George Garcia, Beasley, Texas, was intrigued by stories and photographs he saw in the pages of Southwest Farm Press earlier this year. “The before and after pictures showing the effects of the drought,” caught his attention.
He and other farmers in The Texas Upper Coastal Bend, a tad South and West of Houston in Fort Bend County, were having trouble getting cotton and grain sorghum planted in fields inundated by heavy rains that began in February and persisted well into late March.
“I remember being in the field on Feb. 20,” Garcia says. “And then I couldn’t get back in until late March. As soon as one rain would end and the fields would start to dry out, we’d get another. It’s been wet. I can’t even begin to describe “just how wet it’s been.”
He says the areas got two-and-a- half inches of rain on March 8 that “flooded al the fields. The back pasture was covered with about 5 inches of water.” He finished planting in early April, about two weeks later than usual.
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“We were afraid that we would be pushed further into April to finish planting,” Garcia said. “A neighbor joked that if it didn’t stop raining we might have to seed by air. Forecasts looked like we would continue to get rain well into April. We rushed to get everything planted.”
When the rain finally stopped, field dried out in a hurry. “When we started planting, we stirred up a lot of dust,” Garcia said. “The soil surface was dry. That shows just how much the weather can change in a short time.” Soil moisture, he added, is still good. “We have good moisture to get the crop started but that doesn’t mean we’ve made the crop,” he said. “We need rain during the season. We still have to hope and pray for more rain.
“We planted all grain sorghum this year,” he said. “We had planned on growing some cotton but decided to stay with milo this year.”
By mid-April, the crop was up and doing well. “Everything is out of the ground. Most everyone got grain in by March 23; we were still wet by then. Some cotton farmers were still planting until the first weekend in April.” He said a lot of cotton is coming up.
Garcia said the winter of 2014 was an odd one. Ice and snow are rare in South Texas but the area had frozen precipitation this winter along with bitter cold. “An Arctic blast brought some snow in February and temperatures dropped into the 20s in early March.” Cold fronts also came in regularly bringing those heavy rains.
Garcia said the growing season, despite a chaotic beginning, is off to a good start. Conditions are more promising than they have been for two of the last three years. He says 2013 was not too bad. “We had some early moisture.” But 2011 and 2012 were dry “all over the state.
Planting season was hectic, he says, but he’s glad to have moisture in the soil profile to get the crop up and going. And he’s hoping the rest of the year will be less nerve-wracking than the first two months of the growing season.
“We haven’t had rain snow since early April,” he said. “We are hopeful of a good year.’