Texas crop, weather for June 1, 2011: Exceptional, extreme drought ongoing for most of state
By Robert Burns, Texas A&M
Jun 3, 2011

COLLEGE STATION — A few areas received rain, but except for parts of north-central and extreme northeast Texas, the state continued to suffer from moderate to exceptional drought, according the U.S. Drought monitor.

Even where the drought had lifted, Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel reported shortages of hay and damaged crops from lack of rain earlier.

All of the Panhandle remained in a severe to exceptional drought. A report from Mike Bragg, AgriLife Extension agent for Dallam County, northwest of Amarillo, was typical of agent reports from the region for the last week of May.

Two-minute crop and weather MP3 audio report for June 1, 2011

“Two fires up at reporting time. … One that consumed 15,280 acres — cause unknown. The other burned 600 acres and was caused by downed power poles due to extreme winds,” Bragg said. “Critical fire danger weather conditions are likely this weekend. Farmers were busy irrigating summer crops, completing planting of corn and cotton, and haying wheat and alfalfa.”

Likewise, the report from Pasquale Swaner, AgriLife Extension agent for Falls County, east of Temple, typified Central Texas conditions.

“Some rainfall fell across the county this past week,” Swaner said. “Temperatures are 95-plus, with high humidity levels. Farmers are harvesting the last of the wheat and oats this week. Corn and milo are stressed due to the lack of rainfall throughout the growing season. Stocker operators are shipping cattle out to feedlots. This week should be the last of cattle to be shipped out by stockers.”

Conditions varied considerably across East Texas, but the report from Blaine Jernigan, AgriLife Extension agent for Rusk County, mirrored the common themes.

“The weather is dry with no significant rainfall occurring during the reporting period,” Jernigan said. “Winds continue to be high, depleting soil moisture. There was very limited hay production occurring at this time.”

The report by Arlan Gentry, AgriLife Extension agent for Ward County, southwest of Odessa, was similar to many of those by Far West county agents.

“No change,” Gentry said. “No rain, temperatures in the 90s and 100s, and still breezy to windy. Producers are making choices to sell cattle versus continued feeding. A couple of brush fires this week, but luckily nothing large or really damaging.”

In South Texas, extremely hot weather was rapidly drying out areas that received rain earlier in the month.

“Any improvements from mid-May showers have dried up with prolonged triple-digit weather,” said Caleb Eaton, AgriLife Extension agent for Zapata County. “Water levels at Falcon Lake continue to drop at a staggering pace.”

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

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

The 12 Texas AgriLife Extension Service Districts
Central: Some areas received rain, but coastal Bermuda grass pastures did not make much progress. The rain came too late for most corn. Later-planted corn will survive but was not expected to make good yields. Stocker cattle producers were shipping cattle to feedlots. Livestock were in good condition.

Coastal Bend: Hot, dry, windy conditions persisted throughout the reporting area, and the drought became more severe daily. Cotton was in full bloom and at its peak water-demand stage. Sorghum began to turn color. Recently planted sesame was emerging. Limited hay has been made. Ranchers turned cattle out to graze hay fields to utilize what little forage was available and to put off feeding hay. Many ponds were dry.

East: Above-normal temperatures and strong winds continued to deplete soil moisture. Thunderstorms were reported in some areas, but very little rainfall was received. Hay production remained limited. Producers in some counties were already searching for hay to buy for next winter. Producers were spraying for grasshoppers in pastures in Nacogdoches County. Livestock producers were culling cows and selling market-ready calves. Burn bans remained in effect in several counties. Henderson County vegetable yields were fair to good. Blueberry and blackberry harvests began there as well, with good yields reported.

Far West: The region remained hot, dry and windy. Wildfire in Andrews County burned more than 25,000 acres. Rangeland native grasses showed very little green. Pecan and hay producers continued to irrigate. Some sorghum was being planted under irrigation. Most farmers completed planting irrigated fields and began on dryland acreages. Conditions for planting in either irrigated or dryland fields were not good, especially in dryland where there was no moisture whatsoever. Sunflowers emerged and were doing alright, but at night, deer were eating many of the young, green plants. Cotton growers with subsurface drip irrigation found water had very limited upward movement in the soil. Cotton growers with pivot irrigation systems have been running pivots very slowly to keep soils moist. Fall-planted onions were about three-quarters through the bulbing stage. Pecan nut-load was about half of what it was last year. In El Paso County, all cotton emerged and some alfalfa fields were ready for a second cutting. Corn and chiles emerged. Damage from greenbugs and cowpea aphids was moderate.

North: Soil-moisture levels ranged from short to adequate. High temperatures were in the 90s with concomitantly high humidity levels. The rain helped corn, grain sorghum, soybeans and pasture grasses; all were in fair to good condition. Farmers in areas that had rain in the past two weeks were waiting to harvest wheat. There was some wind and hail damage to wheat and oats from storms, but for the most part it was not significant. The oat harvest was in progress. Some farmers harvested early season hay in between rains. Some were lucky, while others had some wet hay. The quality looked good, but quantity was a little below average for the first cutting of early season hay. Corn and milo were drought-stressed in some areas. Even with the rains, there was still a drought situation in some counties, and summer forage growth will be limited if more rain is not received soon. Stock tanks remained very low. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Stocker cattle operators were shipping to feedlots. Cotton planting neared completion. Cotton that was planted before rains and cool temperatures showed poor stands. Sunflower growers finished planting. Peaches looked very good but needed rain. Rangeland and pastures were in fair to good condition.

