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Texas crop and weather report
College Station, Texas
July 20, 2005

While South Texas farmers are bracing for the possible damage that Hurricane Emily could inflict, many of the agricultural producers in other areas of the state will welcome the moisture, according to Texas Cooperative Extension agricultural experts.

"I've heard two scenarios: At the end of last week some farmers were going to apply a defoliant to the cotton and try to harvest as quickly as possible (before Hurricane Emily hit)," said Manda Cattaneo, cotton Integrated Pest Management entomologist at the Texas A&M University System Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Weslaco.

"If they couldn't get it done in time, they were going to leave (the cotton) and let the leaves protect it from the wind and rain." But, Texas' overall average rainfall for April to June 2005 was the third driest in 110 years, said Texas State Climatologist John Nielson-Gammon.

"June was the fifth driest June over the same period, comparing unfavorably to last year's wettest-ever-June," Nielson-Gammon said. "June also was driest-ever for the climate divisions covering Central and Southeast Texas."

While West and East Texas received 2 to 4 inches of rain in early July, the central and southern portions of Texas remained dry.

"As a result, much of Texas is experiencing drought," he said. "Dry conditions have been present in the lower (Rio Grande) Valley since the beginning of the year. The dryness is spread northward, thanks to a very dry June, and San Antonio recently experienced its tenth longest spell ever of no measurable rain."

All of Central Texas is experiencing a lack of rainfall. He said the North Texas counties between Interstate 20 and the Red River are more than 10 inches below their normal year-to-date rainfall.

"The dryness has been caused by a general lack of typical springtime weather," said Nielson-Gammon. "The storm track generally stayed well to the north of Texas, leading to few tornadoes, as well as less rain, in general. As we enter July, the weather regime shifts to a summertime pattern, which typically brings scattered thunderstorms and an occasional tropical disturbance."

Tropical rains during the past week brought temporary relief to some areas.

"Ordinarily, drought at this time of year would not be expected to improve significantly without a good tropical disturbance or two bringing decent rainfall over a wide area," he said. "Such events are impossible to predict far in advance, but one such possibility is (Hurricane) Emily. Otherwise, there is no useful forecasting guidance to predict the continuation or termination of the drought."

According to the burn ban map located on the Texas Interagency Coordination Center Web site,, 135 Texas counties have established outdoor burn bans. A few of these counties lie in Hurricane Emily's path.

"Burn bans are a ban on outdoor burning, said Wayne Hamilton, director of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station's Center for Grazinglands and Ranch Management. "They are put into effect when weather conditions dictate to the county commissioners usually through information furnished by Texas Forest Service or Texas Department of Agriculture there is a high risk of wildfire. These conditions are normally associated with drought and accumulation of fine fuel like grasses and weeds from preceding wet weather. As you can imagine, this year is an excellent example of these kinds of conditions."

A county burn ban restricts outdoor burning only in unincorporated portions of a county. Generally, bans are put into effect to help prevent accidental fire starts due to debris burning.

"Careless burning of household trash, brush piles and other debris constitutes the number one cause of wildfires in much of the state, so by preventing outdoor burning, a significant source of potential wildfire starts can be avoided," said Mahlon Hammetter, fire prevention specialist for the Texas Forest Service in Lufkin.
Hammetter said the impact of the ban is determined on how the commissioners word it.

"Sometimes the bans apply to any fires outside of a container that contains all sparks and flames," he said. "Sometimes a ban is worded to allow those exemptions to outdoor burning listed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. It just depends on how the individual counties want to word their ban. Also, the length of a ban and the penalties for violation of a ban differ according to the legislation cited in establishing the ban."
Steve Livingston, Extension agronomist in Corpus Christi, said, "The Forest Service usually calculates a drought index from remotely accessed weather stations."

If the index is above 500, a burn ban is recommended.

