Emerged, non-irrigated wheat ‘going backwards’
Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, email@example.com
COLLEGE STATION – As drought conditions plateaued for most of the state, producers were wrapping up the cotton and grain sorghum harvests and hoping for rain to help moisture-stressed wheat and winter small grains, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service weekly reports.
Though conditions were certainly an improvement over last year, drought persisted in most of the state, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The biggest improvement was in levels of severe, extreme and exceptional drought, which were 98 percent, 89 percent and 65 percent respectively as of Dec. 15, 2011.
By late November, 50 percent of the state was still experiencing severe drought, but only 23 percent was in extreme drought and less than 8 percent in exceptional drought. But nearly 76 percent of the state was still under moderate drought conditions.
Two-minute MP3 Audio of Texas crop, weather for Nov. 27, 2012Two-minute MP3 Audio of Texas crop, weather for Nov. 27, 2012
Some of the hardest hit regions remained the Panhandle, South Plains and Rolling Plains, areas where much of the state’s winter wheat is grown.
“Extreme drought, and dryland wheat is in bad shape, some dying,” said Burton Williams, AgriLife Extension agent for Hansford County, north of Amarillo.
(There is) very little wheat pasture at this time; only irrigated wheat pasture.”
“We need moisture,” said Herbert Sprague Jr., AgriLife Extension agent for Lipscomb County in the northeast corner of the Panhandle. “Emerged wheat is going backwards.”
“Most sorghum and cotton harvesting operations are now completed, with only a few fields remaining to be harvested,” said Mark Brown, AgriLife Extension agent for Lubbock County, Lubbock. “Moisture is needed across the area. Wheat continues to show signs of moisture stress except in irrigated fields.”
“With the wheat crop looking the way it is now, cattle owners are starting to worry about having to sell the stock they recently purchased and cut back to the bare minimum,” said Brady Evans, AgriLife Extension agent for Foard County, southeast of Childress.
“The lack of rain is really taking its toll on everything,” said Langdon Reagan, AgriLife Extension agent for Wilbarger County, near Wichita Falls. “The wheat is really hurting, and cotton harvest is going to be short and fast. A lot of stocker cattle that were brought in are starting to leave the county.”
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 for the week of Nov. 21-26:
Central: Rain was badly needed. Oats, wheat and other small grains were showing drought stress and deteriorating without moisture. Stock-tank water was low. Producers were feeding hay and supplements. Pecans were in good condition.
Coastal Bend: As the drought persisted, most livestock producers continued to feed supplements and hay. Some winter pastures were planted, but producers reported poor germination. Other producers prepared fields for spring planting, but were waiting for deep soil moisture to be replenished before proceeding.
East: Temperatures were warmer, with highs in mid-to-upper 70s and lows in the 50s. No rain was received over most of the region and conditions were becoming dry. Lake and pond levels dropped. Most cattle were in good shape. Livestock producers began to feed hay and supplement due to lack of grazing. Damage by feral hogs was reported. The pecan harvest was 75 percent complete with fair quality. Christmas tree sales at pick-your-own farms increased.
Far West: Highs were in the upper 60s to mid 70s, with lows in the upper 40s. Cold fronts and bouts of freezing temperatures began defoliating forages very quickly, reducing the amount of good grazing available in the pastures. Pecan producers were harvesting. Livestock producers continued to supplement cattle. Culberson County had light scattered precipitation. In Presidio County, high winds kept wildfire alerts high. In Ward County, rangeland and pasture grasses showed some growth, but most turned dormant because of dry conditions. Howard County cotton farmers were nearly done shredding stalks and plowing them under. In Pecos County, the chili and pumpkin harvests were completed.
North: After several weeks without measurable rainfall in some areas, soils remained very dry. Small grains and winter annual pastures were critically in need of rain. Livestock were in good condition, but producers had to feed hay and supplements as they waited for winter pastures to grow. Most winter wheat was planted and emerged, but there was no significant growth because of lack of rain. Pecans showed moisture stress.
Panhandle: Temperatures were above average for the week with no moisture reported. Soil-moisture levels mostly were very short to short. The cotton and sorghum harvests were nearly completed. Producers were still planting winter wheat. Existing wheat stands were in very poor to good condition, with most counties reporting fair. Rangeland and pastures were mostly in very poor to poor condition. Cattle were in good condition with continued supplemental feeding.
Rolling Plains: Conditions turned extremely dry during the past few weeks. With no rainfall, vegetation dried up and the threat of wildfires increased dramatically. Pastures and rangeland were in poor condition. Livestock were in fair condition as producers moved cattle to graze winter wheat where it was available. Some supplemental feeding of livestock was being done. Some irrigated cotton fields made more than three bales per acre, while much dryland cotton was shredded and not stripped at all. Wheat showed moisture stress in some areas. The pecan harvest was in full swing.
South: Warm and dry weather continued. Rangeland and pasture forbs were dormant. Wells County got about 1.5 inches of rain, but the rest of the region remained dry. Atascosa County wheat and oats needed rain; the peanut harvest was nearly complete. In Frio County, peanut harvesting continued. In Maverick County, farmers were preparing fields for the next crop season and harvesting coastal Bermuda grass hay. In Zavala County, fresh-market spinach producers continued harvesting and shipping their crop to market. Also in that county, cabbage harvesting was very active, irrigating of spinach, onions and carrots continued, and dryland oats and wheat were in dire need of rain. In Cameron County, growers were irrigating onions and tomatoes. In Hildago County, the harvest of winter vegetables, citrus and sugarcane was ongoing. In Starr County, fall vegetables were progressing well, while ranchers were hauling water to cattle because many stock tanks were completely dry. Webb County ranchers were bringing in semi-trailer truckloads of round bales to stock up for the winter months. Cattle numbers were down considerably in Webb County and were expected to continue to decline through the winter.
South Plains: Temperatures were very mild for November with little-to-no rain. The cotton harvest was finished in most counties with a few counties about two weeks away from completion. Some producers began to plant winter wheat. Dryland wheat already planted showed signs of moisture stress. Rangeland and pastures were in fair to good condition, and cattle mostly were in good condition. Precipitation was needed to fill the soil profile for the next season’s crops.
Southeast: Montgomery, Burleson and Jefferson counties did not receive any rain. Dry conditions persisted. Temperatures averaged from the low 40s to the high 70s.
Southwest: The first hard freeze was yet to come. Soils were drying out without measurable rain. Fall corn and grain sorghum were maturing, and the harvest was expected to begin soon. Spinach made good progress, and the pecan harvest was in full swing.
West Central: All areas needed rain. Warm, dry, windy conditions continued to dry out soils. The cotton harvest was ongoing, with completion expected by the first week of December, depending upon the weather. Winter wheat was off to a good start, but fields were showing signs of moisture stress. Rangeland and pasture also showed drought stress. Cool-season grasses were slow to emerge. Livestock remained in fair to good condition, with supplemental feeding on the increase. Stock-tank water levels were dropping. The pecan harvest was in full swing but with disappointing quality.