Although large parts of Texas have received substantial rains, producers should be careful about planning as if the drought were over, says Travis Miller, Texas AgriLife Extension Service agronomist.
That’s especially relevant for livestock producers who must rely on rain-nurtured pastures and rangeland, says Miller.
“My philosophy is to stock for drought and take opportunities as they present themselves,” he says. “In other words, keep your stocking numbers low, but if you get a year with a lot of rainfall, bring in some stocker cattle to use that grass but don’t push the limit on your stocking rates – ever.”
Miller made his comments in light of a recent forecast of not just another year, but perhaps five to 10 more years of drought by John Nielsen-Gammon, state climatologist. But even without that forecast, stocking for drought is still a good long-term strategy, says Miller.
Farmers and ranchers who planted winter pastures should take conservative approaches to fertilization, he says.
“Take another look at it come topdressing time. Also, one of the key things to remember is we just came through a year of major drought. If we put fertilizer on the crops and forages last year, chances are we didn’t use much, if any, of it. Soil test and look at what kind of nutrients you have in your soil before you spend a dime on putting fertilizer out.”
Miller also tells crop producers preparing for spring plantings to consider reduced and minimum tillage practices if they haven’t done so already.
“You can get your fields in shape, but one of the keys things I’ve learned while touring parts of the world where drought is even more common than here is to utilize surface residue to trap and hold moisture,” he says. “Take a second look at whether you really need to be plowing and turning moisture up to the air.”
More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force Web site.