Texas Field Reports: Changing Weather Patterns Likely to Keep Drought in Check

    An offshoot of the changing weather system that produced severe and unprecedented flooding in Louisiana should persist throughout most of Texas, helping to check or even eliminate drought conditions that had been developing this summer, according to a weather expert.

    While the system shouldn’t impede the summer harvest of cotton and grain statewide, it likely won’t provide much drought relief to South Texas, said Barry Goldsmith, the warning coordinator meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Brownsville.

    “The weather pattern that featured a persistent ‘heat dome’ of atmospheric high pressure over Texas through much of July and the first week of August appears to be changing for the remainder of the month,” Goldsmith said.

    The change brought heat relief and substantial rainfall to regions of Texas including the east, southeast, central and southern parts of the state, he said.

    “The forecast pattern for Texas to close August will be transitioning to one that is more late spring-like rather than late summer-like, with a few twists,” Goldsmith said.

    Those twists include atmospheric conditions that will likely lift tropical moisture northward, producing clusters of showers and thundershowers which “should help keep the drought in check across central and north Texas, if not eliminate such conditions in several areas,” he said.

    “The axis of heavier rain and potential flooding is likely to extend from the Big Bend region northeast to the Dallas metroplex and east to include much of east and southeast Texas,” Goldsmith said.

    The rain events and cloudiness will help put a cap on temperatures.

    “We’ll probably see below to much-below average temperatures for late August in those areas where the most rain is likely to fall,” Goldsmith said.

    Brad Cowan, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent in Hidalgo County, said summer harvesting of grain sorghum and cotton appeared to be going smoothly statewide, including in South Texas, where grain sorghum is all but harvested, but cotton growers could use another few days of dry weather to finish their 2016 crop.

    “We got some isolated heavy showers this week that may have slowed or delayed some pockets of cotton harvesting in extreme South Texas, but overall our harvest is going well and could be done soon, given another 10 rain-free days,” he said.

    Goldsmith said South Texas will likely get the hot, dry weather Rio Grande Valley cotton farmers need.

    “The Valley will likely continue to sit under the remnant core of the ‘heat dome,’ perhaps through month’s end,” he said. “That will keep temperatures slightly above the already hot average and limit precipitation during a time when daily average rainfall begins to rise steadily.”

    That means another streak of 100-plus degree days from Laredo to McAllen beginning late this week and possibly continuing through August, Goldsmith said, with rainfall amounts depending on enough atmospheric moisture available to be triggered by afternoon sea breezes.

    “The trend is leaning drier than wetter in this case,” he concluded.

    Cowan said the weather notwithstanding, finances are weighing heavily on the state’s cotton and grain producers.

    “What we could really use are higher market prices for grain sorghum and cotton,” he said.

    Grain sorghum prices continue to be weak, and after gaining some momentum recently, cotton prices have also weakened, according to Dr. John Robinson, an AgriLife Extension agriculture economist in College Station.

    “After trending for almost two years in the range of 60 cents per pound of lint, New York cotton futures prices recently rose over 10 cents per pound starting in mid-July, before retreating about 9 cents in mid-August,” he said.

    Robinson attributes that initial price rise to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “more bullish forecast of world demand in the July supply/demand report,” he said. “This was followed by considerable speculative buying with the apparent view of a weather market. Prices will continue to be influenced by expectations about the effect of recent rain events in West Texas.

    A weather market is a typical summer phenomena whereby expectations of changing weather conditions and supply are uncertain, resulting in unpredictable and volatile prices, Robinson said.

    AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

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    CENTRAL: Temperatures were in the three-digit range. Some brush control was done. Corn harvest was about 75 percent complete with yields averaging 60 bushels per acre. Grain sorghum harvests were averaging 2,800 pounds per acre. An increase in yellow sugarcane aphids were seen in sorghum. Most of the soybeans were harvested. Cotton was nearing completion with some fields nearing leaf drop.

    Cattle remained in good body condition, and stock pond levels were holding steady. Overall range and pasture conditions were fair. Hay baling continued in most areas.

    ROLLING PLAINS: Some counties received beneficial rains with totals from 3.5 to 5.5 inches one day and another 1-2 inches a few days later. The rain put out several grass fires that were started by lightning. The majority of the region stayed hot and dry. Cooler nighttime temperatures started, which helped relieve some of the stress on crops and rangelands.

    Forages seemed to be holding up well. Producers continued to plan fall and winter forages and whether to add cattle to their operations. Cotton looked fair, and some producers began plowing fallow ground for wheat. Cattle were in good condition.

