Dire forecast expected for local corn growers

Dire conditions expected for local corn growers
Posted at 1:58 PM, Apr 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-23 22:47:21-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Parts of South Texas are experiencing a severe drought.

Ray Patrick, a rancher and farmer between Bishop and Alice, is concerned for his crops.

"We don’t have any underground moisture -- which is what we have to have to sustain us through the crop season," he said. "Our crops actually look pretty good right now but they're starting to show the effects of dry weather. It’s getting really critical."

The Weather Outlook program for the Coastal Bend, a joint effort between NOAA, the USDA Weather Service and Texas A&M's Agrilife Extension shows there is no improvement expected in the forecast for the next two weeks.

“We are in a drought situation that comes all the way from past summer. Very hot summer and fall that we had and very little rains the rest of the year.“ said Juan Landivar, the center director for Texas A&M's Agrilife Research.

This is especially troubling news for local corn producers in Nueces County because their crops are at the blooming stage or tasseling stage where water is crucial.

“Everybody is keeping an eye on the skies and of course, our livelihood depending on having those timely rains," said Landivar.

Most growers in the Coastal Bend do not irrigate and depend on rain for their crops.

There is a glimmer of hope as some rain is expected in three to five weeks.

“If those rains are normal, that will be a good thing for our sorghum and cotton fields. And it will benefit the corn as well but the corn needs water as soon as possible.” Landivar said. "If we don’t fertilize the grains now -- water later doesn’t matter as much because there is nothing to yield.”

Additionally, COVID-19 is still impacting agriculture.

A study from Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M University says "if prices for all agricultural products do not return to pre-pandemic levels, the losses for Texas agricultural producers will be devastating.

'With most market prices for livestock and crops grown in Texas falling 25 to 30 percent, losses in the range of $6 to $8 billion could easily be realized, if not more."

Landivar said while it's too early to give up hope but for crop growers, it's a good idea to be mindful of production costs.

“Keep an eye on what is coming and then watch your expenses." he said. "It might be that the crop might not be as abundant as we would like to have it if the rains don’t come.“

In the meantime, crop growers remain optimistic.

“The hope is that we're gonna get a rain here about Cinco de Mayo and that will get our pasture grass going but it might be too late for our crops." Patrick said. "We're always optimistic. We’re just gonna rely on the Lord to provide the rain that we need to sustain us.”