Widespread crop failure reported in southern Plains

Jul 8, 2011
by WLJ

Because of the drought, there’s going to be no such thing as dryland crops in the Panhandle and south Plains this year, said Nicholas Kenny, Texas AgriLife Extension Service irrigation specialist based in Amarillo, TX.

Despite some areas receiving rain, in most of the state, record-breaking temperatures—above 110 degrees in some places—continued to hammer agricultural production, according to Agri- Life Extension personnel.

According to the U.S.

Drought Monitor, more than 70 percent of the state was experiencing exceptional drought as of June 21. About 91 percent was in one stage of drought or another.

Dryland crops failed weeks ago in most other areas too, according to reports from AgriLife Extension county agents.

Kenny’s responsibilities encompass all of the Texas Panhandle and portions of the south Plains region where 100-plus degree temperatures, wind and low humidity have pushed evapotranspiration (ET) rates up as high or higher as they usually are in July or August.

“Certainly, there’s going to be no dryland corn, sorghum is going to be questionable, and if it continues like this, there will be no dryland cotton to speak of,” Kenny said.

“We’ve had a lot of germination issues. A lot of people who have planted and just been sandblasted and sunblasted so badly that they’re running out of time to be successful at all.”

Irrigated crops were surviving, he said, but with as much as 0.6 inch of moisture being lost per day from ET, irrigators were running center pivots around the clock just to keep up with water needs, he said.

Though irrigators were stressing their resources, they were much better off than their dryland counterparts, he said. Most irrigators were splitting water between corn and cotton.

“At this point, very few are able to keep up 100 percent with water demand, but if they practiced good soil storage strategies, where they’ve been able to bank some of the water during the year, then they been able to mitigate the ET losses.”

On the other hand, irrigators have had the advantage of some very low natural gas prices, he said. (Most irrigation pumps are powered with natural gas.)

And because so many dryland fields have failed, high commodity prices should offset the increased costs of constant irrigation pumping, Kenny said. — WLJ