More rain spurs wheat planting; slows some cotton harvesting
Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLEGE STATION – Though much of the state remained under severe drought, rainfall during the last two weeks shrank the areas of extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor and reports from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service personnel throughout the state.
The Sept. 24 Drought Monitor showed about 48 percent of the state under severe to exceptional drought, compared to 64 percent the week before. Extreme to exceptional drought was reduced from 25 percent to 8 percent for the same time period.
The drought monitor defines “extreme drought” as when there are major crop and pasture losses, and widespread water shortages or restrictions.
Download Two Minute MP3 audio version of this report
Precipitation during the last two weeks ranged from highs of 8 inches or more in much of East Texas and parts of Central and West Central regions, to lows of 0.5 to 1 inch in parts of the Panhandle and Far West Texas, according the National Weather Service’s precipitation analysis.
Crop reports from AgriLife Extension county agents throughout the state widely varied as to harvest and soil-moisture levels. However, producers in most areas took the improved soil-moisture levels as a cue to plant wheat and small grains for winter grazing – if they hadn’t already dry planted.
Wheat planted earlier benefited greatly from the rain, but in some areas there were reports of grasshoppers and armyworms damaging the newly emerged crop.
In Central Texas, the cotton harvest was nearly completed, with some delays due to rain, according to AgriLife Extension county agent reports. Cotton in the South Plains was helped by warm weather, but was still approximately 10 days behind in maturity in some areas. Bolls were opening in the Rolling Plains, particularly in dryland fields where moisture was limited until recently.
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: The region had cooler temperatures with hit-and-miss rains. Small grains emerged due to rains the previous week. Corn and some cotton were harvested, with some cotton producers a little behind due to the rain. Cool-season weeds were coming on. Pastures were doing well. There were signs of a new hatch of grasshoppers and armyworms were spotted in some areas. Stock-water tanks and pond levels improved.
Coastal Bend: The region received 0.5 inch to as much 12 inches of rain in isolated areas, which caused some local flooding, along with damage to roads and fences. However, pasture conditions dramatically improved. Preparations for planting wheat, oats and ryegrass for winter pastures were in progress. The rain delayed the harvesting of rice and soybeans, but the cotton harvest was already completed. In some areas, there were reports of large populations of armyworms and mosquitoes following the rains.
East: Significant rains fell throughout the region, refilling stock tanks and creeks, and improving soil-moisture levels. Some producers began planting small grains for winter pastures. Warm-season forages greened up, and some producers hoped for one more hay cutting. Cattle were in good to excellent condition. Livestock producers continued to cull herds, and wean and sell spring-born calves. Some fall calving began. Feral hog damage reports skyrocketed in some areas after the rains. There were also reports of armyworm infestations after the rain. Light to moderate pecan yields were expected.
Far West: Parts of the region received from 0.6 inch to 2 inches of rain. Days were warm with cool nights. Farmers were gearing up for harvest. Most livestock producers were either working fall cattle or preparing to. Calves were being weaned and preconditioned. Some were shipping stocker cattle to feedlots. Pregnancy rates on yearling keeper heifers were reportedly higher than normal.
North: Most counties received about 1.5 inches of rain, with a few areas reporting as much as 8 inches. Despite the rain, topsoil-moisture levels were very short to short in most counties, with a few areas reporting adequate levels. After the rains, producers were preparing to plant winter annual pasture. Small-grain farmers are also beginning to prepare fields for planting later in the fall. While the rain brought some relief, more was needed as many stock ponds remained low. Livestock were in good condition. There were reports of armyworms in Camp County, but not in large enough numbers to pose a problem. Grasshoppers remained an issue in a few counties.
Panhandle: Temperatures were above average for most of the week, with cooler temperatures, high winds, thunderstorms and rain for most of the region by the weekend. Amounts ranged from a trace to as much as 4 inches in some areas. The corn harvest continued. Potato harvesting was winding down. Alfalfa and forage sorghums were being cut for hay before first frost. Some grain sorghum was being harvested, as were pumpkins. Cotton maturity was helped along by warmer weather, but was still behind approximately 10 days. Wheat growers were very actively planting. Insect problems in all crops were at low levels with the exception of non-Bt corn, which sustained corn-borer damage. Most livestock producers were managing fall calving. Cattle were being preconditioned for winter grazing on wheat. The prospects for winter grazing looked better than recent years, but high calf prices and lack of replacement availability will likely keep herd numbers down. Rangeland was responding to the recent rains, and some grass growth was observed.
