Texas crop, weather for June 21, 2011

Close-up of two grasshoppers in farmer's hand

Texas hosts about 150 grasshopper species, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service entomologists. Both of these are of the ‘Boopedon gracile’ species, a grass feeder. Both were found in the same Nacogdoches County pasture. The one on the left is a male, and the one on the right is a last instar nymph female. (Texas AgriLife Extension Service photo by Robert Burns)

COLLEGE STATION — While drought is bad for practically everything else that grows, it does often promote a good crop of grasshoppers, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service experts.

“Grasshopper populations are normally maintained at lower levels by natural controls, including diseases,” said Dr. Chris Sansone, AgriLife Extension entomologist, San Angelo. “The main disease is a fungus, and most fungi do better during cool wet conditions. Since we didn’t have cool, wet conditions in the spring, the fungus isn’t thriving, and since the fungus isn’t thriving, we’re having higher populations of grasshoppers.”

Two-minute MP3 audio Texas crop, weather report for June 21, 2011

There are also some effects with bare ground warming up faster in the spring that favors grasshopper outbreaks, he said.

Despite the drought, grasshopper reports from AgriLife Extension agents were sketchy across the state, but seemed to be more common in East Texas and South Texas around San Antonio.

The hit-and-miss outbreaks are most likely due to there being other factors involved, Sansone said.

“This year has been interesting because the drought has been so severe,” he said. “If people haven’t had any showers at all — even those late afternoon showers of a tenth or two-tenths of an inch — we’re not seeing any grasshopper outbreaks.”

Sansone said this is probably because there’s not enough food in pastures and rangeland to sustain even a grasshopper population.

“These areas that have been catching afternoon showers are seeing the worse outbreaks.”

More information on grasshoppers can be found at in the AgriLife Extension publication “Grasshoppers and Their Control,” available at http://insects.tamu.edu/extension/publications/epubs/e-209.cfm.

More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/.

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

Map of the 12 Texas AgriLife Extension Service Districts

The 12 Texas AgriLife Extension Service Districts

Central: Hot, dry, windy conditions were ongoing. Pastures were rapidly deteriorating. Hay supplies were short. First-cutting hay yields were down by as much as half. Farmers were irrigating at full capacity. Cattle prices were down again this week as livestock producers continued to reduce herds. Livestock feed prices remained high. Stock-water tanks were critically low in many areas.

East: Without any rain, and very hot, windy days and nights, the drought worsened. Producers were culling cattle as water, forage and hay supplies were depleted. Some producers were weaning calves early and taking them straight to the market. Many counties reported that grasshopper infestations were becoming a problem; there were reports of armyworm infestations too. Creeks and ponds were going dry, forcing some producers to sell out completely. Vegetable production decreased due to dry conditions, but those harvesting blackberries and blueberries reported good yields. Firefighters from at least nine different agencies continued Sunday to battle one of the largest fires of East Texas history in Trinity and Polk counties. More than 18,000 acres had burned as of June 20. Several communities were under mandatory evacuation orders.

Far West: Extreme drought conditions persisted across the region. The last measurable moisture was received in August. Temperatures were above 100 degrees for the last week. Hot and windy conditions kept the wildfire danger high, and burn bans remained in effect. In Andrews County, a wildfire fanned by heavy winds burned more than 23,000 acres in a short amount of time. A large number of livestock were lost in the fire. Irrigated cotton was doing well. Dryland cotton did not emerge. Chiles were in good condition. Pecan trees began nut growth, but the nut load is low. There was a lot of standing dead grass from last year, but it was low in nutrients, and livestock producers had to continue supplemental feeding. The growth of any crop, grass or forms of forage, was due to irrigation. With the amount of irrigation taking place in these drought conditions, and multiple days over 100 degrees, there was concern that the water table was being overused.

North: Soil moisture ranged from short to very short, with temperatures in the high 90s to over 100 degrees. Unseasonably high winds of 20-30 mph over the past two weeks reeked further dried out pastures and ponds. Corn, grain sorghum and soybeans looked relatively good, but rain was needed soon to maintain that condition. The weather has raised the specter of aflatoxin in corn. The harvesting of winter wheat and oats neared completion. There were some reports of 70 bushel-per-acre wheat, but 40-50 bushels per acre was more common — about average to slightly below average for most years. Most hay producers harvested their first cutting of hay with average to slightly below-average yields. Hay producers fertilized cut fields, hoping to get some rain for a second cutting. Peanuts were in very poor condition with about 10 percent of the crop pegging. Cotton was in very poor to good condition. Rice was in very poor condition. Grasshoppers were becoming a major problem. Ranchers provided supplemental feed to livestock and began to cull cows. Rangeland and pastures were in very poor to good condition.

