Rains help winter crops; Texas High Plains cotton harvest ongoing
Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLEGE STATION — Rains in the central and northern parts of the state should go a long way in relieving drought conditions, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service crops specialist.
“The rains we received in central and north Texas were significant in many areas,” said Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension agronomist and Texas A&M University soil and crop sciences associate department head. “I think in those areas we’re going to see greatly improved conditions in winter pastures, and hopefully put a little water in stock ponds and reservoirs.”
Most summer crops were already harvested in those parts of the state, so the rain won’t have an effect on those, Miller said. But raising soil-moisture reserves will certainly brighten the picture for winter grains and other fall-planted crops.
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In the Texas High Plains, the cotton harvest was proceeding well, but any rain at this time would slow the harvest down and could reduce the quality of the crop, he noted.
“I just drove from Amarillo through the Rolling Plains and down through the Blacklands late last week,” Miller said. “To me it looked like we had a good stand of small grains in many areas. Wheat and winter pastures were coming along and in mostly good shape. We’ve still got some droughty areas in the plains in South Texas and parts of West Texas.”
Miller noted it is difficult to get an accurate picture of moisture conditions without such services as the National Weather Service’s precipitation analysis website, which was inaccessible on Oct. 15.
“Certainly I and others rely a lot on the National Weather Service and the cumulative data they provide to do a lot of our assessments,” Miller said. “We’re not alone in that. Many policy makers and farmers and ranchers use the same data service to make decisions. So we’re kind of in the dark if our usual data sources are not available.”
The data Miller referred to, the weather service’s Advanced Hydrological Prediciton Service precipitation analysis site at http://water.weather.gov/precip/ , was back online Oct. 16, but no weather service personnel could be contacted as to any service issues.
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: Most counties reported adequate soil moisture, and generally,
rangeland and pasture conditions were rated as fair. Overall, crops were in good condition as were livestock. The region received widespread rain about mid-week. The cotton harvest was nearly finished, while the harvesting of corn, grain sorghum, soybeans and sunflowers was completed. Producers were planting winter grains. Armyworms were reported and some producers were spraying. Cattle were in good condition with some fall forage available. Several farmers were able to take another hay cutting.
Coastal Bend: Most counties reported adequate soil-moisture levels after recent rains. Pastures varied from poor to good condition. Livestock were in fair condition. Victoria County reported that significant rains came late in the week and over the weekend. Winter pastures were mostly planted, and the rain was expected to promote emergence and growth. Lavaca County reported 2 to 5 inches of rain.
East: Recent rains greatly improved pastures and hayfields across the region. Hay producers were hoping for warm weather to prolong the growing season and get one more cutting. Most producers reported they have adequate hay supplies going into winter. Most counties reported soil-moisture levels as adequate. Anderson County reported pasture conditions remained poor due to the continued drought. Gregg County reported a lack of rainfall with hay below normal in quality and quantity. Lake and pond levels rose. Some ponds were full. Winter forages were emerging and growing. Livestock were in good condition. Horn flies continued to plague cattle. Feral hog damage reports increased.
Far West: Parts of the region got rain, from a trace up to 4 inches. The weather cooled, with mornings and evenings starting to feel like fall. Rangeland and pastures improved after the rain. Cotton was ready for harvest, and winter wheat was planted. Alfalfa producers expected to get at least one more cutting for the year. Pumpkins were being harvested.
North: Recent rains improved conditions greatly. Soil moisture across the region was finally back to adequate levels. Counties received anywhere from 2 to 8.5 inches of rain. Planting of winter pastures and wheat continued. Farmers who started planting small grains before the rain expected to resume once fields were dry enough. Ranchers reported adequate hay supplies going into the fall and winter. Winter annual pastures were growing very well after the rains. Livestock were doing well. Runoff was still needed to replenish many livestock ponds and lakes. There were reports of high feral hog activity in Kaufman and Titus counties. Titus County was also having problems with high fly populations.