Rolling Plains: From 0.5 inch to 2 inches of rain fell across parts of the region. Wheat planting was behind schedule as most producers had been waiting on rain and cooler weather. Producers who planted their wheat earlier were concerned about armyworms and grasshoppers. Some dryland cotton was close to harvest. Irrigated cotton still looked good. Most cotton continued to mature, and some producers began defoliating in hopes to start harvesting in two or three weeks. Stock-water tanks caught a little water, but more rain was needed to fill them. Lakes were getting low.
South: Scattered showers fell throughout the region, with from a trace to as much as 5 inches reported. Where there was substantial rain, grazing conditions improved, supplemental feeding was reduced on the better-managed ranches, and herd culling slowed as producers tried to rebuild breeding herds. Cattle body condition scores were good. With frequent showers and cooler temperatures, soil-moisture levels varied widely throughout the region. Mostly all counties reported 50 to 100 percent adequate levels. The exceptions were McMullen County with 90 percent short levels; Maverick and Zavala counties, 60 to 100 percent short levels; Hidalgo County with 100 percent short levels; and Cameron and Willacy counties with 45 to 100 percent surplus levels. Atascosa County peanuts were nearly harvest-ready. In Frio County, cotton harvesting began, peanut crops were under irrigation, and wheat growers were preparing fields for planting. In Zavala County, cotton harvesting was active, as well as planting of cabbage, onion and spinach. Also in that county, dryland producers were planting small grains such as oats and wheat. Zavala County pecan producers reported good to average quality and yields. In Cameron County, fall planting was on hold due to wet fields. However, the wet weather made for good sugarcane growing conditions, but weeds were a problem in pastures and row-crop fields. In Hidalgo County, fall vegetables and early citrus were being harvested. Sugarcane harvesting in that county was a couple of weeks away.
South Plains: Some counties received scattered showers as a cold front came through. Amounts varied from a trace to about 1 inch in most areas, with some notable exceptions. Dawson County was once again the big winner with 3.7 inches recorded in some areas. High temperatures moderated but were still above average for late September. Low temperatures approached the seasonal norm. Most cotton producers were in a holding pattern, trying to decide whether to continue irrigating as the crop was maturing. The corn harvest was proceeding quickly in Hockley County. Peanut producers were preparing to harvest. Late-planted sunflowers and sorghum continued to fill seed. In Lubbock County, corn yields varied greatly, with reports from 50 to 190 bushels per acre. Rangeland and pastures were mostly in fair to good condition. Livestock were in mostly fair to good condition.
Southeast: Soil-moisture conditions were adequate to surplus throughout the region. Temperatures were moderate. Rangeland and pastures were improved, but in some areas cattle were thin and could use additional forage. Many ranchers in the region were providing supplemental feed and/or hay. Brazoria County cotton was in good condition. In Chambers County, most of the first rice crop was harvested, and the ratoon crop was coming along. San Jacinto County producers finish planting winter wheat and oats.
Southwest: Cooler temperatures and scattered showers raised soil-moisture levels and improved forages. The condition of livestock improved with the better grazing after the rain. Sheep and goats were doing well going into breeding season. Fall corn made good progress.
West Central: Days were warm with mild nights, and many areas reported scattered showers. Rains improved topsoil moisture levels in time for planting fall crops. Farmers continued fertilizing and otherwise preparing fields for fall planting. Wheat planting was already in full swing. The grain sorghum harvest wound down. Some producers were cutting and baling late season hay crops. In most areas, cotton was in good condition, though there were some reports of root rot. Rangeland and pastures improved after the rains. Areas that received substantial rains saw good runoff into stock tanks. However, many tanks remained extremely low. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Pecans looked very promising.