After prolonged drought, South Texas producers are now struggling with too much moisture, according to Rod Santa Ana, Texas A&M AgriLife communications specialist based in Weslaco.
On Sept. 16, the rains were continuing without any let up in the forecast, which was discouraging for South Texas growers of cotton and citrus, Santa Ana said.
“After a long summer dry spell here in South Texas, we received a lot of rainfall from Tropical Storm Dolly in early September,” he said. “A lot of areas in the lower Rio Grande Valley got anywhere from 4 to 5 inches accumulated rainfall just this last weekend.”
A good portion of the area’s cotton was harvested, but harvesting of those fields that weren’t finished is now on indefinite hold, Santa Ana said.
Another problem is the delay of cotton stalk destruction, he said. To prevent overwintering and buildup of cotton boll weevil populations, cotton stalks must be destroyed in a timely manner. State law mandates stalk destruction, either mechanical or chemical, by Sept. 1
“Some growers had harvested and destroyed their stalks; others had harvested but hadn’t had time to destroy their stalks.”
Santa Ana said another problem caused by wet field conditions is control of the Asian citrus psyllid, an insect that has been identified as the vector of citrus greening, a bacterial disease that can wipe out entire orchards.
“Soggy fields make it very difficult for citrus growers to enter their orchards and do their timely spraying for the citrus psyllid,” he said. “And all the rain prompts citrus trees to sprout new green growth, which is exactly what the Asian citrus psyllid loves to feed upon.”
“Unless it stops raining today, which is not in the forecast, it will be very difficult for citrus growers to get into the fields before the end of September to do what they need to do, he said. “Otherwise, the rains have been tremendously beneficial for South Texas agriculture, providing deep soil moisture so badly needed for fall/winter vegetable crops as well as spring planting of row crops next year.”
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/ .
Statewide conditions are improving
The most recent Texas Water Development Board Drought Report shows improved drought conditions across the state with 58 percent of Texas now considered in moderate to exceptional drought status. That’s down from 61 percent last week and 69 percent three months ago. Last September, the state was at 87 percent in drought status.
Worst drought continues to hold on in the rolling Plains area near the Southwest Oklahoma line, where a section remains in exceptional drought status. That area continues to shrink each week, however. Patches of extreme drought remain across the High Plains with most of the region considered in severe drought status.
Pockets of moderate drought also occur across the state but a large portion is now considered “abnormally dry” with a few counties in East Texas South Texas and Farm West Texas drought-free.
The report also indicated promising potential for rainfall continuing into this week, a prediction that, if fulfilled would help “reverse the downward trend” in reservoir capacity, which dropped by 150,000 acre-feet last week.
Recent conversations with cotton farmers and industry spokesmen in the Texas High Plains indicated the latest rainfall helped some of the region’s cotton but that hot, dry weather will be needed to finish the crop.
(Ron Smith Farm Press Editorial Staff)