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October rains improve local soil moisture
Nov 07, 2013 | 70 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Though much of the state remained in one stage of drought or another, rains during the last few weeks greatly alleviated the severity of the drought, according the U.S. Drought Monitor and reports from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

About 87 percent of the state was still categorized as being abnormally dry to under exceptional drought on Oct. 22, according to the monitor. However, less than 1 percent was under exceptional drought conditions compared to more than 6 percent three months ago.

During the same time, extreme drought dropped from nearly 22 percent to about 4 percent, and severe drought from 39 percent to about 19 percent.

Though many areas are still suffering, the drought distinctions are important, according to AgriLife Extension agent reports. The recent rains have raised soil-moisture levels, making feasible the dryland planting of wheat and small grains for grazing. The added moisture also improved the prospects for the 2014 crop year.

A common observation was that rains also replenished low pond and stock-water tank levels. Only last month, low stock water was a common concern in many areas. There were still reports from Central Texas and Coastal Bend areas of low water levels.

Another promising development was that though cooler temperatures slowed warm-season forage growth, many producers were able to take another hay cutting. In the South region, the rains improved pastures and rangeland to the point that producers were able to suspend supplemental feeding of livestock.

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

Coastal Bend

Recent rains improved pastures, with considerable amounts of hay being baled. The rains also improved 2014 crop prospects.

Soil moisture profiles improved as deep as several feet in some areas. Ponds were still not filled to capacity in most areas.

The sesame harvest neared completion, with estimated yields ranging from 200-850 pounds per acre. Pastures greened up, and some hay was harvested. The pecan harvest continued. Oats and winter wheat were either planted or soon to be planted.

South

No moisture was reported, but heavy rains received during the previous weeks greatly improved rangeland, pastures and soil-moisture conditions.

Soil-moisture levels were 80-100 percent adequate in the northern parts of the region, 50-100 percent adequate in the eastern parts of the region, 60-100 percent adequate in the western parts of the region and 35-50 percent adequate in the southern parts of the region.

Only two counties in the southern area of the region reported short soil moisture: Cameron and Hidalgo.

Rangeland and pastures were in good to very good condition. Though cooler temperatures and shorter days slowed grass production, generally there was an abundance of forage for livestock grazing.

Livestock producers were able to put supplemental feeding on hold. Cattle body condition scores remain good. One downside of the rain was that mosquitoes became a problem in creeks and low-lying areas where there was flooding and standing water, particularly along the Nueces River.

In Atascosa and Frio counties, peanut harvesting was ongoing. Also in those areas, grain sorghum was beginning to turn color, and the last hay cuttings were being taken.

In Frio County, wheat and oat producers were busy planting.

In Maverick County, winter oat planting was nearly complete and coastal Bermuda grass hay was being harvested. Pecan harvesting began late in the week as orchards began to dry out.

Cameron County growers were planting fall vegetables such as tomatoes and onions.

Hidalgo County growers began harvesting sugarcane, early orange and other citrus crops. In

Starr County, hay baling continued on improved pastures, and fall vegetable crops were progressing well.

Two Zavala County area gins were actively ginning cotton as weather allowed.
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