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Dry, droughty conditions persist for most of state

Most of the state's agricultural producers continued to suffer dry if not drought conditions.

Low soil moisture levels were critical in some areas, limiting the planting of winter wheat and possibly even spring wheat if rainfall patterns don't change, reported Texas AgriLife Extension Service agents throughout the state.

The East and Southeastern reporting regions received some rain, but both could use more, particularly the Southeast, according to reports.

"No question it's dry and we need a rain," said J.D. Ragland, AgriLife Extension agent for Floyd County , northeast of Lubbock. "Really, no wheat in Floyd County is responding or growing at this time. Some irrigated fields look decent, but they too need a good rain."

"Moisture is needed badly," said Brad Easterling, AgriLife Extension agent for Baylor County , southwest of Wichita Falls."What few fields were able to be grazed have been grazed to the point of exhaustion or the wheat is simply pulling up due to shallow root systems. Most fields are not even being turned out on and will miss any chance of being grazed."

"Extremely dry conditions," said Marty Gibbs, AgriLife Extension agent for Runnels County , south of Abilene. "Wheat looks terrible and many fields have died if they came up early."

"Our county ends 2008 in severe drought conditions which have caused many cattle ranchers to downsize and review alternative feeding sources to offset costs," said Dirk Aaron, AgriLife Extension agent Bell County , near Temple. "Corn producers who have not fertilized for the 2009 planting are looking at alternative sources of fertilizer due to soil conditions being too dry for anhydrous ammonia."

"The drought continues," said Bob Whitney, AgriLife Extension agent for Williamson County , north of Austin. "There has been some drizzle but no rain in months. Cattle sell-offs continue and wheat farmers have parked their drills without planting."

"We received several light rains in the past couple of weeks which have given cover crops enough moisture to start growing," said Armon Hewitt, AgriLife Extension agent for Trinity County , southwest of Lufkin. "The weather has changed from hot to cold back to hot every few days, which is extremely hard on livestock, especially when mixed with rain."

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

CENTRAL: oil moisture was very short across the district. Stock tanks were getting low, pastures were dry and winter grazing plots were severely stressed. Livestock were being supplemented with hay and feed to maintain condition. All small grains were severely suffering. Wildfire danger is extremely high.

COASTAL BEND: The region received scattered showers. Extremely dry conditions prevailed and winter crops were moisture stressed. Some fertilizer applications were being made to row-crop land. Many farmers who were fertilizing were applying dry fertilizer to save on liquid fertilizer expense. Livestock were still being supplemented with hay and protein. Hay supplies were getting tighter and hay was being actively traded.

EAST: Most areas received a fair rain. Winter pastures were growing well. Overall, livestock were in good condition.

FAR WEST: No precipitation was reported across the district. Several counties were under a burn ban. The cotton harvest was completed, and the pecan harvest was about half done, but was predicted to be finished in about two weeks. Pasture and range conditions were stable.

NORTH: Soil moisture ranged from short to adequate. Pecan and cotton harvests were completed. Winter wheat was in fair condition and 95 percent emerged. Dry soil conditions have prevented much growth. Light rains over the holiday season were negated by the winds drying the soil. Temperatures in the 20s and 30s accompanied the showers. Farmers were plowing and replanting late wheat just prior to Christmas. Rye grass pastures were offering a little grazing. Winter feeding is continuing and cattle producers were reporting that their animals are consuming large amounts of hay. Range and pasture conditions were mostly fair. Everything looked fair to good but moisture was needed.

PANHANDLE: Little to no rain or snow combined with high winds depleted topsoil moisture. The short soil moisture across much of the region left the wheat crop and pastures in fair to poor condition. Moisture was desperately needed for the dryland wheat. The cotton harvest was mostly completed, with short yields and lower quality. Supplemental feeding of cattle continued.

ROLLING PLAINS: Conditions remained extremely dry. Green bug numbers increased over the past several weeks, and a few producers were spraying. Winter-grain mites were also found, but not in any great numbers. Wheat rust is still present and should be watched. Much of the pasture in the area had no winter grass at all. Stock tank levels continue to recede. Not all counties were under a burn ban, but residents were cautioned about outdoor fires. Though cattle prices remained low, some producers were selling anyway to avoid the cost of keeping and feeding calves through the winter.

SOUTH: Soil moisture conditions showed no sign of improvement, and with the exception of the southernmost areas, counties reported very short soil moisture. Rainfall was greatly needed for crop production and forage-supply feed for livestock. Peanut harvesting was completed in the northern counties. The eastern parts of the region received a little moisture but generally not enough to plant spring wheat. A little spring wheat was planted there and emerged despite the dry conditions. In the western parts of the region, irrigation was applied on fresh and processing spinach. Cabbage harvesting continued. The harvesting of sugar cane, citrus, tomato and onion crops was ongoing. Livestock producers responded to the low moisture and poor forage growth by reducing herd size and increasing supplemental feeding of their livestock.

SOUTHEAST: Coastal Bermuda grass was dormant, but recent rains and mild conditions have sparked the growth of winter grasses. The days were warm and skies were cloudy, and conditions were extremely dry. The majority of stock ponds have dried up or are no longer useful. Field crops needed moisture, and pastures were in poor condition. Because of late planting and limited rainfall, winter pastures were slow to progress. Wheat is fair despite the limited moisture. Livestock were doing well.

SOUTH PLAINS: Very dry conditions dominated the region. Soil moisture was very short to short. The cotton harvest was virtually complete but some cotton modules remained in the field. Gins were expected to finish up within the next 30 days. Some field work, working beds and shredding stalks, was done. Winter wheat was in fair condition but in need of moisture. Pastures and ranges were in poor to fair condition. Supplemental feeding of cattle continued.

SOUTHWEST: The year ended with only about 11 inches of total rainfall, 46 percent of the long-term average. The early-fall-winter period, Sept. 1 - Dec. 31, was the driest period on record with only 0.94 inch of total rainfall, compared to a long-term average of about 8 inches. Forage availability is sparse. Pastures and ranges are dormant. The cabbage and spinach harvests continued. Winter vegetable crops, including onions, were making good progress under heavy irrigation. Winter wheat, under dryland conditions, did not progress, and it appears that planting spring wheat may not be possible because of the critically dry soil profile. Planting other dryland row crops this spring may be very limited unless above-average rainfall is received during the remaining winter months.Fruit and nut growers will begin pruning soon.

WEST CENTRAL: Temperatures were mild with cold nights. Extreme dry conditions continued. The cotton harvest neared completion with good yields reported. Winter wheat was in poor condition due to lack of moisture. Range and pasture conditions declined severely. Stock tank levels dropped. Wheat grazing was limited and supplemental feeding increased. Livestock body condition decreased. Pecan harvest is complete with extremely light crops reported.

TAGS: Corn
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