While recent rains have many Texas forage producers smiling, not all of them are optimistic about production prospects for the year ahead.
“Things look a little more promising right now than they did last fall,” says Larry Redmon, forage specialist with Texas AgriLife Extension. “This extremely wet weather has certainly been beneficial in terms of improving moisture levels in soil profiles in many areas. But if all the moisture we’ve been getting shuts off next month, we could use up all of those reserves pretty quickly once the summer heat comes on. In short, it’s just too early to tell how all of this is going to play out.”
On the upside, winter-annual crops, including rye, ryegrass and wheat, have definitely benefited from the rainfall. “But at this point we really don’t know about our warm-season forages,” says Redmon. “And that’s what most producers depend on.”
The abundant precipitation in recent weeks has also led to a “tremendous infestation” of winter-annual weeds in many parts of the state, he adds. “That’s going to create some problems of its own.”
Other regions of the state received little rainfall this winter. According to a mid-March U.S. Drought Monitor report, an area of extreme drought has expanded in South Texas in recent weeks. The map with the report, pictured, also shows a large swath of West Texas and the Texas Panhandle locked in exceptional drought.
“No precipitation,” commented Jesse Lea Schneider, AgriLife Extension agent for Presidio County, in far West Texas, in a recent crop and weather report from Texas A&M University. “Cattle that remain are on supplemental feed and consuming large amounts of minerals, as are horses. Pastures are decimated, with only the appearance of poisonous green weeds.”
Longer term, the projections are that drought is likely for much of Texas through the end of the decade, says Redmon. “The kind of drought cycle we’re in now typically lasts for 22-25 years. This one started in 1995. That means it could be 2020 before the cycle ends.”
More Texas drought information can be found on Agrilife Extension’s Agricultural Drought Task Force Web site.