March brought rain to a good segment of the Southwest, dumping as much as 11 in. on some locations in one mid-month rainy weekend and leaving from 1/4 in. to more than 2 in. in the Texas Plains and Southwest Oklahoma. Still, South Texas remains one of the driest places in the nation with drought conditions extending well into a second year.
John Metz, National Weather Service meteorologist, Corpus Christi, commenting on the South Texas area, says the Corpus Christi area received less than 25% of normal rainfall over the past six months, and this winter was the fifth driest in more than 120 years. Locations to the west of Corpus Christi have had even less rainfall. The Coastal Bend now rates the highest level of drought classification -- "exceptional drought."
Harvey Buehring, Nueces County Extension agent, says one effect of the drought is increased auction-market activity.
"The latest National Ag Statistical Service Texas Ag Facts report indicates sale of cattle and calves in January was up by 133,000 head compared to January 2005. The sale numbers for February and March are expected to be even greater," he says.
Conditions are better farther north but soil profiles still need to charge more before the 2006 growing-season.
"We have gotten some pretty good rains," says Brent Bean, Extension agronomist, Amarillo. It's a start, he adds, but it's not enough.
Travis Miller, Extension statewide agronomist, says prospects for South Texas crops for 2006 are not good. "Dryland producers may not plant," Miller says. Those with irrigation have to determine if the higher fuel and fertilizer costs justify the risk.
"From Brownsville up to Laredo, it's pitiful," Miller says. "Recent rains in West Texas were most welcome but didn't break the drought. It will take a lot of rain to overcome the deficit."
He says rainfall totals from Intellicast (www.intellicast.com), an Internet site offering up-to-date weather information, shows fairly good rain from El Paso east and up through the Panhandle. Very little rainfall fell South of El Paso.
Those reports also show New Mexico with mostly 1 in. or less of rain from that March system. Some North Texas areas recorded up to 11 in. with massive flooding in the Dallas area.
Miller says the Upper Coastal Bend, around Wharton and Victoria Counties, has had ample rainfall. "They had to delay grain planting," he says. "But to the south, it gets very dry."
The Internet site shows most of Oklahoma with around 2 inches of rain.
Go to drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html for still more information. -- Ron Smith, Southwest Farm Press