Texas Field Reports: High Temps, Dry Conditions Continue for Much of State

    Higher-than-normal temperatures made October one of the warmest on record, according to Texas State Climatologist Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon.

    Nielsen-Gammon said there were 242 high temperature records reported around the state during October. The month was the fourth-hottest October on record and the hottest since 1947.

    Temperatures were especially warm in the southern part of the state and Panhandle, he said. Observers in McAllen reported five days of temperatures in the triple-digits, including as late as Oct. 20. Temperatures reached triple digits twice in the northernmost Panhandle in mid-October, including a 102 degree reading.

    “Weather patterns featured an upper-level ridge that kept cool fronts north,” he said. “Usually we have a few cool fronts in October, but this year wasn’t the case.”

    To compound that, Nielsen-Gammon said conditions have been very dry since the end of August, especially in October. Ground temperatures stayed warm and the lack of precipitation helped keep temperatures high as the sun moves lower on the horizon heading into winter.

    Nielsen-Gammon said the forecast doesn’t look promising for people or producers hoping for cooler temperatures. Temperatures are expected to remain mild for at least another week, and the long-term forecast is calling for a warmer and drier winter.

    “We’re seeing more drought conditions around the state,” he said. “We’ll just have to see what the forecast holds with rains. Rains this time of year are good because they bring temperatures down and get water into the soil which is good for cool-season plants, and it builds up the moisture index for spring planting.”

    AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

    CENTRAL: The district experienced a dry spell, but areas received 2-4 inches of rain. Ryegrass should react well to the moisture. Winter wheat continued to do well. Pastures were holding up well. Temperatures cooled down and felt more like fall. Cotton was harvested. Cattle remained in good condition with no supplemental feed. All counties reported good soil moisture, and overall range and pasture conditions were good. Overall crop conditions were fair.

    ROLLING PLAINS: Fall temperatures arrived pushing out the hot/dry conditions that prevailed over the past several weeks. Cotton harvest was in full swing. Producers were pleased with yields, but cotton prices were not good. Ranchers were concerned as pastures and rangeland began to dry out. However, some areas received over 2 inches of rain. Wheat looked good, and some was ready to be grazed. Pastures continued to look good. Livestock were in good condition. The forecast called for seasonal temperatures, and residents were ready for the cooler weather.

    COASTAL BEND: Warm, dry and humid conditions prevailed; however, a rain mid-week improved the opportunity to work many fields that dried out. Most farmers were hesitant to fertilize because of limited moisture and high temperatures. Many forage producers and cattlemen were able to get winter forages planted. The rain put a hold on rice harvests in some areas.

    Winter pastures should benefit from recent rains. A few farmers reported fertilizer applications for spring planting. Haymaking was still in full swing as the final cutting neared conclusion. Ample forage was available, and livestock continued to do well.

    EAST: Conditions around the district continued to be extremely dry. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair to good. Drought conditions existed in several counties. Most counties reported short to very short subsoil and topsoil moisture levels.

    Shelby County reported pastures were in bad shape. Pond levels were lower.

    Smith County received light showers. No other rain was reported. Lack of rainfall caused hay production to come to a halt.

    Polk and Houston counties were making their last cuttings of hay. Some cover crops were going in but needed rain to maintain the stand. Armyworm infestations continued to be a problem for some producers. Temperatures were dropping.

    Producers in Marion County were starting to harvest their fall gardens. Livestock were in fair to good condition.

    Many producers in Trinity County were moving calves, and some were not market ready. Fall cattle work was well underway.

    Cattle prices in Gregg County were weak but holding.

    In Houston County, the calf market was steady, and the slaughter market was lower. Wild pigs continued to be active and caused damage to lawns and pastures.

    SOUTH PLAINS: Areas received 0.5-5 inches of rainfall, which slowed the cotton harvest. Most areas received 0.5-1 inch of rain. The wheat will really respond to the rain. Cotton harvesting continued in some areas. So far this season, yields were above expectations and grades were excellent. Cotton in many areas had not been graded.

    A hailstorm hit the southern part of Lynn County. Severe damage was done to the cotton in that area. Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels were low due to lack of moisture and above-average temperatures. Pastures and rangeland were in fair to good condition. Wheat was expected to respond well to the rain. Cattle were in good condition. Conditions remained wet and foggy in areas where rain fell.

