Though the overall percentage of the state under moderate to extreme drought has continually dropped since September 2011, producers are beginning to worry that 2012 could be a repeat performance, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.
In many areas, drought recovery continued, according to this week’s reports by AgriLife Extension county agents. Producers were harvesting winter forages and small grains for hay to replace hay stocks depleted in 2011. Corn was being planted. Cotton farmers were either preparing to or starting planting, and farm ponds and stock tanks were filling up.
These signs of recovery, however, were confined mostly to the eastern half of the state, according to the reports and the U.S. Drought Monitor. Draw an imaginary line from Wichita Falls through Forth Worth and south to Houston, and every county west of that line continued to suffer one stage of drought or another. Large swathes of Far West Texas have yet to come out of the extreme drought that started in 2011.
And even in counties where substantial rain has fallen, there was concern that the reprieve will be short-lived.
“That ‘D’ word – drought — is being whispered in many corners around the county,” said David Winkler, AgriLife Extension agent for Bosque County, southwest of Fort Worth. “No one wants to say it out loud, but it is in the back of our minds as we watch plants on shallow soils turn brown from lack of water. It has been 30 days since our last significant rain event.”
“It is looking like Bermudagrass was damaged in the drought and stands will be affected after winter growth is removed,” said Randy Reeves, AgriLife Extension agent for Harrison County, north of Longview. “Conditions are getting dry again; most of the rain that we received last week and the week before was north of here.”
“We have missed the last few recent rain chances, and producers have become weary that the spring rains have halted,” said David Groschke, AgriLife Extension agent for Limestone County, east of Waco. “There is a lot of hay being rolled up and stored in anticipation of a hot and dry summer. Temperatures were already in the mid 90s by the end of last week.”
“Temps hit 100 to 104 on Wednesday this week and it’s only April!” said Arlan Gentry, AgriLife Extension agent for Ward County, north of Fort Stockton. “Mesquite and weeds are the only green stuff in pastures. All grass is old, dead, dormant, dry, etc. The drought is still here. Producers are still feeding what few cattle are left in the county.”
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/.