Hurricane Alex Rains Help Texas Growers

With a few exceptions, rains brought by Hurricane Alex were a good thing, in some cases a godsend, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service agronomist.

Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension agronomist and a member of the Texas Drought Preparedness Council, said the rain was particularly beneficial to 20 to 25 counties in East and Central Texas that were "slipping into drought" before the hurricane.

If any producers were hurt, it was sorghum growers along the Gulf Coast and Rio Grande Valley, he said.

"We’ve had significant rains over the state in the last couple of weeks; a lot of them associated with Hurricane Alex," Miller said. "It dumped a lot of rainfall along the coast — 6 to 10 inches, from what I’m hearing."

The rain and winds impacted the ongoing sorghum harvest from the Rio Grande Valley up to around Corpus Christi, he said.

"The reports I’m getting are sprouted grain and other problems associated with that extended period of wet weather."

Typically, about half the state’s sorghum is grown in the Rio Grande Valley region, Miller said. How much of that acreage was adversely affected by the storm is not yet known.

But in general, the rains were very favorable, and most of the state’s crops were not damaged, he said.

"We had a large acreage of cotton in the field, and most of that cotton is going to benefit from that rainfall," Miller said. "We were getting a bit dry over much of the Blacklands, Central Texas and the High Plains."

Before the rain, hay supplies were low if non-existent with little chance for another cutting. Corn leaves were curling in the Waco area from lack of moisture.

"It may be bit late for the corn crop in Central Texas, but soybean, hay, vegetables and fruit crops are all going to benefit," Miller said.

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

CENTRAL: Rainfall amounts varied across the region. Hay production remained steady. Grain sorghum benefited greatly from rains brought by Hurricane Alex. Much of the corn was harvested for silage the week before the storm. Aflatoxin levels were expected to increase. Wheat yields were excellent, but price cuts due to low protein content hit farmers very hard. Livestock were in good condition.

COASTAL BEND: From 1 inch to 12 inches of rain received due to Hurricane Alex greatly raised topsoil moisture levels. Corn was maturing and looked good. Cotton was setting bolls and doing well. Stinkbug control was a concern for cotton producers. Heavy rain damaged some grain sorghum, with 1 percent to 5 percent sprouting in heads, and some early maturing grain was knocked over. In the hardest-hit areas, harvested grain following the storm had as much as 36 percent damaged grain. Also, some wind damage to sorghum was reported. Hay producers were working on second and third cuttings, with some hay that was just cut prior to the rain being lost.

EAST: Much of the region received a decent amount of rain, but many areas remained behind average for the year. Cooler temperatures followed the rain and helped to improve crop conditions. Hay harvesting was slowed due to the rain. Overall, livestock were in good condition, with some producers providing supplemental feed because of limited grazing. Feral hog activity increased as the rains pushed them out of the river bottoms and creeks. There were reports of grasshoppers and armyworms.

FAR WEST: From 0.2 inch to 7 inches of rain was reported post Hurricane Alex. Fields were too wet to work following the storm, bringing the onion harvest to a standstill. Producers were excited about the rain, but anxious about falling behind in harvesting and fieldwork. Alfalfa growers completed their third cutting. Pecan nut development started, and growers were monitoring for the second generation of pecan nut casebearer. The rains washed away large populations of aphids, thereby allowing beneficial insect numbers to increase. Cotton was squaring and showing little sign of insect pressure. Due to the surplus moisture, there was some concern about fungus on cantaloupes as well as other crops. Pastures and grazing were expected to improve.

NORTH: Soil moisture ranged from short to adequate. Sporatic rain helped alleviate dry conditions, but much more was needed going into July. The rains were too late for corn but were expected to help grain sorghum, soybeans, hay and pastures. Much of the corn was drought-stressed, and many producers were considering cutting and harvesting it for hay. Hay supplies were short and new production slow, with yields reported to be half of normal levels. The rain was beneficial to forage and cattle producers. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Oats and winter wheat harvests were complete. Cotton was planted and in poor to fair condition. Rice and peanuts were in very poor condition. Insect populations were very large. Feral hogs continued to be a problem. Rangeland and pastures were in poor to good condition.

PANHANDLE: With the exception of the south central part of the district, cooler temperatures and lighter winds allowed soil moisture to stabilize in most areas. Producers continued harvesting wheat where it did not rain. The harvest was expected to continue until mid July, depending on weather. Corn was in good condition. Cotton, soybeans and sorghum were all in fair to good condition. Insect activity was slow to moderate on most crops. Rangeland was drying out in some locations but was in far better shape than this time last year. Cattle continued to make good gains, but horn and heel flies remained a problem.

ROLLING PLAINS: Much-needed showers moved through the region. The rains greatly improved the outlook for a good second harvest on Bermuda grass hay. The cotton crop across the district was looking good. Cotton that was already up and growing benefited greatly from the moisture. Some producers were spraying weeds. The peanut crop was also in good shape, and the wheat harvest was winding down. Pastures looked good and livestock were in good condition. Grasshoppers migrated into hay fields and caused major damage where there were no chemical controls.

SOUTH PLAINS: Heavy, widespread tropical-type rains came to the region July 1-4, with accumulations ranging from 3 to 15 inches. Most crops were entering their peak water-use period and the rains were very timely. Damages from the heavy rains were still being assessed. Flooding washed out fences and cut deep channels in gullies. There was also flooding of low-lying areas, but the storm’s benefits far outweighed the damage. Soil moisture was adequate to surplus. Corn was in good condition. Cotton was in fair to good condition with many fields blooming or soon to be blooming. Grain sorghum was in fair to good condition and nearing the heading stage. Pastures and rangeland were in excellent condition. Livestock were mostly in excellent condition. Some cattle had to be moved due to flooded pastures.

SOUTH: Soil moisture was adequate to surplus throughout the region as a result of rain due to Hurricane Alex. The northern and eastern parts of the region received from 3 to 10 inches, while the western and southern parts received from 4 to 12 inches. Rangeland and pastures were greatly benefited, and the constant rain filled many stock tanks. Except for some lodging of sorghum, little damage to crops was reported, though fieldwork was on hold due to wet soils. Corn was progressing well, and the grain-sorghum harvesting was expected to begin soon. Peanut planting was finished in the eastern parts of the region before the storm. Cotton and sorghum both benefited from the moisture.

SOUTHEAST: Recent rains — up to 12 inches in some cases — pulled many of the region’s counties out of a near drought. There was some crop damage, however. Crops were reported flooded in the Damon area. Cotton was flowering and grain sorghum was coloring. The San Bernard River was 7 feet above flood stage.

SOUTHWEST: Hurricane Alex brought from 2 to 4 inches of much needed rainfall to the region after two nearly completely dry months. The rains interrupted the harvesting of fresh sweet corn, watermelons and cantaloupe. Cotton, peanuts, pecans, pastures and rangeland were expected to get a boost from the rain. Corn and sorghum were maturing and continuing to dry down. The increased moisture delayed the harvest, but it was expected to restart soon. The spring onion harvest was about complete. Forage availability remained above average for this time of the year. There was some lodging of corn and sorghum in the lower Rio Grande Valley.

WEST CENTRAL: Much needed rain was reported in all areas, and days were hot and humid. The moisture improved the outlook for recently planted crops but brought field activity to a virtual standstill. Some producers fertilized hay fields. Most cotton and sorghum planting was complete. Rangeland and pasture conditions were expected to improve. Stock-tank levels rose from rain runoff. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Pecan trees were in very good condition.

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