Panhandle: The region remained extremely hot, dry and windy with wildfire danger high. Soil moisture was very short in most counties. Corn and cotton continued to struggle under high winds and 100-plus degree heat. Most counties reported corn to be in poor condition. Cotton was in fair to very poor condition, with most reporting poor. Producers were actively irrigating all summer crops. Rangeland and pasture conditions were mostly very poor. Ranchers continued supplemental feeding of cattle.

Rolling Plains: The region remained hot, dry and windy with no relief in sight. The first 18 days of June, 100-plus degree temperatures devastated soil-moisture levels. Dryland cotton planting was finished, but very little of the crop was expected to emerge. Irrigated cotton producers were watering, hoping to establish stands. Some ranchers were culling herds. One Motley County producer stated that without rain soon he would be weaning calves as early as the first week of July. Ranchers have culled off cattle and cut numbers to such an extent that if it does rain, it will be a long time before they can rebuild herds. Hay supplies were running low also. Producers were reporting yields of about one-third of normal. Hay was often sold before it was baled. Stock-water tanks were also drying up. The threat of wildfire remained high, and most counties remained under burn bans.

South: Persistent high winds coupled with extremely hot temperatures made the drought worse. Cotton was maturing prematurely, browning and yellowing out in Atascosa County, while in Frio County they were in the soft dough stage. Also in the Frio County area, sorghum was turning color, the potato harvest was done, the watermelon harvest was ongoing and peanut planting continued. In Live Oak County, producers were about 10 percent finished with the corn harvest. In Zavala County, farmers continued irrigating cotton, corn and sorghum, while they wound down onion harvesting, actively harvesting cantaloupes, and nearly finished with the watermelon harvest. In Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy counties, producers were harvesting grain sorghum. Willacy County reported cotton crops showed signs of stress. Livestock producers were concerned with diminishing forage supplies and lack of water, and were extensively culling or completely liquidating herds. Star County reported a lot of small, young calves being sold.

South Plains: The district continued to have record-breaking heat, with highs in the triple digits, and burn bans still in effect. There were some very limited, localized showers. Irrigated cotton growers were struggling to keep up with water demands just to keep plants alive. Dryland plantings were not emerging, and insurance adjusters were inspecting fields. Cattle producers were running out of hay and began to cull herds. Some ranchers had to haul water.

Southeast: In Montgomery County, there was neither grass nor water for livestock. Trees were dying throughout the county. In Walker County, water for livestock was also an issue. Throughout the district, pasture conditions continued to deteriorate. Cattle numbers declined as producers culled herds. Producers were still feeding remaining livestock, but hay supplies were low.

Southwest: The region remained completely dry. Record-high temperatures of 101 to 104 degrees and above, along with high winds, aggravated the drought. Most of the region remained in extremely high wildfire-alert status. Most dryland crops failed. Irrigated corn and sorghum were drying down. Sunflowers growers were harvesting. Peanuts, cotton, pecans, grapes and landscape nursery crops continued to make good progress under heavy irrigation — but at high pumping costs. The peach harvest began. The cabbage, onion, potato, watermelon, cantaloupe, green bean and sweet corn harvests were ongoing. Onion yield and quality has been excellent but onion prices remained weak. Farmers were harvesting tomatoes, onions, squash and other spring vegetables for sale at roadside markets. Pasture and rangeland grasses and forbs stopped growing because of the hot, dry weather. Forage availability was below average.

West Central: Highs in the 100s and very strong winds continued to deplete soil moisture. Wildfires were causing problems in all areas. Producers were baling what little hay they could for livestock. Hay fields were in very poor condition. The drought has taken a toll on all rangeland, pasture and orchards. Irrigated cotton and corn were in fair condition in some places, but producers were having a hard time keeping up with water demands. All stock-water tanks were critically low, and producers were running out of water for livestock. Feeding and hauling water made livestock production very difficult and expensive. Producers continued to cull herds and sell off livestock.

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