Texas crop, weather for Aug. 6, 2013

AgriLife specialist estimates South Plains cotton abandonment at about 40 percent

Cotton blooming

Much of South Plains cotton was late to bloom this year by two weeks or more, according to Mark Kelley, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service cotton specialist, Lubbock. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

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

COLLEGE STATION – The official survey numbers haven’t been released yet, but a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert estimates South Plains cotton abandonment will be about 40 percent.

“It’s hard to tell, as we’re all over the board here, but that’s what I’m hoping will be the most,” said Mark Kelley, AgriLife Extension cotton specialist, Lubbock.

Only a couple of months ago, it was looking much worse, Kelley said. Like most of Texas, the region had a cooler-than-normal spring and late freezes, while remaining locked in the stranglehold of drought. There was also hail, high winds and blowing sand that knocked out fields.

Many dryland and re-plantings of hailed-out or blown-out fields were late, bumping right up against the crop insurance planting deadlines.

Kelley noted there hasn’t been anything resembling “typical” for years, but typical abandonment rates are about 25 percent. And in the last few years, a larger percentage of cotton is being planted dryland, which usually has a higher abandonment rate. Currently, about 53 to 57 percent of the region’s cotton is dryland, he said.

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So an abandonment of 40 percent, given all the adverse weather, doesn’t seem too bad, he said.

Complicating predictions are the fields of late-planted or replanted cotton.

“We typically start seeing a white flower out here in early July, and it was around the 15th before we started seeing white flowers.”

Some flowering has been much later than that, which puts it in risk of not maturing before the average date of the first frost in the South Plains on Oct. 31, according to Kelley. A freeze before maturity can drastically hurt yields and quality.

But Kelley was hopeful, he said, that as daytime temperatures become more moderate, and the nights become cooler, the outlook for a fairly good crop will improve.

“We do have a good fruit set, and if we have some help from Mother Nature to get these plants firing on all cylinders, then we still have the chance to make good yields,” he said.

The region – again typically – produces about 60 to 65 percent of the state’s cotton. This year, there were 3.7 million acres planted in the South Plains, according to Kelley.

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 A&M AgriLife Extension Service Districts.

The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Districts

Central: Native pastures improved from rains two weeks ago, though some grass stands were damaged from earlier, extremely dry conditions. Most hay fields were being cut or would be soon. Grasshoppers continued to be a problem. The corn and sorghum harvests were going well, with most fields yielding above average. Cotton looked very good. Stock-water tanks still had good levels, and cattle were doing well.

Coastal Bend: The region was hot and dry. The corn and grain sorghum harvests were nearly finished. Early estimates were about half of grain fields will be declared a total loss, with below-average yields for most fields that were harvestable. Corn yields were from zero to 100 bushels. Cotton bolls were opening, and producers will have to make decisions about defoliation soon. The rice harvest began this week. With 100-degree temperatures and no rain, rangeland and pasture conditions were quickly declining.

East: The region remained mostly dry. Lack of moisture and temperatures at or near 100 degrees slowed forage production, though hay was still being harvested. Harrison County enacted a burn ban. Armyworm infestations were reported, and grasshoppers continued to be a problem. Some producers were spraying insect controls. Cotton looked good. Vegetable production slowed. Pine tree planting was made difficult due to dry conditions and weed problems. Lake and pond levels continued to drop. Cattle were in good shape.

Far West: The trend of extremely high temperatures and no rain prevailed. Cotton and pecan producers continued irrigating. Irrigated cotton was in fair condition. Ranchers continued providing supplemental feed to livestock.

North: Soil-moisture levels ranged from very short to short. Counties reported temperatures of above 100 degrees for several consecutive days, and there was no rain in the immediate forecast. The high temperatures dried up surplus soil moisture in most areas. Corn continued to do well across most of the region. Some corn already matured. In other fields it was drying down, with harvesting to begin very soon. Sorghum was doing very well, with most of the crop continuing to rapidly mature. Cotton was progressing well. The hay harvest was in full swing. Some hay producers have taken three cuttings of Bermuda grass hay. Livestock remained in good condition. Flies were becoming a problem in Titus County, along with aquatic weeds.

