Rains moved slowly into the area last night, bringing up to an inch of rain some areas. Hollis reported a good solid inch of precipitation, while Altus Air Force Base Weather reported a 10th of an inch for Altus.
Rains that have fallen across Oklahoma during the past week have not provided significant relief from drought conditions that have plagued the state in recent months, according to a state climatologist, and left the state’s cotton crop in what one farmer calls a near “zero.”
“There just wasn’t enough really to impact most of the state,” said associate state climatologist Gary McManus. “It soaked into the top layers of the soil but didn’t do much more than that.”
The cotton crop has been hard hit, especially in the area around the Lake Altus-Lugert Irrigation District in southwestern Oklahoma where most of the state’s cotton is grown, Altus cotton farmer Mark Nichols said.
In many cases, cotton bolls are no larger than pecans, Nichols said.
“All of it in the irrigation district looks just like that,” Nichols said. “Cotton is a pretty tough plant, it’s a dry weather plant, but it needs some rain. It’s been so dry the cotton is just dying.”
The weekend rains helped cotton crops that have had water, Nichols said, but that excludes the irrigation district because farmers were not allowed to pull water from the lake due to low lake levels that resulted from the lack of rain during the summer.
“It’ll help the cotton that’s irrigated,” he said. “A good rain will definitely help that. In the irrigation district though, it’s done.
“The crop is going to be a zero again, just like last year,” Nichols said.
The 2011 cotton crop, also hard hit by drought and record-setting high temperatures, yielded 87,000 bales, down 79 percent from the 422,000 bales harvested in 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Many farmers have already decided to forego harvest, which typically begins in late September, and file for federal crop insurance, according to Nichols.
The rains have helped ease the threat of wildfires, which burned about 171 square miles in early August, although a statewide burn ban issued by Gov. Mary Fallin remained in effect.
According to the the USDA-NASS Oklahoma Field Office, four of the nine districts averaged more than an inch of rain over the last week, with a statewide average of 0.92 of an inch. However, in most areas there was no run-off to improve water availability for livestock, and hay supplies from the spring were already being used to supplement the lack of pasture.
Producers continued culling herds and making difficult decisions in the face of the ongoing drought. Temperatures were significantly cooler than the previous week, with highs averaging from the upper 80s to the low 90s. Ninety-seven percent of topsoil was rated short to very short and subsoil moisture conditions worsened over the past week to 98 percent rated short to very short. There were 6.4 days suitable for field work.
Local rain chances will continue through the weekend. Chances of rain for Wednesday and Thursday will be 20 percent. Rain chances come back into the forecast on Saturday with a 50 percent chance, and 30 percent on Sunday.