Crop and forage production in Texas have “pretty much shut down” due to severe-to-exceptional drought conditions, says Travis Miller, Texas AgriLife Extension Service program leader.

“If you look at the U.S. drought monitor, about 26% of the state of Texas is an exceptional drought,” says Miller. “Exceptional means it is a one-in-50-year occurrence.”

Much of the rest of the state is in what’s classified as moderate, severe or extreme drought. The distinctions are being based largely on how much damage and losses are expected to crops, forage production, livestock and water sources, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor classification scheme, details of which can be found at http://www.drought.unl.edu/dm/classify.htm.

There are scattered pockets – mainly in north-central Texas – that got some substantial rain a few weeks ago, Miller notes.

“But statewide, it’s a pretty grim picture,” he says. “And it’s not just Texas; it’s New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana and parts of Arkansas. It’s an exceptional drought across a big area.”

Corn along the Gulf Coast is stunted and tasselling early, Miller says. “It’s in a lot trouble.”

Blacklands/Central Texas corn, though planted later, is in much the same shape. “We’re seeing leaves twisting (from heat/moisture stress) by midday.”

Much of the Texas wheat crop has failed as well, Miller says. “Probably in the order of 50-60% of the wheat crop won’t be harvested.”

From a national standpoint, Texas is a “minor player” in feed grains, he says. But Texas typically plants about half the cotton acreage in the U.S., so a large-scale crop failure there could have an impact on prices. Cotton is typically planted later than corn, and cotton growers ran into dry soil conditions as the planting window opened. As a result, less than 20% of the total cotton crop has been planted to date.

“The High Plains is right in the middle of their planting season,” Miller says. “They normally plant up to the first week of June. The dryland farmers are waiting for rain. The irrigated farmers have spent a lot of money and pumped a lot of water, and we’re seeing some planting in irrigated conditions.”

More information on the Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force Web site.