The Southwest, as a whole, is in better shape than was the case this time last year. Statistically speaking, the drought is not as widespread; the heat not as intense; and crops not as stressed.

But no one ever harvested and sold a statistic. Some areas across Texas and the entire Southwest region may be just as dry and just as vulnerable to crop loss as they were in 2011. Others see significantly better prospects.

Manda Anderson, Texas AgriLife Extension integrated pest management specialist for Gaines County, says differences in heat unit accumulation and rainfall totals compared to last year affect crop conditions and related issues. 

“We all know that last year was extremely dry and that we had record heat. But how different was it from this year?” she asks in her latest IPM newsletter. “Heat unit accumulation from May 15 to July 20 shows an accumulation of 1,480 in 2011 and 1,306 in 2012,” Anderson said.

The difference in rainfall totals offers a stark contrast—zero for 2011 and around six inches this year. But that can be deceiving. “As always, the rainstorms are spotty and some areas of the county have received less rainfall, and some areas have received more rainfall in 2012. This, along with pumping capacity, has led to the greatest differences observed in crop stage and development.” It also affects pest and disease pressure.

For instance, Anderson noted that very few fields showed signs of Verticillium wilt in 2011. “This year we are already starting to see signs of plants infected with Verticillium wilt. This alone is a good indication that conditions are much more conducive for disease development in 2012.”

She said observers detected the first field infected with Kurtomathrips on July 17, 2011. “Thankfully, this rare pest has not shown up in 2012.” She said the pest flourished in extreme hot and dry conditions last summer. “Hopefully, we will not see this pest in 2012, since we have more moderate temperatures and a little more rainfall.”