It was a roller coaster ride for parts of Texas: warm days, then cold, then warm again, with moisture coming sometimes in the form of snow, sometimes rain or sleet, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.
But with notable exceptions of East and North Texas, most of the state is still standing in line, waiting for moisture to make spring planting and wheat harvesting less of a thrill ride, they said.
"As far as the wheat goes, we went from 80 degrees for one day to down below freezing for a day and half. So it's something the producers are having to deal with," said Rick Auckerman, AgriLife Extension agent for Deaf Smith County, west of Amarillo.
"We're still very dry," Auckerman said. "We received in our county – out of all this – approximately a quarter inch (of rain), so we're very dry going into the planting season. The dryland wheat is holding on – barely. The irrigated boys are running pivots just as hard as they can."
"We've been real fortunate in that we've had several good rains over the last three or four weeks," said Blaine Jernigan, AgriLife Extension agent for Rusk County, east of Tyler. "As soil conditions and moisture go, we're in great shape. I believe our hay producers will have no problems making their first cutting."
In Jack County, south of Wichita Falls, the wheat crop doesn't look very good, said Heath Lusty, AgriLife Extension agent. Fall rains helped some, but until some recent rains things were looking pretty bad, and that's taken a toll on wheat yields.
"I'm going to say five to ten bushels (yield per acre), depending upon location," Lusty said.
Also, as in other parts of the state, the danger of wildfire remains high, he said.
"Over the last weekend, we had a really big one on the east side of the county, and they had to evacuate one of the small communities," he said.
Wheat looks disappointing in Wilbarger County, too, said Langdon Reagan, AgriLife Extension agent, Vernon.
"What little moisture that we have received in the last week has blown away the last couple of days," he said. "Some producers are starting to turn cows out on wheat that looks like it has no chance to produce."
The following summaries were compiled by AgriLife Extension district reporters this week:
CENTRAL: A freeze threatened much of the small-grain crop, and there were signs of freeze damage to corn as well. Producers were waiting to see if corn was merely thinned and could recover. High winds dried soils of moisture previously received. Livestock were in fair condition, and producers continued to provide supplemental feed and protein.
COASTAL BEND: A small amount of rain was received but not enough to make a difference. Windy weather aggravated the dry conditions. Some producers planted spring crops, hoping for more rain. Pastures remained bare. Cattle were being sold or moved to other locations where there was forage.
EAST: The area received 0.5-3 inches of rain. Pastures and stock tanks were looking much better, but some counties still need more rain. High winds caused light damage to barns and trees. Producers planted vegetable crops, but growth was slowed by cool days and nights. Cattle were in fair to good condition. Feral hog activity increased dramatically.
FAR WEST: No precipitation was reported across the region, and dry and windy conditions prevailed. Rangeland remained very dry. There was high danger of wildfires. Fruit trees apparently survived a freeze without much damage. Pecan trees began to leaf out. Dryland wheat looked bad, and some may be baled for hay. Very little if any wheat was expected to be cut for grain. Irrigated wheat looked good, but economics may dictate that some of it may also be baled for hay.
NORTH: Soil moisture ranged from short to surplus. Though soils were wet from the frequent rains, vegetation/growth is shorter than normal due to earlier drought conditions. The recent rains helped the wheat considerably and it was heading, but there was some worry about possible freeze damage to wheat in some areas. Corn planting neared completion. About 50 percent of wheat already planted was emerged and in fair to good condition. Feral hogs destroyed many acres of the planted corn, going down the rows, rooting up seeds and forcing the farmers to replant. Soybean and sorghum planting began in some areas, and both crops were in fair to good condition. Dairymen were harvesting wheat and oats for silage. Forages improved, and some producers reduced or ended their supplemental feeding programs. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Only time will tell whether the cooler weather may have harmed the peach production.
ROLLING PLAINS: Though a small amount of moisture was received in the form of snow, sleet and rain, conditions remained very dry throughout the region. Temperatures widely fluctuated day to day, but the wind was always blowing, drying out what moisture was received. Pastures were in poor condition with little to no grazing, and ranchers continued to supply supplemental feed daily. Farmers applied pre-emergence herbicides and did other field work. The winter wheat crop reached an average height of only about 6 inches and began to head out. Producers turned cattle in on the winter wheat in hopes of getting some good from the crop. Grass fires sprung up throughout the district. The largest fire, eight miles south of Archer City, consumed 8,000 acres. Stock tanks were very low.
SOUTH: Mild temperatures, a lot of wind and no rainfall continued. Soil moisture ranged from short in the northern parts of the region to very short in the eastern, western and southern parts of the region. Producers in the northern parts of the region were planting haygrazer (a sorghum-sudan crop used for grazing, silage and hay). Corn planting in the northern counties was nearly completed. Potato crops developed past the flowering stage, and earlier-planted grain emerged, but with skimpy stands. In the western parts of the region, the last of the spinach fields were plowed under. Corn, wheat and cotton progressed well under irrigation. Cabbage harvesting was ongoing, and onions showed good bulb development. The sugarcane harvesting was finished; the citrus harvest wound down, and thevegetable harvest continued. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued throughout the region. However, feeding was slightly reduced in some sections of the region where higher levels of rainfall were reported.
SOUTH PLAINS: The region experienced dry weather, with wind ranging from 50-60 mph. Temperatures dropped below freezing, and producers were waiting to see if the wheat crop was damaged. Soil moisture ranged from very short to short. Spring planting preparations continued with chemical applications and field preparations. Winter wheat was in very poor to poor condition. Pastures and rangeland were in very poor to poor condition. Livestock were in mostly fair to good condition with supplemental feeding continuing.
SOUTHWEST: About 2.7 inches of rain fell in March, twice the long- term average for the month. But the last seven-month period remained the second-driest period on record. The early March rain helped settle dust and made possible some spring corn and cotton planting. High winds with gusts of more than 40 mph dried out soils and increased roadside and field wildfire risk. Forage remained in short supply. The region was greened up by the March rains, but pastures, ranges and dryland crops were not making any progress. Ranchers continued to provide heavy supplemental nutrition to their remaining livestock. Stock tanks were partially refilled, but most remained dry. The cabbage and spinach harvest was ongoing. Irrigated potatoes, spring onions, spring cabbage, irrigated corn, sorghum and cotton were making good progress. Cotton planting continued.
WEST CENTRAL: Cool temperatures with dry, windy conditions continued. Very little rainfall was reported, and the risk of wildfires was extreme. High winds depleted soils of moisture in most areas. Wheat started to head out, but did not look promising as to yields or profitability. Some producers applied herbicides for weed control. The green up of native and improved pasture grasses slowed. Livestock remained in fair to poor condition with producers continuing to supply supplemental feeding.