What is in this article?:
- Central and North Texas have been blessed with ample rain since last fall.
- Much of the South Plains and some areas in South Texas are still dry.
- Crop insurance is not a waste of money.
Travis Miller jokes about his work as a member of the Texas Governor’s Drought Preparedness Council and as the “go-to-guy” for media questions about drought and wildfire.
“I’ve done a good job with this drought,” he says, tongue tucked firmly in his cheek.
He also knows that drought is a serious concern as a good part of the state remains dry going into or well into planting season.
Miller, AgriLife Extension agronomist, says Central and North Texas have been blessed with ample rain since last fall and are poised to make “wheat like we’ve not seen in 15 years. But wheat in West Texas looks bad.”
Much of the South Plains and some areas in South Texas are still dry as well. It’s more of the same pattern that’s persisted for more than a decade, Miller says. “Since 2000, it’s been dry about every other year. We hear a lot of discussion about climate change, and this seems like change.”
But it’s not particularly new, he says. “If we look back 110 years, we can see that we had more drought before 1960 than we’ve had after 1960.”
He says records show severe drought in 1915 and 1918 and then in the 1940s and 1950s.
“If you live in Texas you will deal with drought,” he says. “We adjust. Texas farmers and ranchers know that drought is part of it.”
He says problems arise when after four or five years of good moisture farmers “get lulled” and plant one crop where they should plant something else. “A lot of corn has moved into grain sorghum areas. Sorghum is better suited to iffy conditions. In a good year, corn will produce better, but I think people miss a bet on (not planting) sorghum. Cotton is also a good bet.”
But he’s philosophical about farmer options. “A grower has to follow the formula that works best for him,” he says. “But even with the best corn technology, I see opportunities for sorghum.”
He says new corn genetics that offer some drought tolerance have helped. Brent Bean, a Texas AgriLife Agronomist at Amarillo, Miller says, has shown as much as a 10-bushel per acre advantage with those drought-tolerant hybrids compared to other corn hybrids—in dry conditions.
Miller is somewhat hopeful that weather patterns will change. Central and North Texas have emerged from drought status and the High Plains area has received some rainfall in the past few weeks.
“But the High Plains may be set up for another (dry) year,” he says. Climatologists give an equal chance that conditions will be above average or below average for moisture. “La Nina has transitioned to a neutral status,” he says.