Texas Crop, Weather: Drought Extends Farther Into East Texas

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COLLEGE STATION -- While conditions remained mostly favorable in much of the state, in East Texas soil-moisture levels were dropping at an alarming rate and the hay harvest was two to three weeks behind, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

Other parts of the state also were experiencing hot, dry weather with higher than normal temperatures. In most areas, however, soil-moisture levels remained adequate, and row crops, pastures and rangeland were in fair or better condition. In Central and Southeast Texas, the crops and pastures were more severely stressed by lack of moisture, but were far from being in as critical condition as those in East Texas.

Aaron Low, AgriLife Extension agent for Cherokee County, about 50 miles south of Tyler, said all area producers are suffering, particularly those who grow hay, melon and vegetables.

For example, Low said that in a 10-acre watermelon field owned by local producer Jay Jones, nothing much at all was being produced. The soil was dry and a recent shower only served to crust over the surface. Melons which should be 10-12 inches long on June 1 were only 3-4 inches long. Other melons were soft, a sign of extreme moisture stress. Watermelon vine leaves were wilting.

"You can see these melons here are not going to produce a big melon any time soon," Low said. "Jay Jones and people like him that grow produce and cut and bale hay for a living are in a terrible bind."

According to the U.S. Drought Portal, the public information website for National Integrated Drought Information System, 13 or more East Texas counties, stretching north of Longview to south of Lufkin along the Texas/Louisiana border, are now experiencing "moderate drought" conditions. The extremely dry counties extend into Central and parts of Southeast Texas.

The following summaries were compiled by AgriLife Extension district reporters:

CENTRAL: Extremely hot and dry conditions took a toll on row crops. Corn and sorghum showed signs of moisture stress. Pecans still looked good but the crop needs moisture. Growers expected to be finished spraying for pecan nut casebearer soon. Oat yields were very good, and the wheat harvest was expected to begin shortly.

COASTAL BEND: Conditions remained favorable for crop and forage growth. However, sorghum was in seed-set to late-bloom stage and could use rain. Cotton began to bloom and still had fairly high insect pressure. Some wheat harvesting was delayed due to wet conditions. Livestock were in good condition. The hay harvest was ongoing. Pastures were in good condition, but most are inundated with annual weeds due to reduced grass stands during the past two years.

EAST: With the exception of a few light showers, the region remained dry. Temperatures have been above average. Soil-moisture levels were rapidly declining. Hay production, which has had low yields so far, fell further behind. Producers were already worried about having enough hay for winter. Burn bans were implemented in some areas. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Feral hogs remained active.

FAR WEST: There were isolated showers with reports of accumulations of 0.2 - 7 inches of rain. Conditions in most of the region were dry, windy and hot and with high fire danger. Cotton planting was well under way and was expected to be finished within a week. Some early planted cotton will have to be replanted due to damage by wind, hard rain and hail. Pecos County reported that hail and wind stripped all corn of leaves but the stalks were still standing. Most Pecos County wheat was severely damaged, and farmers were considering plowing it under or baling it. Nearly half of the onion crop was heavily damaged. Cantaloupes and watermelons experienced some damage, but the extent was yet to be determined. Cotton and chiles had just started to emerge and they were not expected to have any lasting damage. Pecan trees escaped the storm and were progressing as expected as growers sprayed for the first generation of pecan nut casebearer. Alfalfa growers started their second cutting.

NORTH: Soil moisture ranged from short to adequate, and days became hot and dry. A few areas received scattered rain showers. With the warmer temperatures, Bermuda grass began to grow. Forages and crops responded well. Row crops were planted, and the yield potential looked good. Wheat headed, and the harvest was expected to begin soon. Early speculation was that yields and quality will be below average as most wheat was planted very late due to a wet fall. Though also planted late, corn, grain sorghum and soybeans were doing well. Rice and peanuts were in fair to good condition. The oat harvest was under way. Cotton was in fair to good condition. Producers were cutting and baling early season grass hay, and tentative reports were yields will be about 30 percent to 40 percent of normal. Most likely, said AgriLife Extension personnel, yields were off due to cool nighttime temperatures and lack of moisture. Peaches and strawberries looked very good. Livestock were in good condition. Feral hogs continued to be a major problem.

