Hurricane Emily’s sideswipe appears to have been beneficial for South Texas agriculture. With landfall 75 miles south of Brownsville, the storm brought little more than badly needed rainfall to the Lower Rio Grande Valley area.
While making an informal, drive-by survey of crop conditions in Hidalgo County, Texas, Cooperative Extension agent Brad Cowan said he had not seen too many flooded fields. Instead, he said he was impressed with how healthy and green irrigated cotton looked a day after the storm.
“Damage to cotton depends on the stage of growth,” he said. “In fields that were defoliated and ready to be picked, I’ve seen some lint strung out of the boll and some on the ground. But I’ve been pleased with all the fields I’ve seen that are still green and look very good.”
Dryland cotton, which had been under severe drought stress, appeared to be the most affected by rains, he said.
Most Rio Grande Valley vegetables, sorghum and corn had been harvested prior to the storm. In addition to cotton, citrus and sugarcane were left vulnerable to Emily. But both appear to have fared well and should benefit from the rainfall.
“We have had no reports of damage to citrus,” said John Da Graca, interim director of the Texas A&M Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Weslaco. “Here in the mid-Valley area we got 3 to 4 inches of rainfall, about one irrigation’s worth, but it’s fresh rainwater, which is very beneficial.”
Rainfall totals throughout the Valley seemed to range from 3 to 9 inches, not enough to create standing water that could damage crops. Wind damage also appeared to be sparse.
Juan Enciso, Extension vegetable specialist, said the rain from the storm’s outer bands would help leach soils of salts that accumulate from irrigating with salty river water.
“This will help the soil profile tremendously and add soil moisture for fall vegetable planting,” he said. “As dry as it’s been, all crops should benefit.”
Sugarcane, one of the heavier water-consuming crops in the area, also appears to have escaped widespread damage. Both citrus and sugarcane are harvested in the fall and winter and benefit from timely rainfall in their growing cycles.