Rolling Plains cotton harvest halted by wintery bluster
Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLEGE STATION – Though temporarily halted by a wintery mix of rain and snow, the Rolling Plains cotton harvest was on schedule, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.
“From the guys I’ve been talking to up there, they’re looking at maybe 20 percent of the irrigated cotton left, with yields ranging all over the board, depending upon what kind of rain they had this summer,” said Dr. Gaylon Morgan, AgriLife Extension statewide cotton specialist, College Station.
Yield reports of one to three bales per acre were common, but there were scattered reports of as much as four bales per acre, Morgan said.
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“Dryland is not quite as far along on the harvest,” he said. “They want to get their irrigated cotton out first, and are probably only about 50 percent finished with dryland in the northern Rolling Plains.”
Morgan said that as with irrigated cotton, dryland yields depended upon how much rain was received and when. Dryland production ranged from nothing on fields that were not harvested to as much as two bales per acre.
“Probably a pretty good dryland average will be 300 to 600 pounds per acre,” he said.
The rain and/or ice or snow should not have an appreciable effect upon unharvested cotton quality, Morgan said.
“It’s actually worse in warm and wet weather, because the seed will germinate, and you’ll get a little more staining and increased ginning costs,” he said. “When it’s wet and cold, it’s usually less of a problem. Fiber color may deteriorate some, but it should not be a big deal.”
The fiber quality from cotton classed at the U.S. Department of Agriculture office in Abilene has been pretty good with more than 375,000 bales ginned, Morgan said. Bark content has been lower than in past years, and strength is a little higher this year.
The southern Rolling Plains harvest was a little further along, he said, about 75 percent done. There was no reason to suspect that the region’s harvest won’t be wrapped up by Christmas, as it usually is.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Central: Small grains still looked very good. Winter wheat appeared ready for grazing. Hard freezes across the area slowed small-grain planting. Icing was causing some minor tree damage. The recent freezing temperatures have shut down all coastal Bermuda grass growth, and livestock producers were feeding hay on cold days. The pecan harvest was underway, with spotty yields reported.
Coastal Bend: The ratoon rice harvest was proceeding well until it was rained out late in the week. Showers continued to plague the late hay harvest and fall field preparations. Row crop producers were preparing to fertilize some fields. It appeared unlikely there would be any irrigation water from the Colorado River for rice in 2014. This will be the third year in row for a total cutoff to two of the three irrigation districts in the lower Colorado River Basin. Pastures continued to improve with recent rains. Ponds were full in many areas. Rangeland and pastures were in fair to acceptable condition. Winter grasses and cover crops were emerging and should provide additional winter grazing. Pecan yields were low.
East: A cold front brought cooler temperatures and rain. Conditions across the region were wet and muddy. The rain continued to fill area lakes, ponds and streams. Some low-lying pastures were flooded. Winter pasture grass stands were up, growing and looking good, but were in danger of being damaged by livestock traffic due to the wet conditions. Some producers were beginning to feed hay earlier than expected, as well as providing some protein supplementation. Cattle were in good condition. Fall calving season was ongoing. The pecan harvest began, with good quality reported. Feral hog damage continued to be a problem for many landowners.
Far West: Most of the area had severe winter weather, including sleet and ice, over the weekend. The region also had the first hard freeze of the year as temperatures dropped into the 30s during the day and the mid-20s at night. Cotton farmers expected to finish harvesting this week, weather permitting, and pecan harvesting began. Fall onions were planted. Alfalfa producers took the last cutting for this season. The cold temperatures kept livestock producers busy maintaining water sources and feeding.
North: Soil-moisture levels across the region remained adequate. From 1 inch to 3 inches of rain fell throughout the area, followed by freezing temperatures. At the beginning of the week, high temperatures averaged in the 70s. By Nov. 22, highs were in the low 30s, with ice accumulations on trees, roofs, fences and power lines. Farmers were finishing the winter wheat planting that had been delayed due to the rains in late October. Winter pasture grasses were looking good, while warm-season grasses have stopped producing. Livestock were in good condition. Cattle producers were preparing to start supplemental feeding and haying. A few producers had already turned cattle onto early planted winter pastures. Wild hogs remained a problem in Camp County.
