Texas AgriLife Extension Service agents in eastern and southeastern Texas reported worsening drought conditions.
Both areas had previously been spared from the worst of the drought. "Pasture conditions are rapidly drying," said Rick Hirsch, AgriLife Extension agent for Henderson County , Athens. "Stock tanks are beginning to lower. The potential for grass fires is increasing rapidly. Hay producers are slowing sales due to dry weather."
"Weather is unseasonably cold," said Blaine Jernigan, AgriLife Extension agent for Rusk County , Henderson. "Topsoil moisture is declining, and there is heavy supplementation of livestock under way."
"Winds continue to dry out the surface," said Brian Cummins, AgriLife Extension agent for Van Zandt County Canton. "There is moisture down a couple of inches. The county fire marshal is wanting the commissioners court to institute a burn ban. This will be on the court agenda this week."
"We are in need of rain. Milk prices continue to decrease," said Clint Perkins, AgriLife Extension agent for Wood County , Quitman. "Many dairy producers are worried. Nitrogen fertilizer continues its slow decline in prices. Potassium is still costly."
The following summaries were compiled by AgriLife Extension district reporters this week:
CENTRAL: The drought worsened. Wheat and oats were very poor with most growers not planning on fertilizing if rain does not come within the next two weeks. All livestock was being heavily fed with supplements. Stock tanks were nearly dry.
COASTAL BEND: The drought continued, with conditions becoming critical in some counties. Ranchers were continuing to provide supplemental feed and considered reducing herd size. Wildfire threat was high in all counties.
EAST: The region was desperately in need of rain. Lack of moisture dried up pastures and fields across the area, which increased the risk of grass and brush fires. Despite dry conditions, farmers were preparing fields for spring planting. Livestock were in fair to good condition with supplementation. Reports of feral hog damage continued to come in.
FAR WEST: Drought persisted, and farmers and ranchers worried about not having any soil moisture at all going into the spring and summer. Land was being prepared for cotton planting. Some pre-watering of irrigated cotton ground began. Pecan trees were pruned. Fall onions and alfalfa were dormant. Spring wheat was planted. Most of the region's dryland wheat needed a good rain. Early planted wheat looked bad; some was dying. Range, crop and livestock conditions were not good. Burn bans were enacted in several counties.
NORTH: Soil moisture ranged from adequate to very short. Some moisture existed a couple of inches below ground, but winds continued to dry out the surface. A lot of winter pastures died or were damaged from lack of moisture or a hard freeze or both. Winter wheat for grain was holding on, but in some instances stands were not good enough to permit grazing. In other areas, winter wheat was in fair condition and 100 percent emerged. The cotton and pecan harvests were complete. Livestock were in fair to good condition with supplemental feeding continuing. Most stock tanks were six to eight feet low. Fairly mild temperatures meant cattle producers could feed less but still maintain the body condition of their livestock. Feral hogs continued to be a problem for producers.
PANHANDLE: Extremely dry conditions forced authorities to initiate burn bans for many counties. Dryland winter wheat struggled for survival, and when possible many producers irrigated to salvage the crop. Wide temperature swings from highs in the 70s to lows in the 20s stressed cattle. Most ranges and pastures were in poor or very poor condition.
ROLLING PLAINS: Conditions remained extremely dry, and some counties remained under a burn ban. Pastures were in dire need of moisture. The cotton harvest was finished, and gins were finishing what little cotton was left. Yields and prices were well below average. Most producers put their cotton in the loan program with no intention of redeeming it. Ranchers were feeding supplements daily just to maintain their cattle. Some producers began to sell off cattle because of lack of grazing. Winter wheat began to play out. Livestock water supplies dwindled causing great concern, as February is a dry month in a normal year.
SOUTH: The drought continued throughout the entire region. Soils, rangeland and pastures are extremely dry, and the danger of grass fires increased. In the northern part of the region, the above-average temperatures allowed potato planting to begin. In the eastern counties, spring wheat was showing stress. Producers were actively irrigating oats, wheat, spinach, onions and cabbage in the western counties. In the south, onions were doing well, and producers continued with preparation for spring planting. As range and pastures declined, livestock producers continued with supplemental feeding throughout the region.
SOUTH PLAINS: Warm and dry weather continued. Soil moisture was very short to short. Cotton field work was ongoing with fertilizer being applied. Unless moisture is received soon, producers will have to pre-water the fertilized fields. Winter wheat was in poor to fair condition and irrigation continued. Some producers made fertilizer applications to winter wheat hoping to improve growth. Pastures and ranges were in poor condition. The danger of wildfire was high, particularly on tinderbox-dry rangeland. Livestock were mostly in fair to good condition as producers continued supplemental feeding.
SOUTHEAST: Much of the region remained dry with low humidity that further dried out soils and caused burn bans to be enacted in some counties. No rainfall and several hard freezes slowed growth of winter grasses. Producers continued feeding hay and providing supplements to livestock. Some clover fields were in fair condition but will soon decline without rain. Livestock were doing well.
SOUTHWEST: The current drought threatens to break some long-standing records. The last 17-month period was the third-driest period on record, surpassed only by the droughts of 2006 and 1956. With few exceptions, forage was almost non-existent. Ranchers provided heavy supplemental nutrition to remaining livestock. Many stock tanks were dry. Planting spring crops under dryland conditions will be very limited. The cabbage and spinach harvests were ongoing, and potato planting began. Spring onion planting in South Texas was down 28 percent from last year, but the crop made good progress under heavy irrigation. The wheat crop will be sparse this year due to the drought.
WEST CENTRAL: Daytime temperatures were mild with cold nights. Extremely low humidity and high winds increased the danger of wildfire. Cotton harvest was completed in most areas. There was no field activity due to the drought. Hay supplies were short, and grazing was limited. Stock tank levels continued to drop. Supplemental feeding of livestock increased, and producers will be forced to sell off livestock soon. Livestock were in poor condition.