With Texas drought losses already at $316 million for 2002, rainfall in recent weeks is providing welcomed relief to the state's agricultural producers — at least for those who received the moisture in moderation.
More than 30 inches of rain fell in parts of South and Central Texas the first week in July, causing torrential flooding and impacting 48,000 residences in 30 counties, according to the American Red Cross. However, the rainfall has been widespread throughout most of the state's drought-stricken regions, though significant areas of far West Texas and the northern High Plains remain dry, according to Dr. Travis Miller, Texas Cooperative Extension program leader for soil and crop sciences.
“We've had a good supply of moisture coming in from the south for the past week or so. We haven't seen moisture like this in many months,” Miller said.
But the rain has been too late for South and Central Texas row crop agriculture, which missed virtually all of the necessary rainfall needed during the spring to grow cotton and grain crops.
The state's wheat crop also was devastated by drought this year. with losses totaling $110 million, according to Extension economists.
The rain will benefit crop and rangeland in other parts of the state, including the Brazos Valley, where farmers had been irrigating crops throughout May and June.
“Much of the early season was dedicated to irrigation of corn, with a switch to cotton in mid- to late-June,” he said. “This rain probably will reduce that cotton irrigation quite a bit, so this will help save them a lot of time and money.”
Beyond the South and Central Texas regions, cattle producers welcomed the rain after seeing rangeland conditions deteriorate at a rapid pace. Hay supplies were also becoming a concern.
“We had many ranchers report that they didn't get any hay cuttings this year, or some reported they got one cutting or a small one earlier in the year based on the moisture we had in March,” Miller said.
“Overall, we should get some excellent hay cuttings and rangeland growth over the next month. This should make up for some of the forage or feed deficit we were looking at prior to the rains.”
According to forecast models, Miller said before the early-July torrents, the outlook for the summer is normal precipitation for most of the state “with an improved precipitation outlook from fall through next spring. Much of the state is getting a good shot of rain here late in June, early July to set us up through the summer months and on into fall.”