Texas crop, weather for June 4, 2013

AgriLife agronomist: Hail was the last ‘nail in the coffin’ for some wheat

Wheat harvest

Despite drought, freeze and hailstorms, some areas still managed to harvest wheat for grain. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo by Blair Fannin)

Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, rd-burns@tamu.edu

COLLEGE STATION – Recent hail storms in the Northern Plains were the final straw for much of the wheat there, but many areas still have the chance to make decent yields, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomist.

“We had a lot challenges in the wheat crop this year,” said Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension agronomist and Texas A&M University soil and crop sciences associate department head.

First there was drought in much of the state, which slowed or stymied germination, and had more impact than anything else, Miller said. Then, on top of the drought, there were six recorded freeze events between March 25 and May 3 in the Panhandle. The eastern part of the state had two major freeze events in some locations.

“But the last nail in the coffin for much of it have been hail storms,” he said. “There have been two major hail storms across the Northern Plains just this last week, and they caused a lot of damage on wheat that might have survived the freezes.”

Two-minute MP3 Audio of Texas crop, weather for June 4, 2013Two-minute MP3 Audio of Texas crop, weather for June 4, 2013

Miller noted that he was at a May 22 crops field day at Adder, which is northeast of Fort Worth, where he observed wheat hit by hail.

“Much of the wheat had multiple freezes on it, but had tillered out again,” he said. “As young as the tillers were, they were still destined to make grain, but after the hail, it was all laid down pretty flat.”

Despite drought in the fall that delayed germination, there is still good wheat in North Texas, Miller said.

“Much of that wheat didn’t come up until January, but to me it still looks like it’s going to make a very good crop,” he said.

The South Texas, Rolling Plains and Southwest Texas regions will have some wheat, but because of the drought, it will be a very light crop, he said. Central Texas had some freezes too, but it’s surprising how good the wheat looked, he added.

“We had cool weather late, and cool weather does a lot to promote wheat growth,” he said. “The cool weather does a lot to offset and compensate for the freeze damage.

“And the wheat plant may compensate for freeze damage as later tillers are larger and have more seed spikes. Before bloom, you may have more of the seed in the spike set. If it’s already bloomed, you have bigger seed size, and we’ve had some pretty decent weather since the freezes.”

The last U.S. Department of Agriculture crop estimate put projected wheat yields at 54 million bushels, which Miller said he considers “a little exaggerated.”

“But that was our last best estimate,” he said. “The lowest I can remember is 35 million bushels; the highest, 160 million bushels. The 10-year average is about 90 million to 100 million bushels.”

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 May 28 – June 3:

Map of the 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Districts

The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Districts

Central: In some areas, oats and wheat were grazed out or harvested for grain. In others, wet weather delayed wheat harvesting. Coastal Bermuda grass fields were in good shape, and hay harvesting should begin soon. Some counties received good rains. Rangeland and pastures looked good. Corn was tasseling. Cool-season grasses were still being baled. Warm-season pastures were generally slow to grow. In Ellis County, nearly 1,000 acres of cotton will have to be replanted due to storm damage.

Coastal Bend: Showers fell during the last weeks of May, which boosted the growth of cotton, sorghum and soybeans. Pasture conditions improved, but with rising temperatures and winds, producers are continuing to evaluate stocking rates. Some areas reported 0.5 inch to 8 inches of rain, filling up many stock tanks filling up and giving a greatly improved outlook for hay and forage. Grain sorghum and sesame planted on failed cotton acres was emerging. Wheat was being harvested in some counties and cotton was improving.

East: Rain fell across the region, with scattered showers in some areas, none in others, and some reporting as much as 3 inches. Corn and wheat looked good, though corn needed more rain. Wheat was nearly ready for harvest. Grasshoppers were reported in some areas. Garden vegetables, especially onions and squash, were being harvested and sold at the local markets. Other vegetables were growing and looking good after recent rains. Hay harvesting was in full swing. Producers were applying herbicides for warm-season weed control. Cattle remained in good shape. Horn fly populations increased. Feral hogs were active.

Far West: Hot, dry, windy, conditions continued. Some counties received from 0.1 inch to 2 inches of rain. Area cotton farmers began planting but not much of the plantings had emerged. Farmers were expected to finish planting the first week of June, then try to replant all that didn’t emerge from early plantings. Fall onions were being harvested. Ranchers continued to supply supplemental feed to livestock, as well as large amounts of minerals. Some producers continued selling cattle due to lack of grass and water in tanks.

