Drought drags on in Texas

Drought drags on in Texas

Drought continues to concern Texas farmers and ranchers Wildfire possibilities could linger through April Twenty wildfires reported in late February.

Crops, pastures and rangeland continued to be stressed by drought in most of Texas.

Adding insult to injury, the high risk of wildfire would last through April for most of the state, according Texas Forest Service and Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel. The problem remains lack of moisture, combined with a heavy fuel load of dry grasses and high winds.

On Feb. 22 these conditions contributed to the outbreak of 20 major wildfires from Amarillo to Ozona and Midland east to Matador, an area with a "footprint of about 45,000 square miles," said Mark Stanford, Forest Service operations chief.

Stanford said the winds spread the fires at 4 to 5 miles per hour, creating the equivalent of a football-field size area burning every minute. At least 80 homes burned and hundreds of families evacuated.

Stanford and other forecasters feared that, without rain, the same conditions that fueled the Feb. 22 fires will continue to raise the risk of wildfires big and small.

“We continue to have grass fires popping up all over the county," said Tommy Yeater, AgriLife Extension agent for Howard County, west of Abilene. "We are in desperate need of a good rain. Farmers don't have any moisture to go into planting season. Ranchers continue to (bull) doze firebreaks around their pastures. "

"Childress County is in need of more moisture," said Lonnie Jenschke, AgriLife Extension agent for the county, which is northwest of Wichita Falls. "The county saw some 50 mph winds early in the week. There was one small fire and some small fires this week. Small-grain fields are in definite need of moisture."

"A total of 32,294 acres burnt and left some ranchers without any grazing," said Ryan Martin, AgriLife Extension agent for Motley County, northeast of Lubbock.

"Some producers were fortunate enough to have other pastures to move cattle to, but several had just pulled cattle off these pastures due to lack of moisture and grazing becoming sparse. Some producers were even forced to sell off cattle due to all of their grazing acres and hay supply being destroyed."

Other parts of the state were spared the wildfires, but conditions in many areas could favor similar burns, according to the Forest Service.

More information on current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force webpage at http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/.

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