Expert: statewide and by region, cotton ‘all over the board’
Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLEGE STATION – The Texas cotton crop is “all over the board,” according to Dr. Gaylon Morgan, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service statewide cotton specialist, College Station.
Morgan briefly summed up the situation, starting in South Texas.
Three-minute Texas Crop and Weather Audio report
The Rio Grande Valley has wrapped up its irrigated cotton harvest, he said. The Coastal Bend area finished quite some time ago, with most fields either showing very low yields or being disastered-out by crop insurance adjusters.
“As you move up the coast, into Victoria and the upper Gulf Coast region – Wharton, El Campo and Colorado County areas – things are actually looking very good,” Morgan said. “We harvested some cotton variety trials down there, and a lot was pushing two-and-a-half to a little over three bales per acre.”
North into the Brazos Valley, the cotton harvest just started last week, but Morgan expected yields on both dryland and irrigated cotton to be very good.
“And I’ve heard similar reports from the Uvalde area on irrigated land,” he said.
In the Blacklands, the harvest was nearly over, with yields varying greatly depending on rainfall, ranging from a little more than a bale to as much as two bales per acre.
“Of course, most of that is dryland cotton,” he said. “But guys in the northern Blacklands were pleasantly surprised by some of their yields. In the southern Blacklands, you’re looking at about a bale (per acre) on a lot of fields.”
The Rolling Plains has been suffering from a substantial drought most of the season, which has hammered both dryland and irrigated cotton production, Morgan said.
“Scattered showers have helped some of the dryland cotton keep going, but mainly it’s helped some of the irrigated guys by supplementing irrigation,” he said. “I heard some late-planted cotton in the Rolling Plains is doing okay because it caught some timely rains in the last 30 days. But the earlier-planted cotton pretty much burned up before the rains came though.
“Late-planted irrigated cotton that got some of those rains may make average yields, but it’s going to be far from a bumper crop.”
In the High Plains and South Plains, it’s again a “mixed bag,” Morgan said. Dryland cotton is lost, but the recent rains helped supplement irrigation there too.
“There have been some areas where scattered showers fell and dryland cotton looked decent, but as a whole, they continued to suffer from the long-term drought,” he said.
It’s too early to make estimates for the total Texas cotton crop, but simply because so much of the state’s cotton is usually grown in the Southern Plains and Rolling Plains, it will certainly be a below-normal year, Morgan noted.
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:
Central: Many counties had spotty showers, but overall the region remained dry. In some counties, weed pressure and lack of rain continued to slow recovery of native forages. In other areas, pastures benefited from rain. Many will have enough warm-season grass for another hay cutting. Improved varieties of grass that were earlier fertilized greened back up and began to grow. As the corn harvest neared completion, producers were getting ready to plant small grains for forages. Some were applying fertilizer to winter pastures. The cotton harvest began in some areas; it was about half done in others. Many were off to a good start only to be forced to wait because of rain. Pecans looked good.
East: Hurricane Isaac drove spotty showers into the eastern part of the region. Counties in the western part of the region reported pastures were extremely dry and moisture-stressed. Several counties issued burn bans. Producers in some counties had excess hay for sale. Cattle remained in good condition. Livestock producers continued weaning and selling calves. Pecan tree limbs were breaking due to heavy nut loads.
Far West: Many counties reported cooler weather. Highs were in the upper 90s, and lows in the upper 60s to lower 70s. Eastern Crane County got 1 inch of rain. In Andrews County, there were patches of green, but the native grasses hadn’t responded yet. Ector County got 0.35 to 1 inch of rain. Andrews County wheat producers were planting irrigated fields. The fifth alfalfa cutting was completed and being irrigated in El Paso County. Cotton fields were showing improvement in Upton County, while producers there continued to provide supplemental feed to livestock and wildlife.
North: Soil-moisture levels were short to adequate. Pastures and hay fields continued to do well thanks to spotty rains and the slightly cooler temperatures. Cattle continued to do well too. Nearly all grain harvests were finished, with corn and grain sorghum yields above average in some counties. Corn yields were averaging 80-85 bushels per acre, and grain sorghum yields were about 5,500-5,800 pounds per acre. Grasshopper pressure remained heavy, and there were some reports of armyworms. Feral hogs were still a problem.
Panhandle: The region remained hot and dry, with soil moisture levels mostly still very short to short. Some producers were preparing land for fall planting. Deaf Smith County producers were trying to decide what to do with the corn and other crops damaged by hail in the last couple of weeks. Silage choppers, trucks and huge tractors with pushing blades were running hard and fast on some of the more severely damaged crops. Elsewhere in the region, cotton was in very poor to good condition, with most counties reporting fair. Rangeland and pastures were in very poor to poor condition. Cattle were in good condition.