    COASTAL BEND: Hot weather persisted with temperatures reaching 100 degrees, putting pressure on soil moisture and forage crops. Corn and sorghum were all out of the fields, and nearly all rice was out as well. Cotton harvest was progressing quickly due to hot, dry conditions. Cotton fields continued to pick extremely clean, and yields continued to be above normal. Some areas reported that cotton harvest was temporarily interrupted by tropical rains off the Gulf.

    Hay prices remained low with a tremendous supply on hand. Pasture and range conditions continued to dry out, but there was ample forage, and livestock were doing well.

    EAST: The region received scattered spotty rainfall. Pasture and range conditions were good to fair.

    Marion County was the only county reporting excellent pasture and range conditions.

    Harrison County reported some parts of the county received 2 inches of rain in one afternoon while other parts of the county received no rain.

    San Augustine County received approximately 4 inches of rain over the weekend. Most counties were still in need of rain. Subsoil and topsoil conditions remained short to adequate. Pond and creek levels were dropping.

    Cherokee County had worsening drought conditions.

    Jasper County reported sandy topsoil was drying out fast. Hay production decreased due to the dry conditions. Some producers were still optimistic of getting additional hay cuttings following recent rainfall. Producers continued to monitor and treat hay fields for armyworms and grasshoppers. A severe infestation of armyworms was reported by Cherokee and Wood counties.

    Cattle prices were holding steady. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Calves were growing, and the calf market was good. Weaning and selling of market-ready calves and cull cows continued.

    SOUTH PLAINS: Bailey County producers received light, scattered showers last week, but no significant rainfall totals.

    Sub- and topsoil moisture levels in Cochran County were very low. The majority of corn crops have dried out. Dryland cotton, sorghum, pastures and rangeland needed moisture. Irrigated cotton, sorghum and peanuts were holding. Cattle were in good condition.

    The Dawson County area received some much-needed rain but also received some hail. Most dryland cotton was blooming out of the top and irrigated fields were looking really strong.

    Floyd County received moisture in parts of the county, but it was very minimal and spotty. Dryland crops were really suffering due to lack of moisture.

    Lubbock County finally received some much needed rainfall across a large portion of the county, which will help to fill out cotton bolls and will help corn and sorghum move closer to maturity. Reports of increased bollworm moth activity had producers on the lookout for possible late-season infestations.

    In Scurry County, producers did not receive any rainfall.

    Passing rains in Swisher County helped the struggling crops where irrigation wells were pumping hard the last few weeks. Sorghum was progressing well with limited pest pressure. Some corn began to draw down due to heat stress.

    PANHANDLE: Most of the region saw some cooler temperatures at the start of the week then warmed back to near normal by week’s end. Some moisture was received in most areas. Soil moisture was still rated mostly short. Rain was still needed throughout the region. Irrigation was active.

    In Collingsworth County, cooler conditions toward the beginning of the week gave the cotton some much needed relief. Some bacterial blight moved through due to the cloudy, humid conditions and cooler temperatures.

    Deaf Smith County had spotty rainfall amounts that helped crop conditions. Most producers were pushing irrigation wells as hard as possible as crops neared maturity. Corn was in good shape as long as the wells were running. Corn fields without irrigation will not be harvested, and some irrigated fields or parts of circles were abandoned. Moth trap numbers were still very high with many producers applying a second Southwest corn borer insecticide application.

    Grain sorghum was coming along, however sugarcane aphids were found in several places, and some fields reached high enough levels to need a pesticide application. The cotton crop was all over the board with mainly the irrigated cotton being counted on for harvest quality.

    Hall County temperatures came down a little giving relief to crops and cattle. Spotty rain helped, but a wider spread event was needed to assist with crops and pasture growth and development.

    Ochiltree County received good general rains allowing producers to cease irrigation. Wheat preplant field work continued with rains helping soil moisture conditions. Dryland grain sorghum looked very promising with recent rains.

    Randall County was still hot and dry. Some scattered showers occurred but were extremely spotty. Ranges and pastures continued to vary in ratings from very poor to excellent with most reporting good to fair.

    NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture was mostly very short to short. The week started off extremely warm with temperatures over 100 degrees and the heat index near 110 degrees. Toward the later part of the week, a cool front came through dropping temperatures to the mid 80’s. Sporadic and short rain showers provided some moisture.

