A few growers, however, are looking hard at drought-tolerant alternatives. Leading the options are sunflowers, sesame and new interest in guar. The later is gaining popularity as it is widely used in hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and oil extraction from shale deposits.

“And sesame particularly has gained interest among growers in the Coastal Bend. There is high demand for U.S. sesame now with buyers from Japan, for example, looking at U.S. sesame as an alternative to Chinese exports,” Stapper says.

He says sunflower production has also garnered interest with local growers, but warns that while sunflower is a drought-tolerant crop, it still requires adequate moisture and can be adversely affected in extreme drought conditions.

On Mar. 1 Coastal Bend growers gathered at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center in the Coastal Bend for a one-day drought-strategy workshop. The well attended event provided current soil moisture data to growers and offered additional information about tools to monitor crop weather, drought cropping options, risk analysis, alternative crop options and crop disease issues associated with drought.

For area sorghum producers, Stapper says the ideal temperature for quick germination and establishment of grain sorghum is near 65 degrees. The minimum soil temperature at the desired planting depth for germination and emergence of sorghum is about 55 degrees he says, but planting early could cause slow growth.

He also warns that full-season, and even medium-long, maturity hybrids in South and Central Texas can exhaust available moisture before maturity, and reduced yield potential should be expected, especially in dry years.

During dry years lodging or standability factors are important. Drought stress and limited moisture conditions for sorghum can lead to charcoal and other stalk rots which cause lodging, especially when plant populations are high. Gulf Coast wind and storm damage can also make strong standing sorghum hybrids more valuable.

On Mar. 6, livestock producers from across the region will get their chance to review drought impact on forage crops and related information at a Drought Management Symposium for Range and Pastures, also scheduled at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center (10345 State Hwy 44 just west of the Corpus Christi Airport).

The symposium will cover forage management and grazing system issues, designing an early drought warning system, the economic impact of stocking strategies in drought, meeting animal nutrient needs with forage management, rangeland response following drought, and toxic weed identification.