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Long Overdue Rain In High Plains

When I looked at the weather map recently and saw that a large area of the Texas High Plains was receiving significant rainfall, I thought I was dreaming. The months have turned into years as this region has awaited any kind of precipitation. I can only imagine how farmers must have felt when they saw this weather forecast. We were hearing that an El Nino pattern might mean more rainfall in Texas in the near future. Maybe this is the first sign that a serious change in weather trends is already occurring.

Sometimes we forget how big Texas and the Southwest are unless we look at a map and re-educate ourselves. People just assume that a rain shower in the Texas Panhandle means that every farm has received some rainfall. That is obviously not true. I can remember what my farmer friend Robbie Harkey said last year as he was taking care of his cotton. It was a typically dry year north of Lubbock in Hale Center. But then along came mid-July, and his area received four to five inches of rain in two days. It made a big difference in the kind of cotton he produced – because he eventually delivered a four-bale yield on his irrigated acreage.

This time the storm front in Texas was slow moving and large enough that the coverage was widespread in the areas south and north of Lubbock. One published report said that Ralls, Texas, had received more than five inches of rainfall, which is incredibly significant. This, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg when you think about what is needed to break the drought that has persisted for the past three years. However, no matter how this rain event is viewed, it is a good start for the 2014 season.

Weather officials say that a large upper-level low moved eastward and was affected by moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. And, thankfully, there didn’t seem to be any hail in this system.

I have walked both dryland and irrigated fields in the High Plains during the past 10 months, and I can tell you that farmers have patiently waited for this rainfall. Nobody was pessimistic when I visited the Seminole area south of Lubbock last September. Most farmers were encouraged that there was the potential for El Nino patterns to arrive in 2014. If this trend does continue, it could mean a giant leap forward for Texas cotton farmers.

When you realize that half the U.S. cotton crop is planted in this state, you can’t understate the importance of this most recent rainfall. This is just what the doctor ordered and let’s hope it continues.