Farmers across most of South Texas are having a hard week making a decision as they keep their eyes cast to the skies for signs of rain.

Friday, March 15, is the annual deadline to sign up for federal crop insurance for Spring seeded crops such as corn, soybeans, spring oats and grain sorghum, and while farmers from the Texas Rio Grande Valley to the Coastal Bend are anxious to get seed in the ground, another looming year of drought and a shortage of soil moisture has kept most from rolling equipment into their fields.

“I took a little time to drive around the county [this week] to survey field conditions and it’s bone dry across all western parts of the county,” reports Nueces County Extension agent Jeffrey Stapper. “Most farmers I have talked with have been waiting to see if March would bring rains to facilitate planting, and it’s not looking good.”

Stapper made the comments late last week before Sunday rain showers provided some moisture, especially for northern and eastern reaches of the county. But most of the Coastal Bend remains in severe drought condition with less than two inches of rain so far this year.

“Many of the growers I talked to said they are waiting to see if any rain falls before the crop insurance deadline, so we will probably see either a spike in insurance coverage or in planting—one or the other—by the middle of the month,” Stapper added.

Eastern counties of the Coastal Bend experienced substantial rain and warmer temperatures over the weekend, an encouraging sign, but wet fields altered plans for planting in some counties. Washington County ryegrass and oat pastures showed some growth and volunteer ryegrass sprouted in many areas as a result of recent rainfall and higher temperatures.

In Colorado County, winter wheat had emerged but had not yet set seed. In DeWitt County, corn planting is underway as soil moisture was adequate, but more rain was needed. In Wharton County, topsoil moisture levels were rated fair and farmers were fertilizing corn fields with planting expected to begin as early as later this week.

“They have received significantly more rain to the east than we have in the western Coastal Bend,” Stapper reports. “In fact, some areas east of the Colorado [River] where the fields are too wet to plant. Rainfall this year and late last year moved the drought monitor from severe to moderate in the east. Their winter forage is looking good and the prospect for corn, cotton and sorghum look good right now as well.”