Though there remained large areas still stricken, the number of counties under drought conditions continued to shrink, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service reports and the U.S. Drought Monitor.
From Interstate 45 to the east, most counties were either completely out of the drought or merely abnormally dry. Though most of the counties to the west of I-45 remained under drought, only about 25 percent were rated as being in severe or exceptional drought.
The weekly report from Washington County, northeast of Houston, is a good example of those coming from many counties. The county lies on the borderline of the areas fully recovered from drought and those still dry.
To the east, most counties are out of the drought, said Larry Pierce, AgriLife Extension agent for Washington County. To the west, many areas are still suffering, including parts of Washington County. Though stock ponds were filled, deep soil moisture remained short, reflecting conditions in many parts of the state.
As in many counties, with lush growth brought on by recent rains, producers continued to bale a great deal of cool-season grasses for hay, Pierce said. Though the hay is certainly welcome – many Washington County producers didn’t harvest any hay in 2011 – the flush of growth is holding back warm-season grasses, including Bermuda grass, Bahia grass and native species.
“Because of the high volume of ryegrass and clovers that we had that volunteered on many of our pastures because (other) grasses were so short, it was an excellent season for the cool-season grasses to take an upper hand,” he said.
Because of the suppression, it’s too early to see how much damage warm-season grasses suffered from the 2011 drought, he said.
Pierce said he expects to see some thinning of improved Bermuda grass stands from the drought. He doesn’t expect bluestem grasses to be affected however, as they are typically drought tolerant.
“Producers tell me they are seeing quite a bit of damage and just lack of response of growth of Bahia grass, which I find surprising,” he said. “They feel like Bahia grass took a really big hit.”
Pierce believes the damage assessment on Bahia grass may be a little premature as it is usually thought of as being a “survivor.”
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/ .