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Drought returns to most of state

Large parts of the state continued to experience drought or abnormally dry weather, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service reports.

Only the Panhandle and South Plains regions reported adequate or better soil moisture levels. "Continued dry conditions have forced some ranchers to begin supplemental feeding earlier than normal," said Gary Clayton, AgriLife Extension agent in Wise County , southeast of Wichita Falls. "Pastures across the area are declining rapidly."

"The county continues to suffer from the drought with no rain in the forecast,” said Dirk Aaron, AgriLife Extension agent for Bell County , in Temple. "Growers are planting wheat into seedbeds that did get some light rain about two weeks ago, but planting conditions are very poor."

"Conditions are extremely dry," said Pasquale Swaner, AgriLife Extension agent in Falls County , south of Waco. "Ranchers are supplementing cattle with hay and feed due to the lack of rain and not having any winter grazing from the crops. The oat and wheat acreage that emerged is in severe stress due to the lack of rainfall."

"Dry weather continues causing concerns from producers," said Chad Gulley, AgriLife Extension agent in Nacogdoches County in East Texas. "Many have expressed interest in winter forage and clovers but are waiting to plant in hopes of getting rain."

"Extremely dry conditions prevailed, and range and crop conditions continued to decline," said Robert Elledge, AgriLife Extension agent in Kinney County , west of Uvalde. "All livestock and wildlife need supplemental feeding to sustain body conditions. All fall-seeded crops are on the verge of a total loss if moisture is not received in the near future, with the exception of irrigated fields. All agricultural enterprises are suffering from high operation costs and the drought."

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

CENTRAL: Extremely dry conditions persisted, stressing winter wheat and oats. Stock tanks were low, and livestock producers were providing supplemental feed. Though they cut herd numbers earlier in the year, some ranchers were considering downsizing again because of the high cost of feed and hay.

COASTAL BEND: Conditions were very dry, and winter forage production was particularly at risk. Most field work stopped due to moisture loss. Cattle were supplemented with hay and protein.

EAST: Dry conditions were complicated by a widespread frost. Lack of rain and cooler temperatures stalled winter-pasture growth in most of the area. Trinity County had numerous deer/car collisions. In one instance, a deputy sheriff was seriously injured after hitting a deer, losing control of his patrol car and hitting a tree.

FAR WEST: The only moisture received was from dew and light frosts. Pecans were drying and splitting shucks. Producers were waiting for a hard frost to defoliate trees to aid harvesting. Cotton stripping began. The sorghum harvest was under way. The last cutting of alfalfa was finished. Red, dry chiles were harvested, and fall onions were planted.

NORTH: Soil moisture ranged from adequate to short. There were a few frosty nights as temperatures dropped into the 30s in some counties. This frost was about two weeks earlier than average. But no rain accompanied the cold front, and soil conditions in most counties remained critical. The planting of wheat, oats and winter annual pasture was nearly completed. Some of the early planted wheat emerged, but the later-planted crop needed moisture before it could emerge. Most pastures were in good shape, but the freeze may force them into dormancy. Stock tanks are 5 to 6 feet low, and beef producers may have to start hauling water soon. Due to the drought, winter forages and grains were beginning to show signs of stress. Livestock conditions were good, but producers were forced to begin supplemental feeding. The insect population decreased, but feral hog activity and damage were on the rise.

PANHANDLE: Temperatures were near normal at the beginning of the reporting period but above average at the end. Soil moisture was reported mostly adequate. The corn and soybean harvests were ongoing. Cotton was mostly fair to good, and most sorghum was mature, but only a few fields were harvested. Wheat varied from poor to excellent with most areas ranging from fair to good. Range conditions were mostly poor to fair. Cattle were in good condition.

ROLLING PLAINS: Wheat pastures looked good across most of the region but will need rain soon. Most of the district experienced a light frost early in the reporting period, and warm-season grasses were going into dormancy. Those producers who have not begun to feed cattle will do so soon. Most cows were in pretty good shape. Fall armyworms were still present, but not causing too much of a problem. Greenbugs and leaf rust began to appear in small localized areas. The cotton and peanut harvests continued with mixed yield results.

SOUTH: Soil moisture conditions ranged from short to very short throughout most of the region. The exception was the southern part of the region where soil moisture was adequate. Overall temperatures were cooler with only small amounts of rain reported in the northern counties where the green bean harvest was finished and peanut harvest ongoing. Pecan producers in the western parts of the region reported a lighter crop due to the lack of rain. Spinach planting continued in the western counties. In the southern parts of the region, land preparation for winter crops was in full swing, and the harvesting of sugarcane, citrus and early vegetables continued. Fall vegetables in that area were progressing well, and some irrigation was applied to fall corn. Forage quantity and quality in native range and pastures were decreasing throughout the region because of the cooler temperatures and no rain. In response, producers began more supplemental feeding of livestock.

SOUTH PLAINS: The weather was dry and warm with temperatures in the 80s during the day and 40s at night. Soil moisture was adequate. The cotton harvest was in full swing with good yields. The corn harvest was nearly complete with average yields. The sorghum and peanut harvests continued. The pumpkin harvest was nearly complete with average yields reported. Winter wheat, pastures and ranges were in good condition. Cattle were in good condition with no supplemental feeding being reported.

SOUTHEAST: Conditions were very dry. Pasture grazing was fair, and most producers were already feeding hay. There was little winter pasture planted due to lack of moisture. Row crops have been bedded for spring planting. Pastures continued to suffer without rain. The dry conditions allowed a lot of hay baling. The ratoon rice harvest started with 15 percent of the crop already in. The soybean harvest was ongoing. Livestock were doing well. Rangeland and pastures in some southernmost counties were still showing damage by the salt-water intrusion caused by Hurricane Ike.

SOUTHWEST: October ended with only 0.11 inches of rain. Much of the region has missed the last three growing seasons because of drought. The peanut harvest was nearly complete. The harvesting of cabbage and cucumbers for pickling continued. Spinach, cabbage and other fall vegetable crops were making good progress under heavy irrigation and cool weather. The spinach harvest was expected to begin soon.

WEST CENTRAL: Days were warm and nights cool, and an early frost damaged crops in a few areas. The cotton harvest was under way in some counties. Early planted wheat was in fair to good condition. Field preparation and planting of small grains was ongoing. Growth of warm-season grasses and forages stopped. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Producers were starting to cut herds due to drought conditions. Water levels in stock tanks and ponds continued to drop. Pecan crop yields will be extremely low.

TAGS: Cotton
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