Source: AgriLife Today
Both the El Niño pattern and global warming are the usual suspects for a large, high-level low-pressure area and the resulting catastrophic weather, but neither can be blamed, according to a National Weather Service meteorologist.
“We’re currently in a very weak El Niño right now, and this kind of pattern is not necessarily tied to that by any means,” said Matt Stalley, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, Fort Worth. “It’s a combination of many different effects, not just here but around the globe.
“There’s a lot of inherent variability in the atmosphere. When you get locked into a pattern like this, it can be very difficult to break out of. Once we entered into this setup about a month ago, there really hasn’t been any mechanism to force any change of that pattern.”
As for warming ocean temperatures, he said it’s certainly “premature” to attribute the low-pressure system or excessive rain to global warming.
“We’ve certainly had wetter springs than this in the past, even way back in the 1880s.”
As an example, Thrall, Texas, still holds the record for the most rainfall in 24 hours – more than 38 inches in 1921– and “we certainly haven’t come anywhere close to that.”
Current predictions are that high-pressure areas could start over the Southern Plains in the next one to two weeks. These high-pressure areas could weaken the low-pressure area, Stalley said.
“Generally, when we get into early summer, we have a very large ridge of high pressure that builds over the Mexican plateau, and it builds up northward into the Southern Plains, which gives you very hot, clear-sky days, where the high pressure prevents any storms from developing,” he said. “We’ll have to see how reliable that actually is, and if it comes to fruition in early June.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Central: Livestock, rangeland, pastures and soil moisture were all in good condition. Crops were rated in fair condition. Wheat was sprouting and still in the fields because of excessive rain and winds. Corn and grain sorghum needed sunshine. Corn that was planted late was stunted, while corn that was planted on time was in good condition. All stock-water tanks and lakes were full to running over. The rain was welcomed after so many years of drought, but it caused problems that farmers had not had to deal with in many years. Pecan producers needed to spray fungicides but orchard soils were too wet for machine traffic. Vegetable producers had the same problem. Ryegrass and other winter forages are continuing to grow, but much reached maturity but could not be harvested. Winter forages were competing with warm-season grasses. Mosquitos and flies were bad.
Coastal Bend: Several areas received enough rain to cause minor to severe flooding. Crop conditions deteriorated because of saturated soils. Many fields had standing water, and more rain was expected. Due to delayed planting, cotton and grain sorghum maturity varied widely. Some grain sorghum was heading out, while other plantings were just emerging. Likewise, some cotton was squaring, while other plantings were just barely out of the ground. Only low numbers of sugarcane aphids were found so far. The growth of much corn was inhibited due to excessive moisture and lack of sunlight. There was still a considerable amount of wheat yet to be harvested because wet conditions. Nearly all rice was planted. Some soybeans and sesame may be planted when fields dry up. Pasture forage growth was behind because of less-than-optimal growing conditions. Hay growers were eager to make their first hay cutting to remove ryegrass and winter weeds. Along with wet conditions, windy weather delayed herbicide applications on pastures. Livestock were doing well with plenty of grass to eat.
East: Heavy rains continued to saturate pastures, hayfields and farmlands across the region. Most counties had surplus subsoil and topsoil moisture. Rainfall amounts were from 3 to 8 inches. Lakes, ponds and rivers continued to overflow. From Jan. 1 through the last week of May, Houston County had received 54 inches of rain and has been declared a disaster area. Crop ground has standing water, and the crops are drowning. In Cherokee County, rising creeks and rivers flooded most bottomland. Throughout the region, producers were unable to harvest cool-season grasses or fertilize the first cutting of warm-season grasses due to the wet, muddy conditions. Cattle were in good shape, but horn fly counts were tremendously high.
Far West: The region had heavy rains and cooler weather. Cotton planting was slowed by rain. Rangeland and pastures continued to be in good to excellent condition. Topsoil and subsoil moisture were adequate to short. Grain sorghum was in fair to good condition.
North: Topsoil moisture was mostly surplus, with very wet and cool conditions. Temperatures varied from the low 80s to the low 60s. All lakes, rivers and creeks are swollen to flood stage or above. Wheat turned color and was close to being ready for harvest, but wet fields will prevent equipment from entering the field for a while. Many acres of wheat were in danger of being lost. Ryegrass was mature and needed to be harvested for hay. Otherwise, pastures looked good with plentiful forages. Bermuda grass came out of dormancy, but saturated soils prevented its growth. Livestock were in good condition, and spring-born calves looked really good. Wild hogs continued to cause damage. There were reports of first instar grasshoppers in Sulphur Springs.
Panhandle: Temperatures were below average most of the week. More rain was received, and soil moisture was mostly rated as adequate. Planting continued to be delayed in many counties due to wet conditions. In Deaf Smith County, from 3.5 to 7 inches of rain on already saturated soils further delayed planting. Corn planting there was about 60-70 percent complete, with some fields emerged and others looking yellow from the cool weather and lack of sunshine. Only about 50 acres of cotton were planted in the county. Hansford County had received 7.65 to 10 inches of rain during May alone. Fields had standing water. Cattle were treading mud but had lots of grass or wheat to graze and were looking good and making gains. Irrigated wheat looked very good, with hail damage limited. Some dryland wheat that was in poor shape improved with rains. Much dryland wheat will be grazed out. All grassland was green and looking good. Hemphill County had 5 to 10 inches above-normal rainfall for the year in many places here in the county. Ochiltree County producers were spraying wheat to control rust. Some producers were returning cottonseed to dealers, trading it in for sorghum and corn seed. Rangeland and pastures continued to benefit from the rains.
