Farmers in the Texas Coastal Bend who were lucky enough to get crops out of the ground this spring could still make an average or a little less than average crop if they get something close to normal rainfall for the rest of the growing season.

Based on short-and medium-term forecasts, that’s not likely. More probable will be the rapid decline of the grain sorghum and corn that emerged and the near complete failure of cotton that either came up to extremely skippy stands or didn’t come up at all.

Some parts of San Patricio County got from two to two-and-a-half inches of rain early,” says Texas AgriLife County Extension agent Bobby McCool. “We’ve also had some cloudy days that helped. But cotton is very skippy.”

McCool stopped at a cotton field that, from the highway, seemed to have a decent stand. Walking the rows, however, showed long stretches where nothing emerged. In some rows, skips stretched out to 100 feet or more. Ten to 20-foot gaps were common. “Some plant populations are as low as 15,000 to 20,000 per acre,” he says.

He stopped at other fields where no cotton seedlings had made it through the dry soil. Most of that acreage, he surmised, will make nothing.

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McCool says the central and eastern part of the county received a little more rain than the rest of the area. That allowed early-planted corn and grain sorghum to emerge, but the outlook is grim as the drought promised to linger through late April and into early May. Sorghum plants that had reached 12 to 15 inches were beginning to show moisture stress early in the day. And most fields had large spots of yellowed leaves, symptoms of iron chlorosis, caused by lack of moisture that prevents roots from taking up vital micronutrients.

Irrigation is limited. “We have about 15,000 acres under irrigation in the county. That’s out of 230,000 acres, based on FSA numbers, planted last year,” McCool said.

Danny Wendland raises cattle, cotton and grain sorghum outside Sinton, the San Patricio county seat. “It’s mostly dry through here,” he says. “For cotton, it’s horribly dry. I replanted all my cotton once and some of it twice.”