Panhandle: Days were hot and windy. Some areas received scattered showers, with amounts ranging from a trace to 2 inches. Soil-moisture levels were very short to adequate, with most counties reporting short to very short. Some producers were preparing fields for planting of winter wheat. Corn was mostly in fair to good condition. Sorghum and soybeans were mostly fair to good. Cotton varied widely, from very poor to excellent condition, with most counties reporting fair to good. Rangeland and pastures were mostly in fair condition. Cattle were in good condition.

Rolling Plains: Conditions remained favorable for crops. Recent rains and temperatures in the high 90s to 100 degrees gave crops a boost during the past few weeks. However, more rain will be needed if daytime highs continue to be near 100 degrees. Cotton plants grew more than a foot in the last week and were squaring in some areas. This year’s cotton crop will be a little late, but producers were hopeful for a late freeze. However, with the high temperatures, cotton plant growth and maturity were in the fast mode. Sorghum was in excellent condition. In some areas, producers chose to plant sorghum after cotton crops were hailed out earlier, and the strategy appeared that it may pay off this year. Pastures and rangeland were in good condition, with abundant grazing for cattle and wildlife. However, despite the rain, most ranchers were not planning on increasing herd numbers yet as the region was still in a drought. Other producers were busy cutting and baling hay. Weed pressure was high, and producers were applying controls.

South: Persistent winds and temperatures in the mid-90s to 100s dried out soils throughout the region. Soil-moisture levels were short to very short. Rangeland and pastures were in fair to good condition in the northern, eastern and western parts of the region, and poor in the southern parts of the region. Corn was doing well in Atascosa and Frio counties. All corn was silking, doughing and denting in both counties, and 40 percent of the crop was already harvested in Frio County. Also in Frio County, sorghum harvesting began, and growers stepped up irrigation on peanuts and cotton. In Jim Wells County, the few sorghum and corn fields that had not been earlier zeroed out by insurance adjusters were being harvested, but yields were poor. In Maverick County, crops were in fair to good condition, with nearly all the corn and sorghum harvested. In Cameron County, the cotton harvest was underway, and farmers were preparing other cropland for fall plantings. In Hidalgo County, cotton defoliation continued, with early planted cotton being harvested. Starr County producers were harvesting late cantaloupes. In McMullen County, livestock water consumption increased, taking a toll on already low stock-tank levels. Supplemental feeding of livestock in that area was still active — mostly in the southern part of the county where body condition scores remain fair to poor.

South Plains: The region had rain, as much as 2 inches in some areas, with a few counties reporting hail damage. Highs were in the mid- to upper-90s most of the week. Crops, pastures and rangeland improved where there was rain. Most counties reported insect pressure was low, but since the rain of a couple of weeks ago, weeds were growing rapidly and producers were struggling to control them. Cotton, corn and peanuts all improved. Cotton ranged from squaring to cut-out. Early planted sorghum was in grain fill, while later-planted sorghum was still in the vegetative stage. Sunflowers ranged from the vegetative stage to nearly mature. Garza County also received spotty showers and reported that rangeland, pasture and cattle were all in mostly good to excellent condition.

Southeast: Soil-moisture levels were very short throughout the region. Rangeland and pasture conditions were generally fair, as were corn and soybeans. Rice was in good to excellent condition. In Burleson County, the corn and sorghum harvest was underway. Dryland corn yields in that county varied from extremely poor to below average. Walker County reported extremely dry conditions. Lee County began to dry out, but grasshopper pressure eased up after earlier rains. Warm weather sped up rice maturing. Galveston County reported an increase in insect activity.

Southwest: Hot and dry conditions continued. Rains were very spotty, with only a few light showers. Pastures were showing signs of drought stress. The corn and grain sorghum harvests continued. There was very little hay being baled due to drought conditions and grasshopper pressure. Irrigated cotton made progress. Dryland cotton was severely stressed. Livestock producers began supplemental feeding of livestock.

West Central: Very hot, dry weather returned. Highs were in the triple digits, and no rain was forecast for the near future. Soil-moisture levels were generally fair, but rain will be needed soon. Farmers were preparing fields and fertilizing for fall planting. Cotton, sorghum and forage crops were progressing due to early rains. Hay producers were harvesting. Grasshoppers continued to be an issue in many areas. Overall, rangeland and pasture conditions were greatly improved by earlier rains, but began to show signs of stress from the extreme heat. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Pecan growers were irrigating full blast.

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