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Drought monitor
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Late spring rains bring only ‘slight improvement’ to Southwest drought status

95 percent of the Texas in some phase of drought. Situation worse than a year ago. Oklahoma cotton off to rough start.

Even after several recent rainfall events in some parts of the Southwest, much of the region remains in what seems to be a never-ending drought.

The most recent update from the Texas Water Development Board shows 95 percent of the state in some phase of drought.

Significant parts of the state continue to suffer from the most severe drought categories—extreme or exceptional. Much of the Texas Panhandle and large segments of deep South Texas remain in those phases. Much of the central part of the state is classified as severe drought.

Only a few counties in East and Northeast Texas are considered out of drought status, according to the latest drought monitor.

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Conditions across the state are actually worse than they were a year ago when 90 percent of the state was considered in drought. But the situation is slightly improved from three months ago when 96 percent of the state was classified in drought conditions.

“The most recent drought outlook is promising for East Texas,” the latest report said. “Most of that area is predicted to be out of drought within three months. The situation in West Texas is more dire with “continuing and developing drought.”

Recent reports from Texas AgriLife Extension IPM agents show how widespread the drought is.

Clyde Crumley, IPM agent for the Texas Upper Gulf Coast Region, says conditions remain mostly dry in his area. “The hot, dry weather pattern that has settled in over this part of southeastern Texas is continuing with oppressive high temperatures noted daily,” Crumley said in his most recent crop update.

“The widely scattered showers that we are experiencing are welcomed; however, the key word here is ‘widely’ and if you are fortunate enough to be under the right clouds then count yourself as lucky.”

Need more rain

Up in the Panhandle, Manda Anderson, IPM agent for Gaines County, said the area received some rain recently, but not enough.

“Portions of Gaines County have finally received much needed rainfall, but we are still a long way from replenishing our depleted soil moisture,” Anderson said. “Rainfall reports range from zero to 2 inches. Sadly, some of this rainfall was accompanied by hail. In cotton, hail damage ranges from a few torn leaves to complete stand loss. The wind and blowing sand continue to wreak havoc in conventional tillage cotton fields, and some producers are having to continuously sand fight in order to prevent complete stand losses.”

Anderson said some farmers have lost fields to blowing sand. “We have received reports of complete stand loss due to blowing sand. On the bright side of things, we are very thankful for the rainfall and some producers were able to rest their wells for a little while.”

In the West Plains area—Hockley and Cochran Counties—IPM agent Kerry Siders says recent rainfall has helped conditions but farmers still face problems.

“Varied amounts of rain—from one-fourth inch out west to over 5 inches in parts of northeastern Hockley County—have been received over the past week. Some very high winds and hail accompanied these rain events. Crop damage has been widespread.”

Siders said no one can minimize the damage some farmers have suffered from weather injury, “but all and all this damage has come with much needed rainfall.”

He said a lot of farmers face some tough decisions in coming days and weeks regarding crop insurance and whether to stay with a damaged field. “I do believe a stand of cotton will yield as long as it is a consistent stand of more than 19,000 plants (1.5 plants per foot) and it is squaring. Anything less than this now is questionable.”

Varied conditions persist in Oklahoma, as well. A recent crop update from the Southwest Oklahoma Research and Extension Center in Altus indicated that the cotton crop “is off to a tough start in many places. The bad news is that for the month of May, Altus’ normal rainfall is 4.81 inches, but we received only 1.29 inches in 2013. Thus far in June we have obtained only 1.35 inches of precipitation, compared to the normal of 4.32.”

Conditions have been better to the east. “Dryland areas have encountered spotty thunderstorms which have resulted in a mosaic of variable stands from excellent to poor across the southwestern corner of the state. Rainfall at Altus remains subpar with only 8.2 inches of rainfall received in 2013, compared to the 30-year normal of over 15 inches. Higher rainfall amounts have been noted closer to the Oklahoma City area. May and June are critical months for stand establishment.”


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