    PANHANDLE: Temperatures were above average for the district. Soil moisture varied from adequate to very short with most counties reporting short. Some moisture was received in most areas of the district. Totals of 1-1.5 inches were common across the area. Rain will benefit small grains and rangeland. A few fields of corn and sorghum were left to harvest. Sunflower and cotton harvests progressed well. Cotton yields were very good with many fields making two to three bales per acre. A few cattle were put out on wheat. Pastures still had a little green around the base.

    Weaning spring calves continued, and fall calving wound down. Some producers were in a holding pattern for harvest because of showers. There was still some corn and grain sorghum to harvest. Sugarcane aphids were still interfering with sorghum harvests due to excessive honeydew left on plants.

    The cotton crop looked better than expected with strippers to start as soon as weather permits. The winter-wheat crop was in fair to good shape, and some producers started to lightly stock some fields. Cattle and pasture conditions continued to decline. Milo harvest stopped.

    NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels varied from adequate to short and were decreasing. Temperatures were warm, and conditions were dry. However, a cool front moved in and provided much-needed rain and cooler weather. More rain was forecast. Wheat farmers were still planting, but planting was about 85 percent complete. The soybean harvest was complete, and the cotton harvest continued. Oats and wheat were in different growth stages because weather and pests varied planting times for producers.

    Soil conditions remained very dry, and pond levels were declining. No new forage growth was reported. Cattle conditions dropped as summer grasses struggled, and winter forages did not have proper moisture levels to grow. Cooler weather stressed livestock by creating conditions for colds and pneumonia. There were some reports of cattle bogging down in mud along shorelines. Livestock feeding was underway. Fly populations and feral hog activity were high.

    FAR WEST: High temperature were in the mid-80s but dropped with lows in the 40s. Rain occurred with totals between 0.5-3 inches. Lighter rainfall areas actually benefited more because there was less runoff and less washing of fields and turn-rows. Remaining cotton fields withstood the showers with very little lint on the ground. Cotton harvest was approximately 75 percent complete. Yields and quality continued to look good and better than expected for most producers. Wheat sowing will resume as fields dry.

    Chilies were harvested. Supplemental feeding continued for livestock and wildlife. Ranchers continued weaning and shipping calves. Many local ranchers were choosing to keep weaned calves and graze them until spring due to the ample forage and low feeder prices.

    WEST CENTRAL: Temperatures were warmer than normal with 3-4 inches of rain in some areas.  Wet conditions kept farmers at a stand-still. Insect populations boomed amid warm weather. Livestock remained in mostly good condition and calf prices were up a little at local sales. Winter wheat was planted and beginning to emerge. Acorn crops were good for deer. Some wheat showed armyworm damage but was still in good shape.

    SOUTHEAST: Conditions were dry, but some areas received scattered showers and up to 3 inches of rain. Winter pasture planting was delayed due to low chances of rain. Some winter ryegrass was planted. Pastures were in much need of rain.  Cool-season forages were in desperate need of moisture.

    Brazos County received some heavy thunderstorms and the rain was much needed. Temperatures were more moderate and winter annual planting was getting started. Soil-moisture levels throughout the region ranged widely from adequate to very short.

    SOUTHWEST: Light rain helped replenish soil moisture levels. Weather conditions were cooler, which helped small grains. Farmers delayed planting dates. Ranges and pastures had ample forage, and livestock conditions remained good.

    SOUTH: Fall-like weather conditions finally arrived.  Temperatures fell into the 80s in most areas and more rainfall was received. Peanut harvests continued. Producers irrigated before harvesting peanuts to ease digging. Cattle received supplemental feed throughout the district. Wheat and oat planting was completed with the majority of the crop already emerging.

    Rangeland and pasture conditions continued to decline. Body condition scores on cattle remained good. Grasses were beginning to approach dormancy. The number of cattle at sale barns increased, but the cattle market was at a standstill. A slight increase in cattle prices was noted with 500-pound steers climbing to $1.04 per pound compared to 94 cents per pound the previous week. Some producers began irrigating forage pastures to keep them green and sustainable for livestock.

    Row-crop farmers prepared fields for winter. Hay producers continued to harvest hay with an already abundant supply on hand. The cabbage harvest will resume as field conditions allow. Spinach made good progress. Oat and wheat fields made good progress, and recent rainfall was expected to help those crops. The pecan harvest was completed before the rain. Sugarcane and citrus harvests continued, and vegetables were planted.

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