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Drought wreaking havoc on farmers

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By Kyle Mooty

LPR Editor

Wayne Morse, Extension Agent for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension in Caldwell County, didn’t mince his words when asked how bad the drought conditions have affected Caldwell County’s crop farmers.

“It’s a real bad year,” Morse said. “There’ll be lots of insurance claims.”

Driving around the county, it’s easy to spot what are usually field of lush green crops now stunted in growth and sporting a dull brown color, burned brown if you will.

“Most of our row crops look bad,” Morse said.

In fact, from the farmers Morse has contacted, the average yield of corn a year ago was about 115 bushels per acre. This year, those that have any corn, can expected about 30 to 45 bushels per acre. According to AUSDA’s Crop Progress Report from June 21, Texas has the worst corn condition in the country.

With sorghum (milo), there was about 3,500- to 4,500-pounds to the acre in 2021. This year, there will be about 1,500 pounds per acre. Only 20 percent of the state’s cotton is rated good or better.

Cotton averaged about 2- to 2 ½ bushels per acre in 2021. This year, Morse said cotton farmers will yield about .75 bushels per acre. Only 19 percent of the state’s cotton is rated good or better.

“Cotton right now is set in bolls, but we need some rain soon or it’s going to be bad,” Morse said. “Corn ears are short and have not filled out. Milo is half the size it should be. It’s rough news.”

The wording on drought conditions vary but farmers and the general public understand that these are challenging times.

One report lists 87.37 percent of the state in Severe Drought. According to Texas agriculture statistics, 28 percent of the state is suffering from extreme drought. Less than 4 percent of the state is without drought concerns, including parts of four northeastern counties and the southern tip of the state.

In Caldwell County, 100 percent of the people have been affected in some form or fashion by the drought, with 20.82 percent of the county listed as extreme drought.

Extreme Drought is defined as the soil having large cracks with its moisture very low and occurring dust and sandstorms.

It is the sixth driest year in the state’s last 128 years, or since such records were kept.

“Crop farmers across the state are looking at yield declines for all commodities due to lack of moisture. In some parts of the state, irrigated fields could be the only ones harvested. In other parts of the state where the crops are more established, their yields will be off,” according to Texas Farm Bureau Commodity and Regulatory Activities.

USDA’s June 27 Crop Progress Report said Texas’ corn was rated 30 percent poor, and 38 percent fair. It’s among the worst in all the United States.

More than 200 Texas counties have received crop disaster designations — which makes loans and other financial assistance available — from the U.S. Department of Agriculture due to extended drought conditions.

The state’s olive crop is almost a complete failure this year, and wheat is close to joining the same category.

Topsoil moisture showed 59 percent of the state very short, 34 percent short, 7 percent adequate, and none at surplus level. Subsoil moisture showed 54 percent of Texas coming up very short and 38 percent short.

Almost every crop has been affected, including wheat, which was rated 60 percent at very poor in the Lone Star State, with 23 percent rated poor.

About 23 million people in Texas have been affected by drought conditions in some form or fashion.

Since September, average rainfall in Texas is less than 10 inches, the first time that’s happened since 1925, according to state climatologist John Neilsen-Gammon.

“This is only the second drought where you have more than half of the state in extreme drought conditions,” Nielsen-Gammon said.

The National Weather Service said the current pattern resembled 2010-11 when the drought was considered the worst on crops and water supplies.

Weather officials warn the public to stay hydrated, avoid the sun, and check on relatives and neighbors who could be vulnerable to heat exhaustion.

Since January, more than 527,000 acres have been burned due to wildfires, still lower than the total lost in 2011. Caldwell County is one of 131 counties in Texas to impose an outdoor burn ban.

Texas’ population growth is one of the reasons for more water, but the 23 new reservoirs are not scheduled to be completed until 2070.

“There’s pockets of this state that don’t have until 2070,” Sen. Charles Perry sR-Lubbock) said. “As the state is growing, the options get fewer and fewer every day.”

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Next week, the Post-Register will look at how the drought has affected livestock and pets.

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