PANHANDLE: Crops in some areas were damaged by hail. Producers were busy planting, fertilizing, applying herbicides and irrigating. The corn crop, which had gotten off to a great start with early plantings, was at the four-to-five leaf stage. Dairies were still harvesting winter forage crops and preparing to plant summer forages such as sorghum-Sudan. The winter wheat crop was in fair condition, with drought and some disease issues affecting potential yields. The wheat harvest could begin in some fields within a week. The status of cotton varied with some very early plantings just now emerging. Some cotton acreage remained to be planted; some will be replanted because of heavy rains or hail. Peanut growers neared finishing planting. Only a few dryland fields were left to plant. Rangeland and pastures greened up and continued to improve. Cattle were in excellent condition.

ROLLING PLAINS: Hot, dry weather set in across the region. The wheat harvest began, and early reports were very favorable, particularly in terms of test weights. Cotton planting was ongoing, and producers reported stands were emerging in five to seven days after planting and looking good. Some cotton was at the two-leaf stage. Sudan for hay was being planted under good soil-moisture conditions, which was good news as most producers fed all their hay this past winter. Cotton, milo and peanuts all made good progress. Pastures greened up, and warm-season grasses were growing. Livestock were in good condition. Cattle on pasture were doing great as abundant rain and warm weather caused summer grasses to flourish. The peach crop looked good.

SOUTH: Temperatures were mild to warm with scattered showers. Overall, soil-moisture levels were adequate. The exceptions were Zavala County and Cameron County, where they were surplus and short, respectively. In the northern part of the region: The potato and wheat harvests were ongoing; grain sorghum headed out; corn looked good and had tasseled; and peanut planting was in full swing. In the eastern part of the region, cotton and small grains showed good growth, and some pest activity was reported in grain sorghum. In the western part of the region, wheat harvesting was hampered for a while due to rainfall but resumed along with cabbage harvesting by the end of the reporting period. Also onion, cotton and corn showed good progress, and insect pressure was being monitored on cabbage, cotton and watermelons. In the southern part of the region, row crops were progressing well, and the melon harvesting was expected to begin soon. Rangeland and pastures were in good to excellent condition. Producers throughout the region suspended supplemental feeding of livestock due to the availability of good forage. Stock-tank water levels were good to fair.

SOUTH PLAINS: The weather was mostly favorable for planting, and soil-moisture levels were mostly adequate. Some areas received spotty showers. However, hot, dry winds with gusts up to 50 mph caused excessive drying of some recently planted crops. Corn was in fair to good condition. Cotton planting neared completion; the crop that had already emerged was in mostly fair to excellent condition. Growers continued planting peanuts, sunflowers and sorghum. Wheat was in fair to good condition, entering the dough stage and turning color. Pastures and rangeland were in fair to good condition with warm season grasses doing well thanks to good rainfall during the last month. Livestock were mostly in good to excellent condition

SOUTHEAST: Dry conditions were severely limiting forage production. Pastures were beginning to suffer as they did earlier in the spring. A small percentage the rice planted in fields that were flooded by the Hurricane Ike storm surge were showing signs of being adversely affected by saline conditions.

SOUTHWEST: Crops, pastures and rangeland continued to make excellent progress thanks to rain and mild temperatures. Growers were harvesting corn for the fresh market and seeing top-notch yields and quality. Feed corn and sorghum were in the soft-dough stage. The wheat, spring onion and cabbage harvests were ongoing. Forage availability was above average for this time of the year. Corn, sorghum, cotton, watermelons, cantaloupes, sunflowers, potatoes and peanuts made superb progress.

WEST CENTRAL: Conditions were very hot and dry in most areas, while Mason County had severe flooding that destroyed crops ready for harvest as well as newly planted peanuts and hay grazers. Losses also included wildflower seed production fields, commercial vegetables and melons. There were no reports on livestock losses at the time of this report. Cotton planting was in full swing. Growers were harvesting wheat and expecting above-average yields. Sorghum plantings were doing well, and producers were cutting and baling small grains. Rangeland and pastures remained in good condition. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Peach growers were thinning orchards. Insect infestation in fruit and vegetable crops was increasing. Pecans looked promising with growers spraying for pecan nut casebearer where needed.



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