- McALLEN -- If weather cooperates in the coming weeks, Hurricane Alex's
rains may actually benefit South Texas row crops that are now on the
brink of harvesting, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service
"With Alex making landfall in Mexico, we're looking at
minimal crop losses here in the Rio Grande Valley, provided we go back
to hot weather and fields dry out," said Dr. Ruben Saldana, an AgriLife
When Alex had his sights on the mouth of
the Rio Grande earlier this week, growers in the four-county Lower Rio
Grande Valley were looking at possible major losses from the
half-million planted acres of corn, cotton and sorghum crops that until
then were producing well, he said.
"We dodged that bullet, and
rains help condition the soil, but now we need things to dry out as soon
as possible so growers can go in and harvest their crops," Saldana
said. "And that's the forecast -- sunny and hot starting Saturday."
Alex's threat, only a tiny percentage of crops had failed, according to
the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency.
then Alex threatened to continue a disturbing trend in South Texas, said
Dr. Luis Ribera, an AgriLife Extension economist.
"In 2008 we had
losses of just over $25 million to Hurricane Dolly and last year we had
losses of just over $19 million to drought," he said. "Had Alex made a
direct hit here, losses could have exceeded the '08 and '09 losses
Instead, Alex veered into Mexico Wednesday night, some
100 miles south of Brownsville, delivering little more than occasional
gusty winds and mostly beneficial rains to the Lower Rio Grande Valley,
In Hidalgo County, the most intensive crop-producing
county of the four, Brad Cowan, an AgriLife Extension agent, said early
assessments, subject to change as more information is received, are so
"The county received 7 to 12 inches of rainfall on
June 30 due to Hurricane Alex, with most everyone receiving 7 inches
with heavier amounts reported in scattered areas," he said. "There are
only a few isolated reports of wind damage to crops."
crops, including cotton, sugarcane, citrus, sunflowers, sesame and
soybeans, Alex turned out to be a welcome irrigation event, Cowan said.
all crops are "at risk" prior to harvest, Cowan said the area's sorghum
crop was the most vulnerable since grain knocked to the ground by wind
and rain cannot be harvested.
"Only 20 percent of the sorghum crop
was harvested prior to the hurricane," he said. "Fortunately, there are
few reports of sorghum leaning due to wind. There is no direct damage
but the crop is still at risk if more rainfall is received in the coming
There was no damage to livestock, while pastures and
rangeland benefited from the rains. Corn, while not as at-risk as
sorghum, also needs dry weather in the coming days in order to harvest,
In nearby Cameron County, which borders on the Gulf and
includes Brownsville and South Padre Island, there are many saturated
and flooded fields but no crop damage as of yet, according to Dr.
Enrique Perez, an AgriLife Extension county agent.
"All in all,
everything went well," he said. "One farmer, south of the river near
Matamoros in Mexico, told me their fields, like many of ours, are
saturated but there was no damage to crops there. In fact, like here,
rains were good for dry cotton fields, provided they get no more rain."
The"There will always be low-lying areas that
final assessment, Saldana said, is that dry weather for the next few
weeks is critical.
can't be helped," he said. "But as we start to dry out, growers will
hopefully start harvesting their high ground and/or their best crops
first, then move toward the low-lying fields as time permits."