    Corn was still being harvested around the county. Yields weren’t quite what producers expected but were still around the average yield marks for the county. Grain sorghum was doing well and nearing harvest. Soybeans were doing well despite all the heat. Cotton looked nice.

    Bermuda grass pastures were struggling a little with the lack of rainfall, however there was a good amount of forage left in pastures due to plentiful rain in the early summer. The extreme heat started to stress livestock.

    FAR WEST: Temperatures dropped to the 90’s. Thunderstorms and heavy winds were reported in most counties with rain totals ranging from zero to 5 inches. Flash flooding was reported in the mountain regions. Regan, Upton and Glasscock counties continued to have drought conditions. Rangeland fires were reported in Reagan County.

    Cotton needed rain to freshen the crop and set more bolls. Sorghum harvest was in full swing. Cattle continued to stay in good condition. Supplemental feeding of livestock and wildlife was necessary in Upton County. Producers completed needed maintenance to prepare for fall work. Cantaloupe and watermelon harvest continued.

    WEST CENTRAL: Most of the district was dry, windy and very hot. Triple digits were extreme. Some isolated showers were reported in many areas. Temperatures went down with the weather front that went through. Grain sorghum was maturing fast. Harvest started on some sorghum fields. Yields were slightly above normal. Corn harvest was underway with fair yields reported. Cotton squared and was beginning to set bolls. Rain was needed to continue good growth. Reports of spotty cotton aphids and stink bug pressures were noted.

    Range and pastures were in poor to fair condition. Soil moisture continued to decline. Forage growth decreased due to hot, dry weather. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Cattle prices were going up, which was great for the ranchers. Some stock tanks and ponds caught a little runoff from recent rains. Pecan crops appeared to be holding.

    SOUTHEAST: In Chambers County, the rice harvest progressed with dry field conditions. Pastures were very dry.

    In Fort Bend County, livestock were in good condition. Many cotton producers were planning to defoliate or had already started, but rain delayed that.

    Walker County was in need of rain to green the pastures and fields.

    In Brazos County, hot and dry conditions persisted.

    In Jefferson County, the temperatures were hot. Rain showers cooled things off allowing a break from the heat. Livestock and crops were doing well despite the hot temperatures. Soil-moisture levels throughout the region ranged widely from adequate to very short, with most ratings in the short range.

    San Jacinto County reported 100 percent adequate. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely too, from excellent to poor, with fair ratings being the most common. San Jacinto County reported 100 percent fair.

    SOUTHWEST: Hot and dry conditions continued throughout the region. With the recent rain received throughout the area, the topsoil moisture levels increased slightly. This should keep  available forages from declining.  Milo and corn harvests were close to completion, and some hay was being made. Livestock continued to remain in good condition. Rangelands were still dry as weaning of lambs and goats continued.

    SOUTH: Counties in the northern part of the district reported soil moisture levels as adequate with the exception of Frio County, which reported short levels. Corn and sorghum harvests there were completed, cotton was in the boll open stage and ready to be defoliated, peanuts were in the pegging stage, and irrigated Bermuda hay was being cut and baled.

    In Atascosa County, peanut fields, sesame fields and cotton had appreciable rain.

    In McMullen county, range and pasture conditions remained in fair condition. Horn fly populations were on the increase, and body condition scores on cattle remained good.

    A couple of showers around the Brooks County area measured about 1 inch. The numbers of cattle in the sale barns were high, but sale prices remained mediocre.

    In Jim Hogg County, the hot, dry weather led to moisture levels being very short.

    The corn and grain sorghum harvests were complete in Jim Wells County, and cotton harvest began.

    In Kleberg and Kenedy counties, early planted cotton was mid-way through harvest. Hot, dry conditions were taking a big toll on pastures and rangelands. Cattle prices continued to decline at area auction barns.

    Webb County received some moisture, yet conditions were extremely hot with temperatures reaching over 105.

    Dimmit, Maverick, Zapata and Zavala counties all reported dry conditions with a need for significant rain throughout the area.

    In the Zavala County region, range and pasture conditions remained mostly fair, however a few producers reported pockets of native range and pastures were approaching poor conditions and may force some supplemental feeding for livestock if no rainfall was received. Plowing of corn and sorghum stubble was active.

    Starr County reported soil moisture levels as adequate although extremely hot temperatures continued to dry the range pastures. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued. Cotton harvest was in full swing, aided by hot and dry weather in Hidalgo and Cameron counties. Land preparation continued for the fall vegetable crops.

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