to respond to spring conditions.”
“No precipitation,” reported Jesse Lea Schneider, AgriLife Extension agent for Presidio County in Far West Texas. “Cattle that remain are on supplemental feed and consuming large amounts of minerals, as are horses. Pastures are decimated, with only the appearance of poisonous green weeds.”
More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries for March 13-19:
Central: Crops were doing well thanks to the moisture received over the past month. Winter wheat and grasses continued to supply grazing for livestock. Farmers were trying to finish planting in areas where fields weren’t too wet. Some rust was reported in wheat, which was in flag stage in some areas. Incidences of cattle bloating from over-consumption of clover were still being reported. As much as 90 percent of corn, 100 percent of sunflowers and 20 percent of grain sorghum was already planted. Pastures were in good shape thanks to growth of cool-season grasses. Wheat showed good yield potential, but needed dry weather to finish strong. Wildflowers, including bluebonnets, were blooming.
Coastal Bend: Daytime temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s caused many cool-season grasses to head out and warm-season species to green up. Several counties reported farmers were planting corn and cotton. In other counties, there was enough rain to halt planting and other field activities. Rangeland and pastures were flush with cool-season forbs, which helped improve the condition of cattle. Rain has filled many ponds. More rain was forecast, which boosted producer optimism. Many trees were budding or already had leaves.
East: Winter forages and warm-season grasses greened up from warmer temperatures and recent rains. Ryegrass and clovers made good growth. With cattle grazing improved, hay feeding was reduced. Trees were blooming. There were heavy weed infestations in areas affected by last year’s drought and over-grazing. Many producers applied herbicides. Lake and pond levels were back to normal in many areas. Feral hog damage reports continued to come in. Fly and mosquito populations increased.
Far West: The weather was warm and breezy, with highs in the upper 60s and 70s, and lows in the 40s. Crane County reported a 0.5-inch rain. In Pecos County, a fast-moving storm produced pea- to marble-sized hail. Cool-season annual weeds continued to grow, and burnt areas from last year showed further signs of new grass growth. In Andrews County, Bermuda grass fields were coming out of dormancy and greening up, but the days were still too short to promote much growth. In El Paso County, fall-planted onions were at the four-leaf stage. Hudspeth County farmers were planting chilies. Though most herds were in the middle of calving season, ranchers were still providing supplemental feed. In Andrews County, the reports of cows and heifers being affected by mesquite bean toxicity dropped significantly. In Ward County, ranchers further culled due to feed costs and scarcity of hay.
North Texas good to surplus
North: Soil-moisture levels ranged from good to surplus. Some counties reported from 1 inch to 4 inches of rain. The rain halted planting and fieldwork, and more rain was forecast. Wheat was in good to excellent condition, while pastures and rangeland were in very poor to excellent condition. Ryegrass pastures were growing exceptionally well. Most wheat, oats and winter annual pastures continued to do well, as did livestock. Peach trees looked good. Feral hog reports were up.
Panhandle: The region had warm and windy weather with above-average temperatures for most of the week. Soil-moisture levels were mostly very short. Wheat was in poor to very poor condition. Farmers continued preparing fields and were actively irrigating wheat. Rangeland was mostly in very poor to poor condition. Ranchers continued supplemental feeding of cattle.
Rolling Plains: Recent rains in the western part of the region turned around the agricultural situation. Winter wheat came on vigorously, along with wild rye in pastures. All areas reported that pastures were in fair to good condition. Some producers were considering baling winter wheat to replenish hay supplies that were exhausted after last year’s drought. Grazing on wheat, livestock were in fair to good condition. The spring calving season drew to a close. Cotton farmers were preparing fields, following recent moisture. Pecan trees were budding. Fruit trees were in full bloom.
South: The weather was spring-like, with mild temperatures, strong winds and cool nights. Soil-moisture levels ranged from short to very short in most of the region and mainly adequate in all of the northern counties. Rangeland and pastures significantly improved where better rains were received. Forage supplies remained low in McMullen and Zavala counties. Corn was growing well in Atascosa County. In Frio County, sorghum planting began, corn planting continued, potatoes were flowering and wheat was heading. In Jim Wells County, sunflowers and corn emerged to make excellent stands. In La Salle County, potatoes also began to flower. In Zavala County, farmers were very busy preparing land for cotton planting, wheat and oats were heading and doing well, the spinach and cabbage harvests were ongoing, and onions under irrigation were doing well. In Hidalgo County, the vegetable, citrus and sugarcane harvests were ongoing, the spring onion harvest began, and cotton, corn and grain sorghum planting was active.
Southeast: Highs were in the upper 70s, lows in the 60s. Most of the area received rain, which continued to replenish the soil profile and helped pastures recover. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued. Early planted crops were doing well. The condition of livestock improved for the most part thanks to better pasture conditions. Farm ponds were full.
Southwest: Parts of the region received as much as 3.5 inches of rain, which greened up pastures and boosted oats for grazing. The light rains and warmer weather stimulated weed growth, which could inhibit the recovery of pastures. Cattle bloat from excess clover consumption continued to be an issue for livestock producers. Corn and milo farmers continued planting, and small grains were heading out.
South Plains: Most of the region received rain — and in some cases isolated small hail storms – over the weekend. Some areas received as much as 2 inches, but 0.5 inch was more common. Producers were pre-watering fields, applying herbicides and performing general fieldwork in preparation for spring planting. Despite recent rains, winter wheat was still struggling, as were pastures and rangeland. Cattle were mostly in fair to good condition, with ranchers continuing to supply supplemental feed. Temperatures were mild, with lows staying above freezing.
West Central: Temperatures became much warmer. Strong storms brought much-needed rain to many areas. Small grains continue to improve. Producers were scouting fields for fungi and insects. Some rust and green bug infestations were reported. Rangeland and pasture conditions continued to improve. Some warm-season grasses were breaking winter dormancy. Stock tanks were full in some areas. Ranchers slacked off supplemental feeding of livestock as grazing conditions improved. Producers continued to work livestock as the spring calving, lambing and kidding season finished. Peach trees were in full bloom.