Farm Progress

Rain too much of a good thingRain too much of a good thing

Robert Burns

November 4, 2009

7 Min Read

Many parts of Texas had excessive rain, taking them from drought to flood, but overall it's a good thing, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service experts.

A couple of months ago, the agricultural situation in his district was rather dire, said Dr. Dale A Fritz, AgriLife Extension administrator for an 18-county area in southeast Texas that includes diverse agriculture and geographical areas such as the Brazos and Trinity river basins, coastal prairies and marshes, East Texas forest, the Big Thicket and Blackland prairie.

As late as September, the region had recorded only a quarter of the normal rainfall for the year. It was the second year of drought, producers were having to liquidate herds, and it didn't appear as if there would be enough moisture to plant spring crops. But what a difference a month can make, Fritz said.

"We've had several inches of rains over the last few weeks," he said. "Some areas have had as much as 12 inches; other areas probably 6 to 8 inches."

So much rain, in fact, that there has been flooding. Conroe had flooding earlier, and more recently, the runoff down the river basins, particular the Trinity River, flooded areas in Liberty and Chambers counties. "It's flooding a lot of pasture lands, and cattle in flood plains are having to be moved to higher ground," Fritz said. "And with the land flooded, of course, the cattle aren't able to graze, and it's going to take additional feed resources." Another downside, not just to the Brazos River basin, but other cotton-growing areas in the state such as the Rolling Plains, is that the rain may deteriorate the quality of cotton bolls that were open, he said. But despite a little too much of a good thing, few producers in his district are complaining, Fritz said. "The rainfall has really improved the grass and pasture lands, and that has really helped with the cattle operations," he said. "It has delayed cotton harvest, but with some clear weather those farmers will be able to get back in the fields and harvest their cotton." Another upside is that the cool weather has slowed armyworms down, and the heavy infestations the region's producers were fighting earlier are history, he said.

The following summaries were compiled by AgriLife Extension district reporters:

Central: The region received more rain, filling stock water tanks. It has been too wet for many small-grain producers to plant wheat and oats. Those who planted oats early for grazing have lost stands due to armyworms and excess moisture. Cotton was severely damaged by the rain and is still in the field.

Coastal Bend: Showers alleviated drought conditions but delayed the harvest of late sunflowers and sesame seed. Field work included controlling weeds, particularly morning glories and smell melon (a weedy form of muskmelon). Most cleanup was done with herbicides as fields were too wet for tillage. The hay harvest continued as wet conditions allowed.

East: Large amounts of rain caused rivers, creeks, and stock ponds to overflow, causing flooding in many parts of the region. Wet conditions made it hard for producers to finish the hay harvest. Some hay was on the ground when the rains hit. Other producers were concerned about pastures drying out soon enough to bale one last cutting. Winter forage growth slowed due to the constant rain. Feral hogs continued to cause damage. Livestock were in fair condition. • Far West: There was a light freeze, with traces of rain and snow and some sleet. Vegetables and chilies were slightly affected by the freeze. The cotton harvest was in full swing. Farmers were planting wheat in some areas.

North: Soil moisture was mostly surplus. Most areas continued to be plagued by wet and muddy conditions. In many areas, the fields were so saturated – some were under standing water – that no farming activity was expected to take place for some time. Producers who planned to plant small grains for grazing will most likely not have time. Those that got some planted between rains have gotten poor stands. With so much moisture, producers were expecting losses from being unable to harvest summer crops or prepare and plant winter crops. Each day the crops are left in the fields, more damage is done. Where conditions permitted, the harvesting of soybeans, sorghum and peanuts were under way, and winter wheat and oats were being planted. Cotton was in fair condition. Livestock, rangeland and pastures were in fair to good condition.

Panhandle: Soil moisture was mostly adequate with a few areas still short. A hard freeze across most of the area was accompanied by some moisture. Corn was 35 percent to 90 percent harvested with average yields. Sorghum was 35 percent to 100 percent harvested. Soybeans were 60 percent to 100 percent harvested. Sunflowers were 35 percent harvested, and peanuts were 8 percent harvested. Cotton was fair to good with 7 percent to 15 percent harvested. Wheat was fair to good with some being planted in wheat stubble. Cattle were put out to graze on some irrigated wheat. Summer forages were going dormant, and producers were providing supplemental feed to cattle.

Rolling Plains: Cool, wet weather halted the cotton harvest that was just starting up. Wheat planting was also brought to a standstill until fields dry out. Temperatures dropped to near freezing in some counties. Although the moisture wasn't exactly what the farmers wanted, it did help out pastures and wheat that had already been planted. Pastures were in good to excellent condition as were livestock. Producers began to move stocker cattle onto wheat. Some areas of the district are seeing major crop damage caused by feral hogs. They are eating everything from alfalfa to cotton fields.

South: AgriLife Extension county agents reported short to adequate soil moisture conditions. The northern parts of the region received 1-5 inches of rain. Armyworms remained a problem. Wheat and oat crops showed improvement in growth. The peanut and green-bean harvesting was delayed for a couple of days due to the rain but was back in full swing by the end of reporting period. Perennial grass production slowed down with cooler nighttime temperatures and shorter daylight hours. Armyworms were also a major problem in the eastern parts of the region, but declining populations were reported. Also in the eastern counties, there was some hay harvesting. The western parts of the region also received rain, which helped newly planted wheat and oats emerge. However, the rain delayed spinach and onion planting. Cabbage harvesting continued. Rangeland and pasture growth was fair. Producers continued supplemental feeding of livestock. Stock tank water levels remained a limiting factor on many ranches.

Southeast: From 2-10 inches of rain fell across parts of the region, most of which fell slowly allowing soil absorption. Soil moisture was at surplus levels and ponds and stock tanks were full. The Brazos River approached flood stage at Rosharon. Livestock producers were closely watching the river as it has been rising all week from rains that earlier fell in North and Central Texas. The cooler nights slowed Bermuda grass growth. Much winter annual planting was yet to be done. Reports of armyworm damage to hay fields and grazing pastures continued.

South Plains: Soil moisture was short to adequate. Cotton modules were stacking up in the gin yards, but rain set back the harvest a day or so. The first freeze occurred, and farmers were hoping it would finish the cotton harvesting. The corn, peanut and sunflower harvests neared completion. Winter wheat was in fair to good condition. The rain accelerated wheat emergence and promoted rapid growth. Pastures and rangeland were in fair to good condition. Cattle were in good condition with continued supplemental feeding.

Southwest: The agricultural situation continued to improve with rains of 10 or more inches during September and October. The recent cool weather helped conserve moisture. Pastures, ranges and small grains were making full use of the moisture, but more rain will be needed to sustain the improved agricultural situation through winter. Wet fields delayed the fall harvest, but the harvest of sweet corn, cabbage, pickling cucumbers, green beans, and pecans resumed. The peanut harvest gained momentum.

West Central: Weather was very mild, with warm days and cool nights. Scattered showers were reported in a few areas. Wheat and other small grains were doing well thanks to recent rains. The cotton harvest was off to a slow start because of wet conditions. Producers continued with a last hay harvest and small-grain planting as fields dried out. Rangeland and pastures improved. Livestock remained in fair to good condition.

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