Drought Stunts Fort Bend County Crops

26 07 2011

The drought continues in Fort Bend County.  Small wildfire occurred today and some utility districts are implementing voluntary water conservation methods.  But, so far, the drought being experienced in our county is causing the most problems for ranchers and farmers.  Jeff Osborne, reporter for the Fort Bend Herald, reported on the adverse effects in an article published on July 16, 2011.  The article is copied below.

Fields are full of cotton, but Fort Bend County farmers and ranchers are reeling from a record drought that has eclipsed the 2009 disaster.  Local farmers harvested more than 35,000 acres of cotton in 2010, and Allen Malone, county extension agent-agriculture and natural resources, said about the same acreage was planted this year, although farmers might not get the same yields.

Cotton production has a major impact on the economy of Fort Bend County.”It’s very, very important to our county,” Malone said. “Cotton is one of the top production crops in our county, and a lot of people rely on that.  If the crop suffers, the farmers struggle and local businesses are also affected.”

Also of note is that the cotton plants are blooming while they are much shorter.

“The lack of rainfall kind of stunts the growth of the plants, and they don’t get as tall,” Malone said. “Because they don’t get to the height they normally would, they’re under a lot of stress and won’t produce like they normally would.”

Recent rains have brought some relief, but Malone said the drought has already done it’s damage.  “In most instances, it’s too little, too late,” he said. “This rain was needed earlier in the growing season. Every little bit helps farmers who might have planted a bit later. But late rainfalls aren’t very helpful to many of our farmers.”

Other area crops which have been hampered by the drought include grain sorghum (or milo), soybeans, rice and corn.  Local ranchers are also suffering.

“The hay crop has suffered tremendously because we haven’t had enough rainfall,” Malone said.

“This is probably the worst it’s been in 40 years. In a lot of instances, ranchers are having to cull their herds and sell some of their cattle. It’s been a difficult year.”