There's only so many ways you can describe "dry and drier," said Texas AgriLife Extension Service agents throughout the state.
With a few exceptions, the state went another week without significant rainfall. Burn bans continued in many counties, with others considering implementing them. Windy conditions in the west didn't help matters, as they accelerated the drying out of top soils and crops.
"What is another word for dry?" said Rick Auckerman, AgriLife Extension agent in Deaf Smith County , west of Amarillo. "Producers in the county are weary of hearing the same word. They are preparing for spring planting in the face of little to no help from Mother Nature."
"Warm temperatures and southwest winds are causing loss of moisture from the recent rain about two weeks ago," said Scott Adair, AgriLife Extension agent in Hale County , Plainview. "Pastures are declining rapidly."
"Scattered showers fell throughout the county last week leaving from 0.2-1 inch of rain on wheat fields and pastures," said Brad Easterling, AgriLife Extension agent in Baylor County , southwest of Wichita Falls. "Immediate effects were seen in the small grains as the fields took on much greener color and began to look better. Seed that had yet to emerge is starting to push out of the ground, but it is highly unlikely that most of this wheat will make a crop. Pasture grasses are still almost non-existent."
"Last week's rainfall really helped our winter wheat, oats and winter annual pastures," said Rick Maxwell, AgriLife Extension agent in Collin County , north of Dallas. "Most producers were able to top-dress fields with nitrogen prior to the rain, which has really helped to perk up the small grains. More rain is needed, however."
"We are in need of more rain," said Clint Perkins, AgriLife Extension agent in Wood County , southwest of Mt. Pleasant. "High winds this week have dried what little rain we did get. Winter pastures are looking poor to fair. Milk price outlook does not look good. Many dairy producers are worried about staying in business."
The following summaries were compiled by AgriLife Extension district reporters this week:
CENTRAL: High winds continued to dry out soil moisture. Stock tanks were low, and supplemental feeding of livestock increased. Corn planting was under way. Wheat and oats in those counties that received rain showed some improvement.
COASTAL BEND: here was no significant rainfall and temperatures were average for this time of year. Planting was delayed due to lack of moisture for seed germination. A few producers were pre-watering before planting. Some livestock producers culled herds as forages continued to decline and supplemental feed supplies shrank.
EAST: Most counties received rain this week, but for most it was not enough to help. However, Tyler County received enough to be able to temporarily lift its burn ban. Producers prepared for spring planting with soil testing. Some counties were experiencing hay shortages. Dairy producers were concerned with dropping milk prices. Feral hogs continued to cause extensive damage throughout the region.
FAR WEST: Temperatures were fair with light winds. However, conditions remained dry. Three-thousand acres of spring wheat were sown, and after irrigation, all stands were looking good. Fall-planted onions were growing. Land was prepared for cotton and chiles, with furrows made for irrigation. Dormant pecan trees were pruned, and orchards were irrigated. Wildfire danger remained high.
NORTH: Soil moisture ranged from very short to adequate. Recent rains helped winter wheat, oats and winter annual pastures. However, soil moisture was quickly diminished. Most producers were able to top dress fields with nitrogen prior to the rain, which helped to perk up small grains. Overall the crop looked excellent. Many ranchers were concerned with having water for their livestock as pond levels dropped and stock tanks dried up. Weather permitting, corn producers will begin planting soon. Some dairy producers green-chopped wheat to help lower their livestock feed bills. Cool-season forages began to grow. Growers started preparing land for planting of spring crops. Sorghum planting began early – it is usually planted in March and early April. Ryegrass began to grow but slowly. Some trees started budding. Feral hogs still remained a big problem. Livestock were in good condition with supplemental feeding continuing. Rangeland and pastures were poor to fair.
PANHANDLE: Soil moisture was still reported as short or very short throughout the region. Fire danger remained high with strong, dry winds. Many counties were under burn bans. Dryland fields of wheat were in poor condition and the rest of the wheat fields were irrigated. Not many cattle were left grazing; there was nothing to eat. Land preparation was in progress for spring crops, but moisture was needed. Some producers applied insecticides as green bugs, Russian wheat aphids and mites were reported in some areas. Range and pastures were in poor to very poor condition.
ROLLING PLAINS: Dry conditions persisted throughout the region, and all facets of agriculture began to suffer. Wheat and rangeland continued to decline because of high winds and rising temperatures. What little moisture fell a couple weeks ago was lost after a couple of days of hot, dry winds. Producers continued to give cattle supplemental feed. Other producers weaned fall-born calves early and sent them to the sale barn. Wildfire danger continued to rise because of the wind and warmer weather.
SOUTH: Very short soil moisture, dry and windy conditions continued to be the rule for the region. Producers in the northern parts of the region continued to wait for enough spring moisture to plant dryland crops. Potato planting was completed. No field activity was reported in the eastern parts of the region. With adequate soil moisture, grain sorghum planting would have already begun, but field work for this crop and other 2009 season crops was at a complete standstill. Rain was reported in the western parts of the region, but it did little to help extremely dry conditions. After heavy irrigation, corn producers expect to plant within a week. Harvesting of cabbage and spinach was ongoing. In the southern parts of the region, there was extensive planting of spring row crops such as corn, grain sorghum and soybeans after irrigation. Harvesting of sugarcane, citrus and vegetables continued. Range and pasture conditions remained poor. Livestock producers found supplying hay and other supplemental feeds challenging.
SOUTH PLAINS: The region experienced warm and windy conditions with no moisture. Soil moisture was very short to short. Spring field work continued with producers applying fertilizer and herbicide. Winter wheat was in very poor to poor condition and was irrigated where possible. Pastures and ranges were in very poor to poor condition. Cattle were in mostly good condition thanks to continued supplemental feeding.
SOUTHEAST: Temperatures have been moderate but winter annuals have not start producing much forage. Rains throughout the region ranged from about 0.2 to 1 inch, which helped some. The bayous remained salty from the Hurricane Ike storm surge. Rain is needed before the spring rice crop can be planted; the flood water is currently too salty. Hay supplies were short. Feeding activity was high. It will take time and more rain for pastures to recover. Land preparation for spring planting was on going. Hay feeding continued. Livestock were in fair condition.
SOUTHWEST: No rain except for light traces so far in February. There has been 14.2 inches of rain in the last 18 months. The long-term average for the same period is 31.6 inches. Forage was almost non-existent. Buds in woody species were starting to swell, attempting to spring-sprout, but it will be difficult because of the severe drought. High, dry winds increased the risk of wildfires. Ranchers provided heavy supplemental nutrition to remaining livestock. Many stock tanks dried out. The soil moisture profile was very dry. Planting spring crops under dryland conditions will be very limited. The cabbage and spinach harvest continued. Potatoes, spring onions, cabbage and spinach were making good progress under heavy irrigation. Irrigated corn and sorghum planting was nearly complete.
WEST CENTRAL: Very dry, windy conditions continued. All areas desperately needed rain. Cotton ginning was finished. Extremely dry conditions shut down field preparations. Stock tank levels continued to drop. Producers continued heavy supplemental feeding of livestock. Some were culling deeper into their herds.