Farm Progress

Severe to exceptional drought conditions persist over southwest.Crop and forage production severely affected.Some areas have gotten rain but statewide picture is grim.

May 10, 2011

2 Min Read

Crop and forage production has "pretty much shut down" due to severe to exceptional drought conditions, said a Texas AgriLife Extension Service statewide crop expert.

"If you look at the U.S. drought monitor, about 26 percent of the state of Texas is an exceptional drought," said Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension program leader and associate department head of the soil and crop sciences department, College Station.

"Exceptional," means it is a one-in-50-year occurrence, Miller explained.

Much of the rest of the state was in what's classified as moderate, severe, or extreme drought. The distinctions are being based largely on how much damage and losses are expected to crops, forage production, livestock and water sources, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor classification scheme, details of which can be found at

There were scattered pockets -- mainly in north central Texas -- that got some substantial rain a few weeks ago, Miller noted.

"But statewide, it's a pretty grim picture," he said. "And it's not just Texas; it's New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and parts of Arkansas. It's an exceptional drought across a big area."

Corn along the Gulf Coast is stunted and tasselling early, Miller said. "It's in a lot trouble."

Blacklands/Central Texas corn, though planted later, is in much the same shape, he said. "We're seeing leaves twisting (from heat/moisture stress) by midday," he said.

Much of the Texas wheat crop has failed as well, Miller said. "Probably in the order of 50 to 60 percent of the wheat crop won't be harvested," he said.

From a national standpoint, Texas is a "minor player" in feed grains. But Texas typically plants about half the U.S. cotton acreage, so a large-scale crop failure there could have an impact on prices, Miller said.

Cotton is typically planted later than corn, and cotton growers ran into dry soil conditions as the planting window opened. As a result, Miller said, a very small percentage of the total cotton crop, under 20 percent, has been planted to date.

"The High Plains is right in the middle of their planting season," he said.

"They normally plant up to the first week of June. The dryland farmers are waiting for rain. The irrigated farmers have spent a lot of money and pumped a lot of water, and we're seeing some planting in irrigated conditions."

More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at

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