Violent storms that swept across the Panhandle area have caused major cotton losses, while West Texas is still in dire need of rain as the 10 years of drought continues, Texas Cooperative Extension reports.

"From what we have seen and heard in the past 10 days, approximately 250,000 acres of young upland cotton was adversely affected by severe weather (hail and winds) on June 4," said Randy Boman, Extension cotton agronomist based at Lubbock. "We suspect that 100,000 to 125,000 of those damaged acres are a total loss. We don't know how many acres were affected by violent storms on June 8 to 9.

"We also have several hundred cotton acres that simply won't make a stand due to drought conditions. There is at least 500 acres in each of these counties: Yoakum, Terry, Lynn, Gaines, Dawson, Andrews, Martin, Howard and Midland. June 10 was the cut-off date to have an insurable stand for farmers in southeastern counties on the South Plains. We just won't know for certain until later this week. I'm sure these damage estimates are low, but that's what we know at the present."

A 20-county area surrounding Lubbock comprises the Texas South Plains. Farmers in this region annually produce about one-half of the state's five- to six- million acre cotton crop.

However, West Texas is dealing with just the opposite--drought.

"Basically you can say it's been 10 years since we've had any kind of effective rainfall," said Jed Elrod, Pecos County agricultural Extension agent. "We just recently had some very localized high intensity rains. At one place we got five inches in an hour, so that's counterproductive to anything we're trying to do."

He said initially, there may be a flush of grass growth, but more times than not devastation occurs because a lot of times hail comes with the rains.

"A vineyard to our east lost 75% of its grape crop due to the hail and rain on May 10," Elrod said. "Within three to five miles of the vineyard, few people got any rain."

There were two strips of hail, one on the east and one on the northwest, he said. The showers and rainstorms were very isolated. Elrod said even when the county has a major rainstorm event, they tend to be torrential, which means it rains very hard, very fast and in very small areas.

"It's really tough right now," he said. "It's been such a long time (since it has rained) that the ground kind of seals over, and when we get rain it just runs off. There's really very little organic matter on top of the ground to break the force of the raindrop. So whenever that raindrop hits the ground, it immediately begins eroding the soil."

Sometimes, within one day of a rainstorm, dust storms are possible. But they come from a distance.

"In the past we've had dust storms that rolled in, and you could see it covered 40 miles," Elrod said. "I know because I drove through it. I had to use my headlights because it was so thick. It was very reminiscent of the Dust Bowl days (in the 1930s), as history books have shown us."

Pecos County was once one of the largest mohair raising counties in Texas, but livestock for the most part are gone across West Texas, he said.

"There's not very many sheep left and very few goats and the cattle are almost gone," Elrod said. "It is very thinly stocked at this time, and what livestock remain are being fed extensively."

He said one of the county's long-time ranchers has 25 rams left, so if significant rain does come and the country recovers, ranchers can go back with the same genetics in the sheep herds they built up over 50 years. Another rancher said he sold his last 17 head of cattle last week, Elrod said.

The main crops grown in West Texas are cotton, alfalfa and a few melons. They are all irrigated with big circle pivots that use water drawn from wells 500 to 800 feet deep, he said. "The water tables have been dropping and some walls are beginning to show more dissolved salts in the water," Elrod said. "We have deep wells, but we haven't had substantial rains in 10 years, and our recharge zones are actually to the south and west of us in the Davis Mountains.

"Agriculturally, I can't paint a very pretty picture. The cattle prices are not real good, and if you had cattle you wouldn't get a good price for them."

He said a lot of people in the region have gone to Boer or meat goats, as well as Spanish goats. The Boers are from South Africa and they are more heavily muscled than Spanish goats.

"A lot of people are growing them as 4-H project goats," Elrod said. "They've switched because you can have a smaller flock and make a fair amount of money, but you can't range over the whole country."

The following specific livestock, crop and weather conditions were reported by district Extension directors.

Panhandle: Soil moisture is short to very short. Western corn rootworms and European corn borer are reported. Some cotton stand losses due to hail. Soybeans and sunflowers continue to be planted. Wheat harvest is just getting under way. Horn flies are a problem in cattle.

South Plains: Soil moisture is short to adequate. Most counties were able to get the irrigated cotton crop planted in a reasonably timely manner. High winds, flooding and hail destroyed cotton fields in some counties. Some wheat was lost as well. Corn is in good condition.

Rolling Plains: Soil moisture is short to adequate. Wheat harvesting will begin soon. Peanut producers complained of large increases of grasshoppers. Wise and Clay counties reported good hay and alfalfa crops.

North Texas: Soil moisture is short to adequate. Most row crops have been harvested. Wheat harvest is in full swing. Hay baling continues to be very active. Yields vary but have been very good on rye grass hay. Grasshoppers continue to be a problem.

East Texas: Soil moisture is short. Forages and hay fields are improving with increased moisture. Hay cutting continues. Cattle conditions are very good. Farmers' markets are in full swing. Good supply of good quality vegetables.

Far West Texas: Soil moisture is short to very short. Ector County pecan crop suffered a 75% loss due to hail damage. Rangeland and native plants are gone due to drought. Cotton planting is wrapping up. Recent rain has helped, but more rainfall is still needed.

West Central Texas: Soil moisture is short. Cotton and sorghum planting is under way. Cotton that was damaged by hail is being replanted. Wheat harvest is in full swing with average to good yields reported. Hay harvest yields are below normal in some places.

Central Texas: Soil moisture is adequate. Hay continues to be harvested. Cattle prices are declining. Wheat harvest is in full swing. Yields are good on most varieties. Pastures, as well as corn and grain sorghum fields, are still heavily infested with small grasshoppers.

Southeast Texas: Soil moisture is short. Corn and cotton irrigation continuing in some counties and irrigated cotton and corn are looking good. Grasshoppers continue to be a problem in pastures and gardens. Watermelons are being harvested.

Southwest Texas: Soil moisture is short. Pastures, ranges and yards are going into mid-summer dormancy. Corn, cotton and sorghum under dry conditions are not doing well. Wheat, oat and winter vegetable harvest is complete. Onion, potato, watermelon and cantaloup harvest continues.

Coastal Bend: Soil moisture is very short. Hot and dry conditions continue to show effects on crops; corn wilting during the hot part of the day. Rice benefitting from hot weather. Pastures declining each week; hay production at standstill. Cattle losing body conditions.

South Texas: Soil moisture is short. Livestock supplementation continues. Corn, cotton and sorghum are in poor condition. Melon harvest continues. Conditions continue to be dry throughout the county. Recent rains helped, but were late to provide any crop benefit.

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