Texas crop, weather

With few exceptions, most of the state's topsoil remained critically dry. And in regions where a little rain came, strong winds followed, taking moisture with it.

Conditions were particularly severe in the Panhandle and the Southwest, reported Texas AgriLife Extension Service agents.

"Soil moisture levels are still the same , basically non-existent," said Rick Auckerman, AgriLife Extension agent in Deaf Smith County, west of Amarillo. "Continued dry and windy conditions in the county are keeping the center pivots running and farmers looking for the next rain cloud. Irrigated wheat is surviving; the dryland producers are starting to plow down what little is left."

"Last week we received 1 inch. The next day the wind blew 60 mph, and the moisture was lost," said J.D. Ragland, AgriLife Extension agent in Floyd County, near Lubbock.

"Strong winds have occurred all week and have dried out all moisture received last week," said J.R. Sprague, AgriLife Extension agent in Lipscomb County, near the border with the Oklahoma Panhandle.

"Dryland wheat is now in disaster state," said David Graf, AgriLife Extension agent in Sherman County in the northern Panhandle."Many acres are already abandoned or plowed under to prevent blowing."

"Dryland wheat is about to burn up due to high winds and lack of moisture," said Kyle Kight, AgriLife Extension agent in Crosby County, east of Lubbock. "Corn is being planted this week and water will have to be applied to get it up."

The following summaries were compiled by Texas AgriLife Extension district reporters this week:

CENTRAL: High winds dried out topsoil moisture between showers. Livestock and wildlife were in good condition. Cotton planting progressed in some counties. Pastures began to green up. Corn and milo crops were growing well.

EAST: Despite a heavy frost, warm season forages were growing well. Rain came, but strong winds quickly dried out topsoil. Clovers and ryegrass were in excellent condition because of earlier rains. With good growth on pastures, cattle are eating less hay. High fertilizer prices remained a major concern for producers, and many were looking for alternatives. Turfgrass diseases were found in Nacogdoches County.

FAR WEST: The region saw warm temperatures and windy days, with winds up to 60 mph. The region also received some frost . Soil moisture was very short to adequate. Range and pastures were in very poor to excellent condition. Corn was in fair to good condition. Sorghum was in fair condition. Winter wheat was in very poor to good condition. Oats were in poor to good condition. Pecans were budding out. Cotton planting proceeded with 5 percent already emerged. Grapes lost some fruit due to high winds. Alfalfa producers were days away from their first cutting. Burn bans continued. A wildfire in Ward County burned approximately 28,000 acres.

NORTH: Wind and warmer weather improved crop conditions. Soil moisture ranged from adequate to surplus. Corn was in fair condition. Corn already planted emerged, but too much rain caused it to yellow. Other corn plantings were drowned out. Wheat and oats were beginning to head out. A late frost may have hurt the wheat and set grass pastures back, but a following rain perked the grass back up. There were no reports of rust problems yet on wheat, but producers were doing precautionary treatments on susceptible varieties. Some wheat and oats were put into silage. Grain sorghum and soybean planting has started. All livestock were doing well. Cool season forages matured. Ryegrass and clover pastures made good growth, ending the need for winter feeding. Range and pastures were in fair to good condition.

PANHANDLE: Dry and windy conditions were typical for the past week. Soil moisture was short to very short. Winds caused soil erosion and raised the risk of wildfires. Agricultural producers were busy with field preparation and pre-watering for spring planting. Acres planted thus far to corn have been minimal. Wheat was in very poor to good condition with most areas reporting very poor. Range conditions were mostly poor to very poor. Pasture green-up was limited by low moisture. Cattle were in fair condition, with supplemental feeding continuing.

ROLLING PLAINS: Conditions remained dry and windy across most of the region. The last rain was light and came more than a week ago, and pastures and fields were already drying out. However, despite skimpy stands in many locations, the wheat crop looked promising. Many fields were compensating for poor stands with more tillers and long heads. Another rain is needed for wheat, to plant cotton and milo and to help out pastures. Watering tanks remained a little low. Insect activity was low. Ranchers continued providing supplemental feed, hoping for rain to get pastures into good enough condition to carry cattle through the summer. Farmers were listing up fields for planting, and some were considering putting out fertilizer. But fuel-cost spikes may cause many to reconsider their plans.

SOUTH: Short to very short soil moisture conditions continued throughout the region. A western county reported 0.5 to 0.7 inches of rain. This small amount of rainfall, however, did very little to help the extreme dry conditions in that area. Producers continued to irrigate, and livestock producers were forced to continue providing supplemental feed In the western parts of the region, onions progressed well – as did cotton and corn – with some additional water irrigations. Dryland crops suffered severe drought stress. In the mid-region, the harvesting of spring onions, vegetables and citrus crops wound down.

SOUTH PLAINS: Warm and dry conditions prevailed, with strong winds adding to the desperate conditions. Soil moisture was short to very short. Corn planting started, but water will have to be applied to get it to emerge. Irrigation wells have been running non-stop, preparing for the May 10 cotton planting start date. Dryland farmers will not be able to plant cotton until they receive a good rain. Winter wheat was in poor to fair condition. Most wheat fields have headed out under continued irrigation. Pastures and ranges were in poor to fair condition. Livestock were in mostly fair condition with producers continuing to supply supplemental feed.

SOUTHEAST: Rain late in the week helped with dry conditions, but pastures could use more moisture. Temperatures have been moderate with still some cool evenings. The spring and winter grasses were mature. Leaf blight was found in some wheat fields, but for the most part the crop looked good with large heads and well-filled kernels. Corn was fair. The sorghum looked good. Pasture weed control continued, and some producers have applied fertilizer. Livestock were doing well.

SOUTHWEST: About one-tenth of an inch of rain helped settle dust, but not much else. The year-to-date cumulative rainfall at Uvalde of about seven-tenths of an inch was about 88 percent below the long term average of close to five inches during the same period. Southwest Texas is facing the driest last seven-month period on record. Woody trees and other plants leafed, but they are unlikely to have sustained growth without a substantial rain. A high incidence of roadside and field wildfires continued. Forage availability was below average. Corn, sorghum, spring vegetables and cotton were making good progress under irrigation. Planting under dryland conditions occurred in only those counties that recently received rain. Small grain production will be minimal, and only where irrigation was possible. The cabbage and carrot harvest continued. Onions and potatoes made good progress under heavy irrigation. The potato harvest slowly gained momentum. Cantaloupes and watermelons were doing well under heavy irrigation.

WEST CENTRAL: Daytime temperatures rose while the nights remained cool. A few counties received scattered showers. Small-grains stands were short and thin and beginning to head out; most will be grazed or baled. Crops and pastures were fair to poor. All crops need rain or growth will halt. Cotton producers prepared fields for planting, applied fertilizer and sprayed for spring weeds. Range and pasture green-up continued, but more rain is needed to make it through the summer months.

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