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Rains helped drought conditions

Rain alleviated drought conditions throughout much of the state. However, many regions need considerably more rain to fully recover, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

Depending on location, the Coastal Bend area has only had 6 to 9 inches of rain for the year, said Dr. Dan Fromme, AgriLife Extension agronomist based in Corpus Christi.

The average rainfall is about 29 inches in the Corpus Christi area, according to Fromme. As most of the region is in dryland crops, the drought has hit local agriculture particularly hard. Fromme said he has been getting calls from local media expecting him to say things are just rosy now, but it isn't so.

"We've got a long way to go before things begin to look hunky-dory down here as far as soil moisture is concerned," Fromme said.

Still, things have improved considerably. Farmers don't plant corn until February; cotton, not until March, he said. More moisture will be needed between now and then to ensure good conditions at planting, and the long-range forecasts are favorable for a wet fall.

"It would be nice to have another 5 or 6 inches," he said.

Much of East and North Texas have different problems; frequent showers and wet fields are keeping them from taking another cutting of hay. In the Panhandle, growers are hoping for warmer days to help cotton and sorghum mature. AgriLife Extension agents from most regions reported that the condition of livestock improved thanks to the green up of pastures and rangelands. And stock water tanks have either been partially filled or completely filled in many regions as well.

If anything is hunky-dory this year, it might be peanuts, reported Jeff Wyatt, AgriLife Extension agent for Dawson County , south of Lubbock.

"They started digging this week, and everything looked pretty good, though of course we don't have any numbers back yet," Wyatt said.

Peanuts are first dug and the nuts are turned upside down to dry. Once dried, specially equipped combines will be used to complete the harvest. Dawson County has about 2,500 acres of peanuts, all irrigated, this year, he said.

Feral hogs have been a problem this season, Wyatt said.

"They're about to take us over," Wyatt said. "They stick their nose in at one end of the row and just go to the other. It's just amazing."

Wyatt said a herd of feral hogs (called a "sounder") can destroy as many 50 acres of peanuts in a night. Figuring income loss of about $400 per acre, a farmer can easily see losses of $20,000 or more in a single evening, he said.

"They're getting to be a real problem," he said.

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The following summaries were compiled by AgriLife Extension district reporters:

CENTRAL: Some counties received rain. Small grains were being planted where field conditions allowed. Producers supplied supplemental feed to livestock. Livestock were in good condition.

COASTAL BEND: Temperatures were below normal and most of the region received scattered showers. Pastures began to green up.

EAST: Most counties reported about 2 inches of rain, while Upshur and Wood counties saw as much as 18 inches. Producers had been trying to get a last cutting of hay done before the end of the season, and the rain delayed their efforts. The cooler temperatures and rain caused an increase in armyworms in pastures and fields. Feral hog activity also was on the rise. Where conditions permitted, producers were planting winter pasture grasses. Livestock were in good to excellent condition.

NORTH: Soil moisture ranged from adequate to surplus and the region looked spring-like. However, continual rain for several days delayed planting of oats and winter wheat, and delayed hay cutting and the harvesting of sweet potatoes. There is some concern about potatoes souring in the ground from too much water. As hay fields dried out, producers hoped to take one last cutting. A large portion of regionally produced hay was still being sold to south central Texas. Cotton was in fair condition and being harvested. Pastures and stock tanks looked great. Conditions were favorable for the establishment of winter pastures. Some disease and fungal problems were reported due to the recent rains. There was also some concern about armyworms. Livestock, rangeland and pastures were in fair to good condition.

PANHANDLE: Soil moisture was short. Cool days left cotton and sorghum needing more heat units to mature. All corn needed for harvest were a few dry, breezy days. All other crops were in good condition. Sunflowers were 5 percent harvested. Farmers continued planting winter wheat, with 35 to 85 percent planted and, in irrigated fields, 20 to 80 percent already emerged. Dryland wheat needed moisture to fully emerge. Silage producers reported good yields. Cattle were in fair to good condition.

ROLLING PLAINS: The district had warmer evenings and cooler nights with some scattered drizzle and showers. Farmers were busy plowing and planting wheat. Volunteer wheat was thick in most fields due to moisture and producers having not harvested wheat for grain last year. Peanut producers were expecting a good crop. The harvest should begin in a couple of weeks. Dryland cotton producers were not counting on a good crop due to the dry summer. Irrigated cotton producers hoped for an average crop. The moisture greened up pastures and rangeland with winter weeds and ryegrass. Livestock were in good condition with some ranchers weaning calves. Most stock tanks were in decent shape but could use more runoff water.

SOUTH: Week-long rainfall improved range, pastures and overall soil moisture. AgriLife Extension agents in all counties reported adequate soil moisture conditions and cooler temperatures. In the northern part of the region, thanks to as much as 12.5 inches of rain, many producers were planting oats for grazing and wheat. Peanut harvesting was expected to begin in a couple of weeks. Producers began working fields in the eastern part of the region. Newly planted cabbage fields responded well to the recent rains. Buffel grass pastures greened up and were producing large amounts of forage. Cotton ginning continued as modules continued to be delivered. Fall vegetables and sugarcane were planted in the southern part of the region. Livestock producers improved body condition scores on cattle, and the need for supplemental feeding declined.

SOUTH PLAINS: Temperatures fluctuated from cool to above normal. Soil moisture was short to adequate. Corn and sunflower harvests continued. Cotton was in fair to good condition. Some dryland cotton was harvested. Many irrigated-cotton acres neared the point where they could be defoliated. Growers continued planting winter wheat and began digging peanuts. Pastures and rangeland were in fair to good condition. Cattle were in good condition with continued supplemental feeding.

SOUTHEAST: Rain brought mixed blessings. Many pastures in Brazos and Brazoria counties were lost to armyworms after the rain. But generally pastures were rebounding throughout the region, and runoff was replenishing stock tanks and ponds. With grass regrowth, producers continued to harvest hay. The body condition scores of cattle were slowly improving in some areas; in others they remained poor. The ratoon rice crop was in good condition. Soybeans were doing well thanks to rain. Livestock were doing well.

SOUTHWEST: More than an inch of rain was received, raising the total rainfall in some areas to about 6.3 inches for September. This was about 240 percent of the long-term average for the month. The recent cool weather has helped conserve moisture, and the region looked terrific and green compared to a few weeks ago after months of severe drought. Stock tanks were full and the forage situation improved. The rains interrupted the cotton harvest, but about 90 percent of the crop had been harvested. Peanuts and some pecans were making good progress. Growers began harvesting pecans as orchard floors dried out. The peanut harvest was expected to start soon. The fall sweet-corn harvest was completed. Fall-planted cabbage, pickling cucumbers and green beans were also doing well thanks to the rain. The September rains will also go a long way in preserving wildlife and preferred range grasses. However, year-to-date cumulative rainfall remained significantly below the long-term average. More rain will be needed to sustain the improved production outlook, said AgriLife Extension personnel.

WEST CENTRAL: Much cooler temperatures came to the region. Scattered rainfall in several areas was expected to provide enough moisture for wheat planting. Early planted fields were already developing. Burn bans were lifted. Harvest-aid materials were applied to cotton fields. Rangeland and pasture conditions improved. Cool-season grasses began to grow. Livestock were in good condition with continued supplemental feeding. Water levels in stock tanks and ponds rose. Growers were preparing to harvest pecans and expecting a good crop.

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