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Withering Hopes: Farmers facing another drought
by Gary Kent
Mar 13, 2013 | 2101 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Thomas Mengers checkes his planting equipment before allowing the GPS equipment to guide his Case tractor and John Deer planter across one of his fields near Tynan. Menger said was finishing his planting for this year late last week.
Thomas Mengers checkes his planting equipment before allowing the GPS equipment to guide his Case tractor and John Deer planter across one of his fields near Tynan. Menger said was finishing his planting for this year late last week.
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Gary Kent photo.Tynan area farmer Thomas Mengers turns his planting rig for another pass while planting grain sorghum last week.
Gary Kent photo.Tynan area farmer Thomas Mengers turns his planting rig for another pass while planting grain sorghum last week.
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The old adage that the “third time’s a charm” stems from the belief that one is sure to succeed at a task or event on the third try.

But don’t try to tell local farmers that as they finish up planting this week. They are facing what is quite likely to be the third year of staggering drought in the Coastal Bend.

This year has brought another surprise for what is usually an optimistic group of farmers. Heavy winds in recent weeks are literally sucking out what little moisture there was in the ground.

Although the area did get some rain weeks ago, only some of the farmers in the county have what they would call planting moisture.

“We don’t have very good sub moisture,” said Thomas Mengers.

He said he had moisture down to about two feet deep in the fields he was planting this year.

“But we really need it to be six feet deep,” he said.

The prospects for getting rain in the next 30-90 days are not promising, Mengers said.

One farmer in the Skidmore area said the same thing.

Although he had enough moisture in his fields to plant this year, he was not sure how long it would hold out, especially with the recent winds.

That farmer, like many others in the area, is planting 100 percent grain sorghum (milo) this year.

“I figured it would make a better crop,” Troy Berthold said. He still had a couple of days of planting left when contacted early this week. He said he is also planting nothing but milo this year.

“I think everybody’s going heavy with milo,” Berthold said. “It’s a little more drought resistant.”

Berthold, who farms east of Beeville toward Berclair, said his fields did not get as much rain as some of the areas south of Beeville in the Skidmore and Tynan areas.

“I’d liked to have seen rain the other day,” Berthold said. “But we missed it.”

Berthold said farmers he knows in the Seguin and Robstown areas said they did not get any of the rain that fell in Bee County about five weeks ago.

“It’s just a mess,” he said. And this will be the third dry year for Bee County farmers.

One farmer said the weather indicators are not good. Most of the damp weather is being blown north of Houston, and that is not a good thing for South Texas.

“It’s just going to have to turn around. It’s going to have to rain a whole lot,” the farmer said.

Arturo Gaitan, who farms between Skidmore and Tynan, said he is planting some corn but sticking mostly to grain sorghum.

“We’re the only ones who have moisture in the ground,” Gaitan said. “I think it’ll sustain for about three weeks.

Gaitan tried to conserve the moisture in his fields by tilling the soil as little as possible. He said that has helped him to retain the moisture for the seed he has planted.

Also, farmers are staying away from planting cotton this year.

Mengers said his family is sticking to some corn and mostly milo this year. They bought their crop insurance in January, and the likelihood of a good grain crop was looking good then.

But another farmer said recent experiences with corn in South Texas have caused insurance costs for that crop to increase to the point that it is not cost effective to plant much corn.

“Corn prices are sustaining,” Gaitan said. Prices are good because stocks for the grain are low.

Much of the corn crop in the Midwest section of the country failed last year, and the amount of that grain in storage is declining.

Bee County Agricultural Extension Agent Matthew Bochat shared the concern of the county’s farmers.

“We’re going into the third year of drought,” he said this week. Long term forecasts for rain do not look good for South Texas.

Bochat commented that last year was especially hard on farmers with a 70-80 percent loss of grain sorghum crops and an 80-90 percent loss of corn.

“Some are just hanging on,” Bochat said of the county’s farmers.

He agreed that soil moisture was the main concern for those planting right now. Although some farmers had enough moisture to plant, that would not be enough to keep the crops growing through the entire season.

Bochat said farmers who can take advantage of irrigation will be doing that this year. He said he is hoping to schedule a program on irrigation for farmers, probably as early as next week, in a field near Tynan.

Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.
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