Panhandle: Temperatures were above average for most of the week but dropped to near normal by the weekend. Most of the region received some moisture. Hall County reported 8 inches, accompanied by hail and winds that destroyed an estimated 1,800 acres of cotton and peanuts. The corn, potato and sorghum harvests continued. Cotton was mostly in fair to good condition. The cotton harvest neared, with some producers applying defoliants. Sunflowers were also nearly ready for harvest, and it was expected that as soon as the corn harvest was finished, combines will go to sunflower fields. Some producers were using harvest aids on late-planted sunflowers to accelerate the harvest and reduce possible losses from weather and birds. Wheat was in fair to excellent condition, with most counties reporting fair to good. Rangeland and pastures were rated from very poor to excellent, with most counties reporting fair.
Rolling Plains: Fall weather arrived with cooler temperatures. Daytime highs were in the 70s to low 80s, with nighttime temperatures dipping into the low 40s to 50s. However, the cool weather hasn’t been the best for maturing the late cotton crop. Along with the cooler temperatures, some counties received rain. Totals ranged from 0.5 inches to more than 5 inches in northern Motley County. Winter wheat was 90 to 100 percent planted. Peanuts and grain sorghum looked good with some grain sorghum being harvested. Pastures in many areas needed moisture as grazing was minimal. Runoff was needed for stock tanks. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Cotton looked promising but still needed a few more weeks before being ready to harvest. The pecan crop was rated as only fair, with some harvest just beginning on early varieties.
South: Continual rain throughout the region kept rangeland and pastures in good to fair condition, and brought soil-moisture levels back to good to fair levels as well. The rain also benefitted crops and livestock. Counties in the northern parts of the region generally reported 2 to 4 inches, with La Salle County getting 11 to 13 inches. Rain in the western part of the region was also very good but caused flooding in some areas. Dimmit County reported 5 to 13 inches, which caused widespread flooding throughout the cities of Carrizo Springs and Asherton. The Nueces River crested at 30 feet and was slowly dropping. Heavy rains in Zavala County helped fill stock-tank water levels but delayed pecan harvesting. Fallen pecans in standing water will be a loss. Throughout the region, soil-moisture levels were mostly adequate to surplus. Frio and La Salle counties reported 100 percent adequate levels. McMullen County reported 50 percent adequate. Dimmit and Zavala counties reported 100 percent surplus levels. Starr County reported 70 percent adequate, and Willacy County reported 50 percent short levels. There was little field activity due to rain, but Frio County reported peanuts were in good condition, with digging and harvesting in full swing. Wheat and oat planting also began in that county. Also in that county, green bean crops were in excellent condition. In Starr County, cantaloupe harvesting was underway, and hay baling continued. Rangeland and pastures were in good to excellent condition providing good grazing forage for livestock, which meant supplemental feeding was temporarily suspended in many parts of the region. Cattle body condition scores remained good to fair.
South Plains: The region received good rains, with amounts varying from 0.5 inch to 3 inches. Crops were progressing well, and harvest aids were being applied to cotton throughout the district. The corn harvest was going well. Sorghum was maturing, and winter wheat was being planted. The grain sorghum and peanut harvests began in some areas. Crosby County reported cotton modules were appearing on the gin lots, with most gins starting operation Oct. 14. Harvest was expected to be in full swing very soon, weather permitting. Pastures and rangeland were in fair to good condition. Livestock were also in mostly good condition with no supplemental feeding reported.
Southwest: Generally, recent rains brought from 1 inch to 6 inches. Some areas had flooding, such as Travis County, which got 2 to 14 inches of rain. With continued rain forecast, more flooding was anticipated. Soil-moisture levels were reported as being adequate. Armyworms were reported in some counties and required treatment. The recent rains invigorated pastures and winter wheat and oats. All cotton and corn was harvested. Small grains planted for grazing and grain production were looking very good. Cattle feeding began with hay and protein supplementations. Fall calving was underway.
West Central: Temperatures were generally cooler, with warm days and cool nights. Soil-moisture levels were adequate in most areas. Due to recent rains, producers found it difficult to get into fields for harvest and fall planting. The cotton harvest began. Heavy rainfall took a toll on cotton fields in some areas. From 50 to 80 percent of wheat planting was finished. Most wheat already planted had emerged. Some producers were cutting and baling some late hay. The grain sorghum harvest was mostly complete. Rangeland and pastures were in very good condition due to recent rains. Livestock were in good to excellent condition in most areas. Most stock-tank levels remained below normal. Pecans still looked good.