North: With the recent rains soil moisture was adequate. All crops — including corn, grain sorghum and soybeans — looked very good. Winter wheat was in good condition, with most of the crop having changed color and near harvest-ready. Sunflowers were also in very good condition and were growing fast with some plants already flowering. Producers were harvesting ryegrass hay, with many getting two to three bales per acre. Some reported getting as much as five bales per acre. Livestock across the region were in very good condition. Spring calves were growing fast and were expected to reach weaning weight soon. Most livestock ponds were at full capacity thanks to runoff. There was an explosion of grasshoppers. Most were still small but were growing rapidly. The fly population was also on the increase.

Hailed-Out Wheat

This wheat field west of Amarillo survived drought and late freezes only to be shredded by a late-May hailstorm. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo by Kay Ledbetter)

Panhandle: The region was hot with high winds. Most counties received some moisture, from a trace to 2.25 inches. Deaf Smith County had scattered but intense storms, with damaging hail and tornados. Most damage done was to rangeland and pastures. Soil moisture continued to be mostly very short to short. Wheat was mostly in very poor to poor condition. Corn and sorghum planting was ongoing, and irrigation active. Corn that had emerged was mostly in good condition. Rangeland was rated as mostly in very poor to poor condition.

Rolling Plains: By the end of May, most counties had received only a trace of rain for the month. The lack of rain caused pastures and rangeland to decline. Cooler-than-usual weather helped the little moisture received to be absorbed properly. Grain sorghum was emerging. Where moisture was available, cotton producers were trying to finish planting. In some areas, recently planted cotton fields had to be crust-busted after recent rains. Some cotton was hailed out and had to be replanted. High winds from recent storms damaged irrigation pivots, felled trees and damaged roofs on homes and barns. Irrigated cotton was being planted, irrigagted and in fair condition. Pastures were already turning brown. Many cattle were already shipped off of pastures. Wheat was grazed out or harvested for hay. Counties fortunate enough to receive rain reported that Bermuda grass pastures were making excellent growth. Even though it was late, the first Bermuda grass cutting showed good potential.

South: Soil-moisture levels were adequate to short throughout the region. Rangeland, pastures and crops generally improved in most areas due to scattered showers during the last few weeks. Atascosa County peanut producers were preparing land and expected to begin planting very soon. In Frio County, the wheat harvest was completed, while the potato harvest was in full swing, and peanut planting began. Also in that area, corn crops were at the silk stage. In Maverick County, producers were planting forage sorghum, grain sorghum, corn and maize. Hay producers there were baling coastal Bermuda grass. In Zavala County, corn, cotton and sorghum were progressing well, and the cabbage and onion harvests resumed after fields dried out. In Webb County, stock-tank water levels improved as a result of more than 1 inch of rain. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued in that county, as did culling of herds. In Hidalgo County, the citrus and onion harvests wound down. In Starr County, the melon harvesting was nearly finished, and onion harvesting was completed.

South Plains: Most counties reported high temperatures, strong winds and very dry soil conditions. Parmer and Garza counties both reported storms with marble- to golf ball-sized hail and not much rain. A large part of early planted cotton in Parmer County was damaged. Most counties did not receive any rain for the reporting period. Producers were still planting cotton; though there was not enough moisture to provide a uniform stand, dryland fields were being planted to meet crop insurance deadlines. Grain sorghum was in the five- to seven-leaf stage. The primary weed pressure was from Russian thistle, Kochia and pigweed. Pastures and rangeland needed rain and remained in mostly fair to poor condition. Cattle were mostly in fair to good condition.

Southeast: Conditions were mixed, with some areas receiving rain and others remaining dry. Where there were weekly rains, warmer weather meant crop and hay field conditions improved. Chambers County did not get rain, but rice was looking very good. Fort Bend County received scattered showers. The nighttime temperatures were about 55 degrees with daytime highs from 85 to 90 degrees. Lee County was starting to dry up again.

Southwest: Rangeland, pastures, row crops and livestock continued to improve because of rains during the last two weeks. More rain was needed as temperatures rose and the moisture received soaked up by thirsty soils. Hay producers expected to make a good crop as early cuttings looked good on coastal Bermuda grass. The wheat harvest was delayed. Fawns were up and running, and turkey hens were setting, both indicators that wildlife should be in good condition through early summer.

West Central: Humidity was very high, with warm, windy days and mild nights. All counties reported scattered showers, but soils remained extremely dry. Cotton planting was underway with hopes for more rain soon. Early planted haygrazer was doing well but needed more rain for growth. The wheat harvest was ongoing in some areas, while others were expected to begin soon. Only a small percentage of wheat acreage was expected to be harvested for grain. Most will be grazed out or cut and baled for hay. Rangeland and pastures continued to improve after recent rains. Warm-season grasses and forbs were greening-up. Without runoff from rain, stock-tank and pond water levels continued to drop, which was a big concern for ranchers. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. There was some late-spring cattle work, and producers continued to sell off livestock due to the drought. Pecan growers were spraying orchards.

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