Texas crop, weather

Without rain and with temperatures soaring to the high 90s or topping 100, large parts of the state continued to suffer drought-like conditions, reported Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

Conditions in the North, South Plains, Rolling Plains and Panhandle regions were better as far as soil moisture levels were concerned. Soils in the Rolling Plains were saturated, and North Texas welcomed drier weather after deluges of rain in early May.

To varying degrees, the East, Central, Coastal Bend, Far West, Southwest and West Central regions were beginning to dry out again after some relief earlier in June. But by far, the worst-hit regions were South and Southeast Texas as the drought relentlessly hammered crops and livestock.

"Hot temperatures have taken a toll on range and pasture conditions as soil moisture has evaporated," said Isaac Cavazos, AgriLife Extension agent in McMullen County, between Laredo and San Antonio. "Stock tank water levels remain very low, and most herds are obtaining water through water wells which are limited in the area."

"Conditions continue to be extremely dry and hot," said Joe Janak, AgriLife Extension agent in Victoria County, south of San Antonio. "Cattle producers are starting to feed cattle due to insufficient forage. Hay is being made in selected areas that received a little rainfall in past weeks, but yields are generally only a half round bale per acre."

"Dry conditions continue to wreak havoc with crops and pastures," said Ron Holcomb, AgriLife Extension agent in Liberty County, northeast of Houston. "Hay baling is minimal now due to the lack of rain. Pasture conditions continue to deteriorate without rain. Livestock are faring okay for now, but as the drought worsens livestock will worsen due to the lack of pasture and water."

"Range and pasture conditions continue to decline due to no topsoil moisture," said George L. Gonzales, AgriLife Extension agent for Webb County, near Laredo. "Stock tank levels are also declining or totally dried up. Windmills and water wells are being used on many ranches as the main source of livestock water."

More information on drought in Texas can be found on the Web site of the Drought Joint Information Center.

The following summaries were compiled by AgriLife Extension district reporters:

CENTRAL: Days were hot and windy. Topsoils dried out quickly, and pastures, rangeland and corn were stressed. Dairymen green-chopped forages to lower feed costs. Livestock were in good condition. Insect scouting on field crops was in full swing with concern about sorghum midge in milo.

COASTAL BEND: Above-normal temperatures continued with no rain, stressing plants and animals. Forage crops were wilting throughout the day, lowering yields. Considerable crop acreage has been zeroed out by insurance companies. Livestock producers continued to provide supplemental feed to cattle.

EAST: The harvesting of hay, fruits and vegetables continued. Without rain, all plant growth slowed. Crops and pastures began to show signs of drought stress. Livestock were in good to excellent condition.

FAR WEST: Scattered showers, from 0.1 inch - 4 inches of rain fell. Farmers dry planted hoping for rain to get crops to emerge. Already emerged cotton struggled from wind damage and seedling diseases. Wind and no rain has put the cotton crop at risk. Most dryland cotton only partially emerged or did not come up at all. Irrigated cotton looked good. Ponds used to water cattle were drying up.

NORTH: Soil moisture ranged from short to adequate. Temperatures were in the upper 90s and heat indexes surpassed 100. Crop and pasture conditions were deteriorating because of the dry, hot weather. Wheat harvest was nearly complete with most fields yielding below 30 bushels per acre. Other wheat fields were too damaged to be harvested and was plowed under or baled. Those corn fields that drained well after the heavy rains in May looked good, but corn in the poorly drained fields was stunted and started tasseling early. The situation was similar for grain sorghum and soybeans. The oat harvest was nearly complete. Cotton was in good condition. Rice was in fair condition. Hay yields were high, but quality was often low because wet conditions delayed harvesting. Later cuttings of Bermuda grass were expected to be better. Livestock were in fair to good condition.

PANHANDLE: Corn and sorghum were emerging. The wheat harvest began in most areas. Early reports showed dryland wheat yields varied widely, from five bushels to 40 bushels per acre. Soil moisture was adequate across most of the area. Rangeland and pastures were in fair to good condition across most of the region.

ROLLING PLAINS: Rain saturated most of the region's soils. Hail destroyed some cotton fields, but it was early enough to make replanting an option. The rest of the cotton crop was in excellent condition, having received just the right amount of rain at the right time. Pastures and livestock were in good to excellent condition. The rain also filled livestock watering tanks. Producers needed dry weather to cut and bale hay, finish the wheat harvest and plant other crops.

SOUTH: The drought continued, with hot, dry weather the rule. Soil moisture was short to very short throughout the region. Producers completed the harvesting of potatoes and green beans and the planting of peanuts. Corn and sorghum matured, and in the northern part of the region, cotton began setting bolls. The sorghum crop in the eastern part of the region was in very poor condition. In the western part of the region, corn and sorghum were at the seed-development stage and progressing well under heavy irrigation. Also in that area, cantaloupe harvesting was active, and irrigated cotton was doing well. Producers in the southern part of the region were preparing to harvest small grains. Native rangeland and pasture conditions deteriorated. Forage for livestock was becoming scarce, forcing producers to continue supplemental feeding. Stock tank levels continued to drop; some were already dry. Many ranchers were using windmills and water wells as the main source of livestock water.

SOUTH PLAINS: Temperatures exceeded 100 degrees. Rain accumulations ranged from 0.2-3 inches. Soil moisture was short to adequate. Corn was in good condition. Sorghum and soybeans were in fair to good condition. The wheat harvest was ongoing. Though the development of cotton was delayed because of drought, the crop remained in fair to good condition. Pastures and rangeland were in poor to fair condition with little growth due to drought. Cattle were in good condition with producers continuing to supply supplemental feed.

SOUTHEAST: High temperatures and no rain took a toll on rangeland, pastures and livestock, reported AgriLife Extension personnel. Coastal Bermuda grass was brown and maturing, requiring livestock producers to supply supplemental feed. Second hay cuttings were limited, and stocks from a first cutting were already running low. Irrigated Bermuda grass hay fields were not responding to irrigation; they were green but showed limited growth. Most crops were in poor condition with some sorghum reported as fair. Corn yields were expected to be low. Rice was in fair to good condition. Pond levels continued to drop.

SOUTHWEST: Hot, dry weather continued with mid-afternoon temperatures 100 or higher. Heat indexes were 105 or higher. The soil profile was very dry. The San Antonio Water System announced Stage II emergency rationing and was expected to go into Stage III rationing soon. Forages were scarce. Pastures and ranges made almost no progress. It appeared all but a few dryland crops have failed. The harvesting of cabbage, onion, green beans, sweet corn, cantaloupes and watermelons was ongoing. Heavily irrigated crops made excellent progress. Irrigated corn and sorghum were in the soft-dough stage. Below-average yields were expected due to the dry, hot weather.

WEST CENTRAL: Hot, humid weather continued. Scattered showers fell in a few areas. Storm damage to crops was also reported. Cotton planting was under way in most areas. Hay cutting and baling continued. Rangeland and pastures began to show signs of stress from the heat and lack of rain. Stock tanks and ponds remained low. Livestock were in good condition. Producers were irrigating and spraying pecan orchards.

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