The Texas Pan Handle continues to suffer through days and weeks with little to no rainfall, according to the latest Texas Drought Report from the Texas Water Development Board.
Recent reports of dust storms rolling across the plains also prompted some concern about a return to Dust Bowl days, a threat that Texas State Climatologist Dr. John Neilsen-Gammon says is unlikely, at least for now.
“Over the past few weeks, the dust seems to be mainly picked up from southeastern Colorado and eastern New Mexico, so we’re not having a problem with widespread soil loss in Texas so far, but it’s something that could happen if conditions don’t allow for spring green-up, which they haven’t yet,” Neilsen-Gammon says.
Other observers say modern agricultural practices make a return to Dust Bowl conditions unlikely.
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Rick Auckerman, AgriLife Extension agent for Deaf Smith County, says today’s producers have a lot more tools to fight high wind, including U.S. Department of Agriculture Conservation Reserve Program grassland.
But conditions are not ideal for planting season. Some observers say cotton farmers trying to prepare land for planting are working between dust storms. Winds have gusted from 30 to 50 miles per hour.
Also of concern, says Neilsen-Gammon, is reservoir capacity. “Reservoir levels are lower this time of year than they have been previously during this drought,” he said. “If we don’t see summer months of more than average rainfall, we will likely see conflicts between agricultural and municipal/industrial uses.”
The Texas Water Development board reports 64 percent of the state in moderate to exceptional drought. Significant areas of the High Plains are currently rated in extreme or exceptional drought status.
That’s up one percentage point from last week and compares to 47 percent three months ago. Last year 85 percent of the state was rated in moderate to exceptional drought.
Drought status has improved in east Texas with some areas considered out of drought or in improving conditions. In West Texas, drought status shows persistence or development.
That situation exists across a wide belt from Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California (almost the entire state) and through most of Oregon. Significant areas in Oklahoma and Colorado also show drought persisting or intensifying.