“The drought began for much of the state in September 2010,” Miller said.

“Much of the Gulf Coast, central, west Texas and the High Plains had seen abundant moisture in the summer from Tropical Storm Hermine and other rainfall events. An unusually strong La Niña pattern moved into place in the fall of 2010, which had an impact comparable to turning off the ‘rainfall switch’ for most of Texas and surrounding states.”

October 2010 through July 2011was the driest 10-month period in recorded Texas weather, Miller said.

“The drought, coupled with prolonged high winds and record temperatures were enormously destructive to Texas agriculture and natural resources,” he said.

“The summer rains caused grass growth, which provided fuel for an unprecedented fire season, with more than 3.3 million acres of Texas ravaged by wildfire.

“This destructive climatic pattern has taken a huge toll on crops and forages, and the timing could not have been worse for Texas producers, as all of the major agricultural commodities are enjoying strong prices.²

Combined losses for wheat, corn and sorghum grain farmers in Texas due to drought are more than $600 million. Mark Welch, AgriLife Extension grains economist, said Texas wheat production in 2011 is about half what it would have been in a normal year.

“Wheat yields were down from a five-year average of 30 bushels to 26 bushels per acre and abandonment was up,” he said.

“Given this year’s plantings of 5.7 million acres, we would have harvested 2.8 million in a normal year. In 2011, harvested acreage is estimated at only 2 million acres, down 800,000 acres. The combination of yield losses on harvested acres and higher abandonment put Texas wheat-for-grain losses at $243 million.”

Texas corn production is estimated to be down about 30 percent in 2011, Welch said, with harvested acres down 16 percent due to higher abandonment rates.

“Yields are down 16 percent statewide,” he said. “Highlighting the severity of this year’s heat and dry conditions is that the most severe yield losses are seen in the irrigated corn grown in the Panhandle. The average corn yield in the northern High Plains is estimated at 165 bushels per acre compared to a five-year average of 205 bushels, down 40 bushels per acre. Yield losses and abandonment will cost Texas corn producers about $327 million in 2011.”

Grain sorghum production in Texas, according to Welch, is expected to be about half of normal in 2011. The 1.6 million acres planted this spring marked the lowest in Texas history.

“Then drought lowered yields and raised abandonment rates,” he said. “The drought estimates for sorghum being reported are based only on the yield and harvested acreage estimates from U.S. Department of Agriculture. This totals about $63 million.”