Like the flip of a switch, much of Texas turned from prolonged drought and extreme record heat to general rainfall and daytime temperatures plunging to about 60 degrees for daytime highs from a major front that moved through the state at mid-September.
It gave many wheat growers renewed hope for sowing their winter wheat crop, or getting wheat that already was dry-planted up to a good stand.
Rainfall totals from 2 to 5 inches were common in North Central and West Central Texas.
"It will be a tremendous start for our 2012-2013 wheat," says Robert Pritz, Taylor County AgriLife Extension Service agent, Abilene.
Pritz says for farmers that already had dry-sown their wheat, the rain couldn't be more timely in what it means for crop emergence. To others that typically wait until October to plant their winter wheat, the general mid-September rainfall lays a solid foundation for those growers to plant their new crop.
Although farmers are excited about the slow, soaking rainfall, many ranchers are still in dire straits when it comes to water for livestock, Pritz says.
"Several ranchers have told me their windmills are almost pumping dry," he reports.
So it is going to take several more rains—and big ones—for such Texas ranchers to get some water supplies built up again.
In addition to windmills sucking air, many stock tanks were almost dry—to completely dry—when the rain came.
So Pritz notes ranchers—despite the precious September rainfall—are still a long ways off from being out of the grips of two years of exceptional drought.
Pritz says the return of rain in September is hopefully a sign that the weather patterns—in general—have returned to rainfall for now and the coming winter and spring.
Too late for cotton
Darrell Cross of Cross Farms at Ovalo, Texas near Abilene is a diversified farmer who welcomed the rain ranging from 1 ½ to 2 inches on his farms.
It was a great rain—and the lower temperatures ushered in with the north front were wonderful too—and now Cross is looking forward to sowing winter wheat.
Cross Farms grows some wheat to supply winter forage for stocker cattle—although generally not entirely grazed out—and much wheat devoted strictly for grain harvest.
Cross feels the rainfall has laid the foundation for him to sow wheat in October, his preferred time to sow wheat for grain.
"But we hope we can get more rain before then," Cross says.
Nevertheless, cotton is a sad story. Cross says there were just too many days of temperatures well above 100 degrees and that really hammered his cotton—even his irrigated acreage was slammed by the extreme heat of 2012.
"The rain and cooler temperatures just came too late for my cotton," says Cross, who exemplifies multitudes of cotton growers across Texas. "The cotton just quit."
Will help peanuts
The September rainfall was heaven-sent for many Texas peanut growers.
At Lone Star Peanut Co. at Rochester, Texas, the rainfall gives new hope for a good peanut harvest. Lone Star officials say the timely rainfall varied from 2 inches to 4 inches across the peanut area in Haskell and Knox counties. This should really help finish out the peanut crop as it heads toward harvest later in the fall in October and November.
Many of the peanut growers also are wheat producers in that part of Texas, and they had been dry-planting wheat while hoping for moisture just prior to the September rainfall coming.
More rain to prevent fires
Just like ranchers need much more rain, a good stretch of Texas remained in wildfire danger at the time of the rainfall and will need more rain in coming months to make up for a two-year deficit.
According to Texas A&M Forest Service experts, in early September the highest risk of wildfires was in the central part of the state, along the U.S. Interstate 35 corridor from Fort Worth to San Antonio. You can check out the Texas A&M Forest Service Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal online at http://www.texaswildfirerisk.com/map, which has the highest risk areas highlighted on the map.
As more and more people move to Texas every day, the risk of wildfires is compounded where wild lands and new urban areas interface.
Although fuel loads for fires may not be as high as last year, it is still important to be on alert for the risk of wildfires, says Megan Clayton, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service range specialist at Corpus Christi.
Travis Miller, associate department head and AgriLife Extension program leader in the Texas A&M soil and crop sciences department, College Station, says many livestock producers are still having to supplement cattle with hay and other feed. He says many ranchers also are struggling to have enough water for livestock after two years of drought in the state.
The impact of the great Midwest Drought will be felt in Texas for some time as cattle feedlots continue to deal with high corn prices. Some feedlots have turned to feeding wheat as an alternative to corn, but wheat prices have been strong as well.
The return of general rainfall in coming months would be a huge benefit to both crop and livestock producers, no matter how you look at it.