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Dry winter weather could extend into spring, summer

Dry weather
Drier than normal conditions this winter could be a harbinger for a hotter-than-normal summer if future weather patterns fail to deliver moisture. As Texas A&M AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled district summaries, many showed dry winter conditions.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension isn’t the only one who’s taken notice. John Nielsen-Gammon, Ph.D., Texas State Climatologist said conditions have been fairly dry for most of the state since the middle of summer. Areas of West Texas and the Panhandle picked up good rainfall that ended drought conditions, but areas in Central and South Texas have been especially dry.

Tropical weather patterns are neutral, which means there are equal chances of drier or wetter systems moving through Texas.

“The majority of the state has received below-normal rainfall so far,” he said. “There are no La Niña or El Niño conditions, so there’s really no long-term outlook for how much rain we might see going into spring.”

However, short-term forecasts show no indication of breaking the drier-than-normal trend.

“Much of the state has been waiting to get decent amounts of rain into the soil for spring planting,” he said. “The lack of rainfall is definitely something to be concerned about at this point.”

Drier soil is a concern for farmers, but if drought extends into summer it can compound conditions with higher temperatures. Dry winters tend to deliver hotter summers.

Nielsen-Gammon said temperatures have been “strange.” Overall, temperatures have been slightly warmer than normal despite colder temperatures arriving earlier than usual. So far, there haven’t been any record-setting cold or warm records around the state this winter.

Much of the cold temperatures in Texas have been relegated to northern parts of the state, he said. The short-term forecast doesn’t call for any break in that temperature trend.

Current conditions suggest spring could arrive earlier this year, but the lack of a defined weather pattern makes forecasting difficult, he said.

“We can still get a change in the weather pattern without a week’s warning,” he said. “Colder, wetter weather isn’t out of the question as we move toward spring.”

CENTRAL
The district needed moisture. Some areas received scattered showers. Wheat was stunted mostly due to lack of moisture, but wheat that received moisture looked good. Livestock were in fair condition with supplemental feeding. Most fields were top dressed, and fieldwork for spring planting was wrapping up. Fertilizer applications were being made. Stock tank levels were low. Nearly all counties reported adequate soil moisture and fair overall rangeland and pasture conditions.

ROLLING PLAINS
Areas in the district received much-needed moisture. Winter wheat pasture conditions were slowly improving. Cattle producers continued to provide supplemental feed with protein and hay where forages were limited.

COASTAL BEND
Most of the reporting area received 1-2 inches of rain. The rain greatly improved soil moisture levels. Fieldwork was currently on hold due to wet soil. Many producers were successful incorporating preplant fertilizer for grain and cotton crops before the rain arrived. Pasture growth was stimulated by the rain and fair weather that followed. Hay supplies were tighter than normal. Producers continued to feed supplements of protein and hay. Livestock sale numbers were average for this time of year.

EAST
Much-needed rain fell across the district. The rainfall was still not enough for some counties to recover from drought conditions. Jasper and Sabine counties reported conditions were too wet to do anything. Winter pastures made some growth. Producers started preparing gardens and croplands for watermelons, potatoes and greens. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were adequate. Cattle were in fair to good condition. Hay supplies started to get low for many producers. Cattle markets were firm. Wild pigs continued to cause destruction in pastures, farms, ranches and even cities.       

SOUTH PLAINS
Winter wheat had emerged across the district. Fields needed significant rains in the coming weeks to grow. Farmers finished planting wheat. Some farmers were planning to plant oats in February. Cattle were in good condition. A few light showers were reported over recent weeks. Some counties reported trace amounts of rain up to 1.25 inches. Some cotton was yet to be harvested.

PANHANDLE
The northeast corner of the district received trace amounts of rain. Supplemental feeding of cows continued. Cotton harvest was completed in the southeast areas. Pastures and rangelands needed moisture. Winter wheat had emerged but was in good to poor condition around the district.

NORTH
Topsoil moisture levels were adequate to surplus. Temperatures were in the 50s at night and the lower 60s during the day. Sporadic rains fell, a total of  2-3 inches for the reporting period. Wheat fields looked good. Planted winter pasture were doing well. Livestock were in good condition. Hay feeding continued. Wheat grazing continued. Early spring-born calves were doing well. Calving season continued.

FAR WEST
Temperature highs were in the low 70s and the lows were in the lower 40s. A few scattered showers averaged up to 0.75 of an inch of rain. Winter wheat and oats were up and looked good. All cotton was stripped, and farmers had shredded their stalks for the most part. Cattle were in good condition overall.

WEST CENTRAL
Most of the district received rainfall. The moisture helped improve conditions. Rains allowed winter grass to emerge. Winter wheat was in mostly good condition but was progressing late. Cotton harvest was mostly complete. Pecan harvest was complete. Livestock grazing was limited. Supplemental feeding continued. Livestock markets opened strong in 2020. Most cattle were in ideal condition for buyers.

SOUTHEAST
Conditions were dry overall. Pastures were dry in most areas. However, a good rain helped put moisture back into the ground. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied from fair to good. Soil moisture levels ranged from short to surplus with adequate and short being most common.

SOUTHWEST
A cold front delivered trace amounts up to 2.5 inches of rain. Oats and wheat looked good following the rains. Livestock continued to improve with better pasture and rangeland conditions. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued. Wildlife were in fair condition.

SOUTH
The district reported mild weather conditions with very short to adequate soil moisture levels. Conditions were becoming more favorable with rain. Rainfall was spotty, but many parts of the district received some. Hay was being fed to cattle in large amounts. Wheat and oats were in fair condition under irrigation. Pasture and rangeland conditions were poor, and livestock supplemental feeding continued this week. Irrigated pastures were doing well. Bermuda grass pastures were dormant but will begin greening up soon. Some producers began to burn prickly pear to use as a supplement. Some ranchers were reducing their herds. Cattle prices increased, but the cost of feed also increased, and round bales were selling at $80 per bale. Spinach harvest continued. Cabbage harvest was also active, and additional late plantings were reported. Farmers who received rain were starting to plant corn, and others were prewatering their land to plant.

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