Rolling Plains: Since the end of March, the region received from 15-20 inches of rain. Rivers and streams were overflowing, cropland was saturated, lakes and ponds were spilling over and grasses were flourishing. The condition of livestock was good to excellent and expected to improve further as grasses continue to outgrow demand. Although the moisture was a blessing, farmers were concerned about planting this year’s cotton. If the saturated condition of soil continued, they may have to consider alternative crops. A few producers tried planting some cotton on one day, but were run out of the fields the next by storms. Along with the wet conditions, soil temperatures remained a little too low for cottonseed to germinate. Harvesting wheat was delayed by standing water and soggy fields. Hay producers wanted to cut and bale hay but there wasn’t enough dry weather for the hay to cure. There were also concerns about the growing mosquito numbers, something that the region hasn’t had to contend with in years. The peach crop was coming along well. Pecans were in good shape too.
South: Many counties received light to moderate and heavy showers. The rainfall was beneficial to range and pastures but was causing hardship to crop producers. The northern part of the region remained very wet, which was holding back peanut planting. Potato harvesting continued, and sweet corn and wheat harvesting began. Corn and grain sorghum crops made good progress. Mosquito populations throughout the area were causing some stress to livestock. Soil moisture was adequate to surplus throughout the northern counties. In the eastern part of the region, some field crops progressed well. Corn reached the soft-dough stage, and some grain sorghum fields were beginning to heat out. Producers were spraying and cultivating where conditions allowed. In Kleberg and Kenedy counties, many fields remained fallow and others had received too much rain. Soil moisture was adequate to surplus throughout the eastern counties. In the western part of the region, localized flooding occurred in Dimmit County. Some wheat in that area was laid down as a result of heavy rains and strong winds. In Zavala County, extremely wet field conditions put field activities at a standstill. All wheat, oats, onions and cabbages remained unharvested due to wet fields. Livestock producers were able to stop supplemental feeding of livestock as native range and pastures continue to produce abundant amounts of good-quality forage. Also in Zavala County, most earthen stock tanks, which were almost dry a few weeks ago, were quickly filled by runoff. In the southern part of the region, late-planted sorghum headed out, cotton was in good condition, and weeds became less of a problem. In Hidalgo County, melon and sugarcane harvesting was active, while vegetable and citrus harvesting wound down. In Starr County, cantaloupes were negatively affected as a result of all the rain. Most of the onion crop lost due to heavy rains at harvest time. Soil moisture was mostly adequate throughout the southern counties.
South Plains: The region received more rain. Although the soil profile benefited from the moisture, there were only a few days dry enough for producers to get in the fields. Producers worried they would not be able to plant by crop insurance deadlines. Corn and milo is up in a lot of places and has a good stand. The planting deadline for most cotton will be May 28, but soil temperatures were still below the minimal needed for germination. On a high note, after years of poor or no wheat yields, this year’s crop promises to make 60-70 bushels per acre where irrigated and 40-50 bushels per acre in dryland. Range conditions drastically improved with native grass growth exploding. The needed supplementation of cattle with range cubes decreased with each rain event. Cochran County producers were making some progress with spring planting. Lubbock County had another inch of rain from several light showers, but producers managed to plant some cotton. Corn and grain sorghum looked good.
Southeast: Soil-moisture levels throughout the region were mostly in the surplus range. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied from excellent to good, with good ratings being the most common. The rains kept coming. Low-lying areas of Walker County have been flooded for more than two weeks. Late clovers were in the process of setting seed. Ryegrass pastures were too wet to harvest other than by grazing. Vegetable crops had sunscald. In Brazos County, the excessive rainfall caused row crop losses. Extended wet field conditions limited plant growth. Waller County corn was doing well, with plants about 2 feet tall. Stock tank levels were at capacity in most areas. In Chambers County, excessive rains delayed rice planting even further. With the soaked soils and repeated rains, there was little chance for any dry planting of rice before the first week of June. Repeated rains made it nearly impossible for farmers to spray crops for weeds. Pastures were wet and/or submerged in water due to rains. Only a few hay producers were able to cut winter grasses and weeds to spur new growth. Improved forages promised to be overly mature by the time they can be harvested.
Southwest: Heavy rains caused localized flooding. Medina Lake levels rose more than 52 feet in the past two weeks. The rain filled many ponds and given the moisture back to soil that was needed so badly. Some crops were damaged by hail and strong winds, including wheat. In some counties, most wheat was laid down by winds and rain. However, farmers expected to be able to claim crop insurance, and till the crop under to return nutrients back to the soil. There was concern that flooding would increase crop diseases such as cotton root rot. Farmers could not get into the fields to harvest wheat or fertilize any crops. Hay was ready to harvested, but rain and forecast prevented any from being cut. There was some loss of livestock to flooding.
West Central: Days were mild with cool nights. Heavy rains continued to fall, providing much needed runoff for local stock tanks and ponds. Producers were anxious to start planting and harvesting but were unable to get into the fields due to wet conditions. Some wheat was laid down by high winds and heavy rains. Grain sorghum, corn and forage crops were all in excellent condition. Forages and weeds were growing rapidly. Producers continued fertilizing and spraying weed controls as conditions allowed. Rangeland and pastures greatly benefited from all the moisture and were in excellent condition. Some winter wheat was grazed out. Livestock remained in very good condition. Pecan growers sprayed for casebearers.