Desperate drought conditions across the United States are messing with drinking water, recreational water use, and even food production. The dry period is making what used to be fertile ground for growing staple crops into parched patches of ground with lower-quality yields. The drought has especially affected corn grown in Texas, according to a new federal report.
Texas now has the worst corn quality in the country, says a USDA Crop Progress Report released Tuesday. One-third of the state’s corn is in poor and very poor condition, according to data from the week ending June 19. Only 32% of its corn is in good or excellent condition, while 36% is in fair condition. Out of the 18 states that grow the majority of the country’s corn, Texas is the only state where more than 10% of the corn is in very poor condition. Out of the 18 states mentioned, Texas is one of four where less than 10% of the corn is in excellent condition.
Corn isn’t the only crop wilting under the dry spells and record-breaking hot weather. 48% of Texas’ oat crop was rated very poor, while 30% was poor. Only 1% of the oat crop in the state was in excellent condition. A whopping 60% of the state’s winter wheat was rated as very poor, according to the USDA report.
“Crop farmers across the state are looking at yield declines for all commodities due to lack of moisture. In some parts of the state, irrigated fields could be the only ones harvested. In other parts of the state where the crops are more established, their yields will be off,” Tracy Tomascik and Brant Wilbourn of Texas Farm Bureau Commodity and Regulatory Activities, told Successful Farming.
It’s not surprising that the state’s drought has far-reaching effects. Several cities across Texas, including Austin and Houston, have issued water restrictions for residents as a reported 80% of the state experiences some form of drought conditions.
Livestock across the region is feeling the heat as well. The USDA found that 72% of pasture and range conditions in Texas are rated poor and very poor. Cattle ranchers have to turn to supplemental feed for their livestock, Successful Farmer reported. The excessive dry and hot weather also means that livestock animals are more likely to struggle from parasites. Some Texas ranchers can no longer afford to feed some of their livestock and have to sell them earlier than intended, which means less money made per animal.
The excessive heat and drought doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon, as another La Niña fall in on the way. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently found that heatwaves that used to occur once every decade or so are now occurring twice as often, thanks to climate change.