Rolling Plains: Pasture conditions were improving in counties that got rain last week. The rain also gave irrigated cotton a boost. Dryland cotton was still trying to hang on. Producers in some areas were preparing land for wheat and oats, and expected to begin planting soon. In other counties, hot temperatures and no rain stressed cotton and pastures. Early planted forages, including wheat and triticale, were not germinating because of dry conditions. Peanuts were in fair condition. The fall-calving season was ongoing. Spring calving producers who hadn’t weaned calves early were weaning them now. The peach harvest neared completion. Pecans looked good with some producers spraying for weevils. Stock tanks were still dry in some areas.
South: Hot, dry and windy conditions continued. Soil-moisture levels ranged from short to very short in all counties, with the exceptions of Atascosa and Willacy counties, where they were 75 to about 80 percent adequate. Though soil moisture was rated adequate in those counties, it was not enough to green up rangeland and pastures that had been severely dried out over the summer. Ranchers continued to increase supplemental feeding of livestock to maintain good to fair body condition. Rangeland and pastures continue to worsen; very little standing forage was available and of poor nutritional value if it was. Hay was scarce and very expensive. Stock tanks were either completely dry or nearly so. Dried-up stock tanks were causing hardship for livestock ranchers and wildlife as well. In Webb County, livestock producers considerably trimmed down their herds. Many cattle producers had fewer than 50 head left after the trimming. Even ranchers with only a few cattle remaining had to haul water on a weekly basis. In Atascosa County, irrigated peanuts were doing well, and the cotton harvest was under way. In Frio County, some irrigated hay was harvested. In Jim Wells County, producers were plowing under crops. Crop producers in that area feared a greater fall crop failure unless rain is received in the next few months. In Zavala County, cotton was finished, with reports of excellent yields and good quality. Also in that area, vegetable growers began preparing seedbeds for cabbage and onion planting. In Cameron County, row-crop harvests were finished. In Hidalgo County, the cotton harvest was under way, and in Starr County, fall crop field preparations were ongoing. In parts of Willacy County, there were reports of as much as 0.75 inch of rain.
South Plains: Most of the region remained under a severe to exceptional drought. There was no rain, with light winds, and highs in the mid- to upper 90s, with lows in the upper 50s to low 60s. Irrigated crops were maturing and doing well in areas where there was previous rainfall. Irrigated sunflowers were progressing well. Many cotton fields had open bolls showing. Very low yields were expected in dryland cotton fields. Many dryland crops were suffering, and some were scheduled to be evaluated by insurance adjusters by mid-September. Producers were haying sorghum forage. Rangeland and pastures needed rain, as there were no cool-season grasses in most locations. Cattle mostly remained in fair to good condition.
Southeast: Montgomery County remained dry, and there were various levels of grasshopper and armyworm infestations. Producers were harvesting hay. Waller County was very hot and windy due to Hurricane Isaac, but did not receive any rain. In Burleson County, pastures were declining, and the harvesting of row crops continued. In Brazoria County, the last of the grain sorghum was harvested. The delayed harvest there was due to late planting. High pecan yields were expected, with tree limbs already breaking under heavy nut loads. In Jefferson County, the lows were in the 70s and the highs in the 90s, and 1.5 to 2 inches of rain was received. Orange County reported cooler temperatures, which enhanced forage growth. A drying trend there promoted hay harvesting.
Southwest: Extremely dry, hot conditions continued, with a few counties receiving very light scattered showers. Pastures continued to decline with grasses going dormant. The corn and sorghum harvests were completed. Cotton was largely harvested with good yields similar to last year’s. Field preparation for small-grain planting was in progress. Livestock remained in good condition where forage was available. Rangeland was in poor condition with the risk for wildfire high.
West Central: Dry conditions continued, as highs climbed back into the 100-degrees range. Nights were very mild. A few areas reported spotty showers that have relieved drought conditions for a few days and improved some crop conditions slightly. Producers were preparing fields for fall planting of small grains. The sorghum harvest began in some areas with low yields reported. Dryland cotton was opening bolls. All row crops were very moisture-stressed. Some growers continued cutting and baling hay. Rangeland and pastures continued to decline. Stock tanks continued to dry up. Livestock remained in good condition, with supplemental feeding increasing as grazing declined. Pecan crops continued to look good.