Panhandle: The region continued to be hot and dry with high winds, which adversely impacted all crops. High wildfire danger continues to be the major concern across the region, with all counties needing moisture. Producers were busy irrigating summer crops, planting of corn and cotton, and haying wheat and alfalfa. Some producers were unable to switch irrigation from corn to other crops because soils were drying faster than water could be applied. In some areas, blowing sand added to the stress on corn and cotton. Livestock producers continued to feed cattle. Some producers were culling their herds. Though in some areas cotton had barely emerged, producers already were forced to spray for thrips. The winter wheat crop continued to lose ground, and growers were concerned about the drying and early maturing of kernels.

Rolling Plains: The region received some much-needed rain, but sustained high winds and temperatures meant more was needed soon for cotton and forage planting. All forage growth seemed to be at least two weeks to a month behind due to the drought conditions and an unusually cool spring. Cotton began to emerge in irrigated fields, and producers continued to plant. Dryland acres may not be planted until moisture is received or the insurance planting deadline is immanent. Peanut producers were nearly finished planting. Wheat producers were harvesting and reported yields way below average. Some producers did not bother to harvest wheat at all. Ranchers needed rain to fill livestock watering tanks and improve pasture conditions. Cattle were being worked and some were being shipped due to lack of grazing.

South: Drought conditions continued. Rains that came two weeks ago only slightly improved rangeland and pastures. The improvements were quickly lost due temperatures above 100 degrees, no precipitation and no further rain expected. Soil moisture levels were short to very short throughout the region. Because of the lack of grazing, the high cost of hay and supplemental feeds, and critically low stock-water tanks, livestock producers were culling cattle and in some cases liquidating entire herds. In Atascosa and Frio counties, cotton began to bloom, corn showed signs of drought stress, and peanut planting was ongoing, though at a slow pace. In Jim Wells County, corn and sunflowers were rapidly maturing, but producers were concerned as to whether both of these crops will survive to be harvested. In Zavala County, the onion and cabbage harvests were in full swing. Also in that area, cotton, corn and sorghum producers were very busy irrigating. In Starr County, melon harvesting continued. Willacy County reported that irrigated sorghum looked significantly better the dryland crop, which was beginning to flower but showing signs of stress.

South Plains: The region remained very dry and windy with high temperatures in the triple digits. Producers were planting irrigated and dryland fields to meet insurance deadlines. Early corn showed symptoms from the spring cold snap. Seedling corn was showing symptoms of water stress during the day in spite of irrigation. Range and pasture conditions remained dry with the threat of wildfire high. Ranchers reported dangerously low water tank levels. They were scrambling to buy any hay available as grazing was non-existent in native-grass pastures.

Southeast: Trees were beginning to die from the drought. Some areas got from a trace to 1 inch of rain. Brazoria County crops have received only 0.5 inch of rainfall since mid-March. Normal rainfall for Brazoria County for the first five months of the year is 20 inches. Producers reported around only 3.5 inches by the end of May. Most farmers reported a total loss on corn. Those that have a corn crop expected aflatoxin levels to be high. Aphid populations markedly increased in many cotton fields. Pasture conditions continued to deteriorate.

Southwest: Signs of improvement were disappearing from rains two weeks ago, and the region remained very dry. Temperatures in the 90s and high winds aggravated drought conditions. Irrigated corn, sorghum, peanuts, sunflowers, cotton, sweet corn, cantaloupes, watermelons, pecans, grapes, peaches, sod and landscape crops made good progress under heavy irrigation but at high pumping costs. The onion, potato and sweet corn harvests were in high gear. Onion yields and quality were excellent. The cantaloupe and watermelon harvests slowly gained momentum. Green beans, tomatoes and squash continued to make good progress, and harvesting should start soon. Pastures and rangeland grasses were growing after a rain a week ago, but that growth ceased as there was little moisture deep in the soil profile. Forage availability remained below average. Producers had sold much of their livestock and were providing supplemental feed to the remaining cattle. Large numbers of wildlife were browsing highway roadsides at night, creating hazards for motorists.

West Central: Extremely hot, dry, windy conditions continued. Temperatures were expected to stay in the high 90s to triple digits for a while. A few areas reported scattered showers with some hail and wind damage on vegetable crops and to pecan orchards. Most of wheat and oat crops for grain has been harvested. Yields were very low. The first cutting of hay will be late this year due to dry conditions. Hay inventory was low and prices very high. Some cotton planting began. Rangeland and pasture forages were slowly growing due to recent showers in a few areas. Stock tanks were low. Cattle remained in fair condition with continued supplemental feeding. Producers continued to cull herds due to the drought.