Lack of rain hurting area farmers

Posted at 5:24 AM, May 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-15 06:24:26-04

The drought has gone on long enough here in South Texas, however, many crops may not recover,  even with rain.

There’s always a breaking point with crops when it comes to rain, a day when they can still be replanted or maybe come back with a decent yield. For corn and sorghum, that day has already passed.

As Coastal Bend grain crops continue to grow and develop, we are now entering severe drought conditions in many areas.  This is particularly troubling because these crops are now at stages of growth that require the most water. 

“We had good rains in spots early in the season, and it was enough moisture to get the crop up to germinate the seed. But now we need rain in the early season or mid-season time of the year for those grain crops because they hit these points of growth where they need a ton of water to be able to produce grain,” said Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agronomist Josh McGinty.

As for grain sorghum and corn, that time has already passed. Farmer Matt Havelka says he is seeing wilting leaves and other signs of heat stress,and unless we get timely rain, this will result in lower yields at harvest. 

“As it stands right now, without a rain in the next 10 days we are pretty well shot, and we will not have much of a crop at all,” said Havelka.

“We will end up going ahead and harvesting these fields and obviously yields will be down this year, but that is the nature of farming in this part of the country. We don’t have irrigation water outside of San Patricio County so we don’t have the option of watering the crop up.  We just have to rely on the rainfall,” said McGinty.

The lack of rain has already stunted the crops and many area farmers’ income.

“For the farmer, it means we are depending on our insurances and stuff like that, and with the way the insurances program goes, these days there is not much there. You try to get by, and you try to make your payments as best as possible and break even, but a lot of times we come up short,” said Havelka.

“We have had 3 good years of yields grain and cotton yields, that helps ease the loss of having a dry year.  Because these dry years are going to happen, and they always have, and they always will. At this point, the farmers are more than likely hoping for later rains in the year to benefit the cotton crop which will help them offset the losses on grain,” said McGinty.

The cotton crop is still in good shape as most fields still have enough soil moisture for now.

Once cotton begins to flower (which should begin in the next week or so), it’s water requirement will begin to rapidly increase.  If we don’t see significant rains in the next couple weeks, cotton will start to suffer, and we can expect lower yields than the last 2-3 years.