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Light rains do little to break drought

Some counties received light rain, but the drought seems to have stubbornly dug in its heels for most areas, reported Texas AgriLife Extension Service agents.

East Texas was the exception, receiving 1 inch or more of rain, bringing improving pasture conditions. But burn bans remained in effect in many counties.

"Received some moisture early in the week, but not enough," said Justin Nash, AgriLife Extension agent for Cottle County , west of Vernon. "The need for moisture is severe. Hay supplies for some producers are running out."

"Soil moisture is in great shape following a recent rain fall of up to 1.5 inches over the past week," said Lee Dudley, AgriLife Extension agent for Panola County , Carthage.

"Rainfall last week only averaged about 0.25 inches," said Robert K. Pritz, AgriLife Extension agent for Taylor County , Abilene. "This is well short of what is needed. As wheat breaks dormancy ... the number of seeds will be determined. With little soil moisture, wheat yields will continue to dramatically decrease following poor tillering because of the dry fall."

"Deaf Smith County producers are preparing for a dry and windy spring at this point," said Rick Auckerman, AgriLife Extension agent for Deaf Smith County , west of Amarillo. "Winter wheat is in a hold mode, ... (it's) needing moisture that is not there now."

"The county received about half an inch of rain this week, but it was quickly absorbed and dust was blowing again in less than a day," said Heath Lusty, AgriLife Extension agent for Jack County , south of Wichita Falls.

"We had about 3/4 inches this week and that will sure help the wheat crop," said Gideon Jennnings, AgriLife Extension agent for Hill County , south of Fort Worth. "It is so dry that during soil sampling down to 4 feet it was bone dry, which is a first for me in four years in Hill County."

"What a difference a week makes. Good rains have replenished soil moisture for the time," said Cary Sims, AgriLife Extension agent for Angelina County , Lufkin.

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

CENTRAL: The region received a little rain, but with topsoil moisture already depleted and the return of high winds, it didn't last long. Stock tanks were still low if not dry. Producers continued to feed protein and hay to maintain livestock. Hay may be in short supply if spring green-up is further delayed by little or no rain.

COASTAL BEND: Very light rainfall, .01 to 0.1 inch, was recorded. Temperatures were normal. The severe drought continued, and most farmers were delaying planting. Some farmers planted corn this week in dry soil, hoping for rain. Cattle were fed hay and supplements as there was little to no forage available. Some producers were selling cattle to thin herds.

EAST: Some much-needed rain fell over most of the area. However, a few counties were still in need of moisture. Winter forages were looking better. Burn bans were still in effect. High winds in Cherokee and Nacogdoches counties damaged timber and property. Feral hogs and beavers continued to plague producers.

FAR WEST: Some much needed rainfall, 0.2 to 1 inch, was reported. High winds persisted, and burn bans were in effect due to the extreme wildfire danger. Sustained winds of 60 mph were reported, with gusts up to 90 mph. Pecan trees were pruned. Producers were ripping to break compacted soils, and winter irrigation was in progress. Onions came out of dormancy, and land for cotton and chilies was being prepared. The alfalfa crop remained dormant. Pastures were diminishing, and most cattle were put on supplemental feed and consuming large amounts of minerals.

NORTH: Soil moisture ranged from short to adequate. Heavy storms brought from .05 to 1.5 inches of rain and some wind damage, but no reports of damage to crops or livestock. The rain didn't fill the stock tanks, but it did stimulate germination of small grains. Many small-grain fields still look bad and the rain might have been too little too late, but the mild sunny weather following the rain improved both small-grain and cool-season grass pastures. With the rain and warm temperatures, ryegrass was expected to really start coming on. More rainfall will be needed for corn planting. Farmers took advantage of the moisture and applied fertilizer to wheat crops, and the result was a near doubling of growth. Winter wheat was 100 percent emerged and was in poor to fair condition. Livestock was in fair to good condition with supplemental feeding continuing. Producers worried whether stockpiles of hay will last. There were many reports of feral hog damage. Range and pasture conditions were poor to fair.

PANHANDLE: Light showers fell, but soil moisture remained short or very short throughout the region. The rain was followed by strong, dry winds and low humidity, and wildfire danger remained high. Dryland wheat was in poor condition, and heavy irrigation was applied to the crop where possible. Not many cattle were left grazing as there was nothing for them to eat. Land preparation for spring crops continued, but moisture will be needed before planting. Some aphids were reported in wheat fields. Range and pastures were in poor to very poor condition.

ROLLING PLAINS: Light rain perked up the winter wheat, then hot, dry winds returned and damped out growth. Cotton producers began to plan for the upcoming crop year, but with cottonseed prices extremely high and low soil moisture, they were discouraged. Ranchers were feeding cattle supplements on a daily basis just to hold out for some type of moisture to replenish pastures and livestock water sources. Because of lack of grazing, some producers were forced to sell off calves before they wanted to.

SOUTH: The drought continued. Soil moisture was very short as a result of absolutely no rainfall and persistent strong winds. Potato planting was nearly completed. In the eastern counties, field work is at a near standstill. Producers with irrigation capabilities in the western parts of the region were preparing for pre-watering activities prior to the planting of corn, cotton and sorghum. In localized areas, producers were preparing to harvest onions and to plant sorghum. Range and pasture conditions worsened, forcing livestock producers to start liquidating herds.

SOUTH PLAINS: Weather was mostly warm and open with trace amounts of rain. Soil moisture was very short to short. Field operations, shredding stalks and applying herbicides, continued. Winter wheat was in very poor to poor condition and continued to be watered where irrigation was available. Dryland wheat suffered due to dry conditions. Pastures and ranges were in very poor to poor condition. Cattle were in mostly good condition with continued supplemental feeding.

SOUTHWEST: High winds -- with 40 mph gusts -- brought some hail and scattered rain showers, but the amount of moisture was not significant. The region remained almost completely dry. Forage availability was almost non-existent. The high, dry winds and very dry grass along roadways increased the risk of wildfires. Ranchers were providing heavy supplemental nutrition to some remaining livestock. Many stock tanks were reported dry. The soil profile was very dry. Planting spring crops under dryland conditions will be very limited. The cabbage and spinach harvest continued. Potatoes, spring onions, cabbage and spinach were making good progress under heavy irrigation. Irrigated corn and sorghum planting was under way.

WEST CENTRAL: Temperatures were mild with very high winds. Rainfall was reported in some areas but was very slight and short of what is needed. Fire dangers were extremely hight and burn bans remained in effect throughout the region. Wheat fields were in poor condition due to lack of moisture. Yields continued to decrease. Only irrigated crops survived the dry conditions. Range and pasture conditions remained poor. Supplemental feeding of livestock increased.

TAGS: Management
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