The following livestock, crop and weather conditions were reported by Extension districts:

PANHANDLE: Soil moisture short to adequate. Temperatures were average to above average for the week. Isolated thunderstorms were reported. Corn is beginning to tassel and is rated fair to good. Corn borer moth emergence is under way in the southern corn production areas of the district. Banks grass mites are beginning to increase. Cotton ratings range from poor to excellent; cotton fleahoppers are the major pest, but Lygus bungs, cotton aphids, and beet armyworms are reported. Peanuts are rated fair to good with no major insect or disease problems. Dryland peanuts need rain. Sorghum is rated mostly fair to good and need rain. Soybeans are rated fair to good. Some sunflower fields are in bloom. Insecticide applications are being made for the sunflower moth. Wheat harvest was coming to a close. Cattle are in good body condition.

SOUTH PLAINS: Soil moisture is short. Hot and dry conditions prevailed. Cotton was rated fair to good; early fields began to bloom. Corn was in good condition. Irrigation continued. Peanuts were rated good; most were pegging. Sorghum and sunflowers progressed well. Pumpkins were in good condition. Pastures and rangelands were rated fair to good. Cattle were in good condition.

ROLLING PLAINS: Soil moisture is short. Showers were reported. Forages responded positively to moisture. Livestock were in good condition. Producers moved cattle and are getting ready for fall calving season. Horse breeding came to a close. Wheat producers prepared for fall planting. Cotton producers fought sand. Alfalfa fields did well under irrigation. Landscapes fought leaf spot disease on shrubs and trees.

NORTH: Soil moisture is very short to adequate. Hay and livestock producers have better outlooks after rain was received. Livestock demands at sale barns continue to be strong. Sweet potatoes are responding well to rain. Weather is mostly hot and dry. The region needs more rain.

EAST TEXAS: Soil moisture is short. Scattered rainfall was reported. Pasture conditions improved; some hay was cut. Many producers fed hay. Most counties enacted burn bans. Fruit crops had good yields. Cattle were in good condition.

FAR WEST: Soil moisture is short. Some scattered showers and very hot temperatures were reported. Pastures, rangelands and livestock were rated poor to good; some cattle were fed supplements. Cotton set boles and was squaring.

WEST CENTRAL: Soil moisture is very short. Hot and dry conditions were reported. All crops showed signs of heat stress; most fields need rain before cultivation can occur. Hay harvest ended. Some was too dry to bale. Cotton did well. Producers sprayed for weed control. Rangelands and pastures dried up fast due to drought conditions. Irrigated pecan orchards did well.

CENTRAL: Soil moisture is short. Pastures need rain. Cattle body condition scores dropped earlier and faster than normal. Some late planted corn was grazed out. Second generation weevils emerged in cotton crops. Insecticide applications may be warranted.

SOUTHEAST: Soil moisture is short to adequate. Scattered thunderstorms were reported. Cloud coverage increased, but temperatures were still high. The area watched for Hurricane Emily. Brazoria County reported 45 days without rainfall. Soybean pods were not filling completely due to drought stress. Hay yields were poor. Rains improved pastures and rangelands.

SOUTHWEST: Soil moisture is short. Light rain and cooler temperatures were reported. Production remained under stress. Pastures, rangelands and yard grasses were grown and in mid-summer dormancy. Forage availability was below average. Cotton, peanuts and cucumbers made good progress under heavy irrigation. Watermelon, cantaloupe and cucumber harvest continued. Sorghum and corn harvest gained momentum.

COASTAL BEND: Soil moisture is short. Extremely hot and dry conditions were reported. Lack of moisture had an adverse effect on cotton yields and fiber development. Some fields will receive harvest aid. Sorghum harvest was in full swing. Cattle were in fair to good condition.

SOUTH: Soil moisture is short. Pastures and rangelands continue to need moisture. Grain sorghum is being harvested; yields are low. Cotton defoliation is very active. The cotton harvest has started. Hurricane preparation occurred.

For a related article on preparations for Hurricane Emily in south Texas see:

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