Writer: Adam Russell, 903-834-6191, email@example.com
Contact: Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, 979-862-2248, firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLEGE STATION – A pattern of wet weather lies ahead for much of the state following a dry winter, said the state climatologist.
The rain could mean a short-term reprieve for much of the state needing moisture following the warmest winter months for Texas in decades.
Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, in the Texas A&M University department of atmospheric sciences in College Station said expectations going into winter were for weather conditions to be warmer and drier than average throughout the season.
Nielsen-Gammon said records show it was the warmest November through January for the state of Texas since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. A few stations in the lower Rio Grande Valley recorded temperatures as high as 96 degrees in January. Many stations in that region and along the coast never recorded a low daily temperature below 70 degrees throughout the month.
On the cold side, temperatures did reach -9 degrees in the Panhandle at Dalhart, he said. But cold fronts were short-lived and intermittent for much of the state.
Rainfall was a mixed bag for Texas since November, Nielsen-Gammon said. Most of West Texas received higher-than-normal rainfall amounts, while North Central Texas and surrounding areas received below-normal rainfall.
Nielsen-Gammon does expect chances of wet weather for most of the state starting over the weekend. The rains should pacify concerns about wildfires as the state heads into the season when dead foliage and grass can become dangerous fuel for fires when mixed with high winds and a spark.
“We haven’t seen any substantial drought developing except maybe in the Corpus Christi area, but there have been lingering drought conditions in parts of the state from early fall,” he said.
Nielsen-Gammon also expects temperatures to fall briefly in the near future.
There may be a brief cool front later this week, with a slow moving cold front expected for the beginning of next week, he said.
“We could see a front slowly creeping across Texas with decent blasts of cold air especially in North Texas,” he said. “We’ll just have to see how far that cold air makes it.”
But he does expect fairly warmer patterns to prevail and to keep temperatures at or above average.
“I just don’t see any prolonged cool weather at this point,” he said.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
ROLLING PLAINS: Soil conditions continued to be dry in parts of the district with above-normal temperatures and zero moisture. Windy conditions were drying out pastures and rangelands, which caused wildfire concerns for producers. The lack of moisture and spring-type weather allowed cotton farmers to harvest fields quickly without any down time. This year’s crop yielded better than expected. Subsoil moisture was good. Stocker cattle were being turned out on wheat fields. Livestock were in good condition. Calving season continued. Range and pastures were in good condition.
SOUTH PLAINS: Subsoil and topsoil moisture conditions continued to drop due to lack of moisture. Pastures and rangeland remained in fair condition but needed rain. Harvests were completed, and producers were preparing land for spring planting. Winter wheat growth rates were slow, and field conditions were poor due to cold weather. Temperatures in Hale County were above normal. Winter wheat in Floyd County was in decent shape. Most cotton gins had completed operations for the season. Field activities included shredding of stalks and fertilizer applications. Producers were booking seed, working to negotiate lease agreements and arranging operating loans. Other activities included deep tillage, herbicide applications and incorporation procedures.
“A successful hatch depends on moderate temperatures and high relative humidity more common to tree and brush covered areas than to open meadow or grass habitats,” Teel said. “If ticks pick up the pathogen from their host during blood feeding, the pathogen is passed through the egg to the larvae of the next generation. No other tick species in the U.S. are capable of transmitting the pathogen of Texas cattle fever.
“Cattle are the preferred host and back when cattle were basically the only host, the ticks were much easier to control,” he said. “Today white-tailed deer and several exotic ungulates including nilgai antelope serve as hosts. Nilgai, an imported exotic species that have naturalized in much of South Texas, are native to India and were historically noted as a host animal for the southern cattle tick in India. So what we’ve done is bring both the ticks and nilgai together again.”
While there are many challenges to optimizing tick suppression where there is a mix of cattle, wildlife and feral ungulate hosts, Teel said research and technology development are providing new tools to meet these challenges.
“AgriLife Research and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service are collaborating to discover new and improved methods of detecting and eliminating cattle fever ticks,” he said. “These efforts include mining sequences of the DNA of both tick species to discover sites to disrupt functions such as tick feeding or egg laying, to identify targets for new pesticides, or genetic approaches for tick suppression or prevention of pathogen transmission.
“There is evidence that the manure of tick-infested cattle contains detectable differences in chemical makeup compared to non-infested animals and may provide for improved methods of tick detection,” he said. “And, the complex interactions of tick-host-habitat-climate relationships through simulation modelling are currently being investigated to improve tactics and strategies for tick elimination where both wildlife and cattle are involved.”
To learn more, Teel and Swiger recommend using Tick App, a free smartphone application available at http://tickapp.tamu.edu, and the Texas Animal Health Commission’s website at http://www.tahc.texas.gov/regs/code.html for information on tick treatment options, tick quarantine and associated regulations, as well as the latest updates on current quarantines.
Writer: Adam Russell, 903-834-6191, email@example.com