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Texas Weather: More Rain Lessened Drought, But Not Enough

19 January 2012

US - Winter rain accumulations varied across the state, from as much as five inches in some East Texas counties to one inch to three inches in Central and North Texas, according to reports from Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.Parts of the Rolling Plains also got rain, as much as 1.5 inches, while some areas in West Central Texas got more than one inch, according to reports by AgriLife Extension county agents.

The rest of the state remained mostly dry, receiving only light rains if any.

Where there was rain, winter forages and wheat benefited, and stock tanks and ponds were replenished to varying degrees.

The rains also improved US Drought Monitor ratings for much of the state. As of Jan. 10, about 62 per cent of the state was rated as being under severe to extreme drought. Though still high, it’s an improvement over nearly 70 per cent being under severe to extreme drought on Jan. 3, and a vast improvement from October when 97 per cent of the state was under severe to extreme drought.

“Wheat was in better condition due to moisture received in December,” said Scott Strawn, AgriLife Extension agent for Ochiltree County in the northeastern Panhandle. “All fields are up to a good stand. Subsoil moisture below 6 inches is very dry.”

“Conditions have basically remained the same with the outlook not being positive with continued above-average temperatures, windy conditions and no precipitation in sight,” said Toby Oliver, AgriLife Extension agent for King County, east of Lubbock. “Several rain chances were missed over the last few weeks.”

“All of the county received from 1 inch to 2.5 inches of rain,” said Todd Vineyard, AgriLife Extension agent for Wise County, northwest of Fort Worth. “The weather has been warm and sunny with cool nights. Small grains are making excellent growth.”

“Pastures continue to green up after each rainfall event, but soils are still trying to recover from the drought,” said Shane McLellan, AgriLife Extension agent for McLennan County, Waco. “A slow, soaking rain is needed. Grasses are slow to respond to nitrogen fertiliser, much slower than normal. Many producers are attributing this to the drought’s effect on the soil.”

“Over the past two days we have received 4 inches of rain in Upshur County,” said William Odowd, AgriLife Extension agent for Upshur County. “There is water standing in several spots, but this is not enough rain to take us out of the drought.”

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

Central: The region received from 1 inch to 2 inches of rain. Wheat and oats were in good condition as soil moisture levels improved. Livestock producers were still supplementing cattle with hay and feed, though winter grazing pastures also improved thanks to the recent rains. A few producers were still hauling water for livestock.

Coastal Bend: Parts of the region received light rain. Some producers were making fertiliser applications, but most were still waiting for good soaking rain. Livestock producers continued supplementing cattle with protein and hay. Some further reduced herds.

East: As much as 5 inches of rain fell across some parts of the region which helped fill stock tanks, ponds and lakes. Winter pastures showed good growth after the rains. Some pastures that were planted late needed more growth before they could be grazed. Calving season began. Producers continued to buy hay from out of state, but much of it was of poor quality. Feral hog activity increased.

Far West: The northern and western parts of the district experienced very cold days early in the week and as much as 10 inches of snow. Southern counties received a little snow and moisture. Temperatures fluctuated from cold to mild throughout the reporting period for most of the region. Most rangeland and pasture grasses were dormant and brown, while some showed a little green-up of grasses and winter forbs from the moisture. Mesquite beans were plentiful. Fears of a prevalent locoweed crop rose. Producers continued to provide supplemental feed to livestock. Later-weaned calves that were earlier back-grounded (one word?) were shipped.

North: After widespread rains of 1 inch to 3 inches, soil moisture was short to adequate. The rains replenished stock ponds, with some being brought to overflowing. Wheat, oats and winter pastures looked very good. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Pecans were 75 per cent to 100 per cent harvested.

Panhandle: Temperatures were nearly average early in the reporting period, then warming to above average by week’s end. Soil moisture varied from adequate to very short, with most counties reporting short to very short. The cotton harvest was almost completed. Winter wheat was in very poor to excellent condition, with most counties reporting poor to very poor. Some farmers were preparing fields for spring plantings. Rangeland and pastures were in very poor to fair condition, with most counties reporting poor to very poor. Cattle grazing on winter wheat were doing well.

Rolling Plains: Southeastern counties received from 1 inch to 2.5 inches of rain. The rest of the district remained dry. In some areas, fields left uncultivated after the disastrous cotton crop were blown out by high winds. Along with bare fields, several winter wheat fields were blown out as well. Cotton producers began listing beds for this year’s plantings in an effort to keep fields from blowing. Ranchers continued to provide supplement feed daily in hopes of maintaining livestock body condition and sustaining herd numbers. Many pastures and rangeland acres were in fair condition, but pastures that were grazed heavily during the drought had not recovered. Hay supplies have become extremely short and hard to find.

South: Dry conditions continued throughout the region. Soil-moisture levels were short to very short. Rangeland and pastures were in fair to poor condition. As the calving season began and the shortage of grazing continued, ranchers resorted to adding prickly pear to their supplemental feed for cattle. Many livestock producers were further culling herds. In Atascosa County, some grazing on wheat and oats was taking place. Potato planting began in the Frio County area. In Zavala County, wheat and oats were behind for this time of the year, and the harvesting of spinach, onions and cabbages continued. In Cameron County, harvesting of vegetables, sugarcane and citrus was ongoing. In Starr County, farmers continue spring plantings.

South Plains: High winds quickly dried out any moisture received during the past month. Temperatures were above average most days. Some producers were doing field preparations, including fertilising, bed-shaping, listing and stalk cutting. Livestock producers were still supplementing cattle with hay and feed. Winter wheat matured but was suffering from drought stress. Pasture and rangeland improved somewhat. Livestock producers were still supplementing cattle on pastures.

Southwest: The region had seasonally cold weather with occasional warm-ups. Livestock producers continued providing supplemental feed for cattle. Winter grasses were doing well with light rains. Farmers were concerned that the dry, windy and cold weather may cause frost damage to legumes and winter grasses.

West Central: Temperatures remained seasonably cool. Many areas reported from 1 inch to 2 inches of rain. Some counties also received snow. All moisture helped restore soil moisture and benefit small grains as well as rangeland and pastures. Winter grasses and cool-season forbs showed good growth. Most winter wheat was ready to be grazed. Late-planted fields were progressing well. Producers continued heavy supplemental feeding of livestock.

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