Panhandle: The region began the week with high winds and low temperatures, but winter arrived by the weekend, bringing snow, ice and extremely cold temperatures. Most counties reported receiving from 1 inch to 4 inches of snow. Collingsworth County reported as much as 13 inches in some areas. The wintery blast halted the cotton harvest. Hutchinson County reported that high winds knocked down most of the unharvested sorghum. Farmers were still planting winter wheat, hoping for more moisture. The wheat that was already up was rated mostly fair. Irrigated wheat was in good shape so far, with some fields already being grazed. Fall armyworms were reported at several locations and were reaching economic thresholds in Sherman County. Cattle on rangeland were receiving supplemental feed. Stocker cattle were being placed on wheat.
Rolling Plains: Winter weather, with rain, sleet and snow, brought the cotton harvest to a halt. The weather system brought as little as 0.25 inch of precipitation to some and as much as 2 to 4 inches in others. Despite the harvest delay, the moisture was welcomed as it was needed for pastures, rangelands and winter wheat. Livestock were in fair condition with producers providing supplemental feed.
South: All parts of the region except the eastern counties had light, spotty showers. Willacy County got more than light showers, reporting 2.5 to 5.5 inches of rain. Soil-moisture levels were mostly adequate or better in all parts of the region, except McMullen County where soil moisture was at 75 percent short. Willacy County reported 45 percent surplus soil moisture. Rangeland and pastures were in fair to good condition throughout the region, but cooler temperatures had pretty much put warm-season forages into dormancy. Cattle body condition scores remained good to fair. In Atascosa and Frio counties, the peanut harvesting continued. Jim Wells County producers were taking their final hay cutting of the year. Most winter oats in the Maverick County area emerged. In Zavala County, the harvesting of cabbage and spinach was halted due to light rain and drizzle. Also in Zavala County, spinach, onions and cabbage progressed well, and oats and wheat showed signs of growth due to added moisture. In Cameron County, the sugarcane harvest was ongoing. In Hidalgo County, sugarcane, citrus and vegetable harvesting continued. In Starr County, fall vegetable crops progressed well.
South Plains: A strong arctic cold front with winds gusting from 30 to 40 mph blew into the region on Nov. 21. Temperatures, which had been in the 70s, dropped rapidly by the afternoon. That night, the area received a mix of freezing drizzle and snow. Lubbock County had more than 72 hours of subfreezing temperatures throughout the weekend. The wintery weather brought the cotton harvest to a halt. However, many producers reported they still expected to be finished by Thanksgiving. Some of the remaining cotton fields will likely be affected by the sleet and wind by stringing out open bolls. Swisher County reported cotton yields were averaging three bales per acre in irrigated fields and 1.5 bales per acre in dryland fields. Garza County dryland yields were averaging 200 pounds per acre to more than a bale per acre. Irrigated yields there ranged from a bale and a half to five bales per acre. As cotton came out of the fields, many producers were going right back in with winter wheat. Already planted wheat was beginning to look poor with a bleak outlook without late November precipitation. Pasture and rangeland also needed moisture, and the subfreezing temperatures stressed area livestock, and producers were providing supplementing feed during the cold weather.
Southeast: Most of the counties reporting had rain and cooler weather, which slowed down warm-season forage growth. Highs for the week in Brazoria County, for example, were in the 40s to 60s, with lows in the 30s. Rain amounts from the counties reporting ranged from 1 inch to 4 inches. The wet weather also delayed the completion of small-grain planting and the preparation of fields for next year’s crops. Chambers County did not have any winter wheat planted yet, and the ratoon rice crop, though ready for harvest, was delayed due to the wet weather. Walker County reported enough rain to fill the ponds and farm tanks. Waller County producers were taking a late hay cutting.
Southwest: The region had mild, humid temperatures until a strong cold front came through on Nov. 22. The cold weather brought sleet and frost to some counties, and stopped the growth of coastal and common Bermuda grass. Pecan yields were marginal. Oats and ryegrass were doing well with good soil-moisture levels. The planting of winter wheat was nearly finished. Fall corn was being harvested in some fields; other fields hadn’t dried down enough yet. Livestock producers began providing supplemental feeding with hay and protein. Hunting season was in full swing with lots of mature deer.
West Central: The week began with very mild temperatures, but a cold front brought sleet, rain and extremely cold weather by the end of the week. Most areas had a very hard freeze. Soil moisture levels remained adequate in most areas. The cotton harvest was in full swing, with very good yields reported on irrigated acres. Dryland yields were fair to good. Small grains were doing well with little to no insect pressure. Some producers were still planting winter wheat until the winter storm came. Others were planting wheat behind the cotton harvest. Some livestock producers started limited grazing of oats. Early planted winter wheat was off to a good start due to recent moisture and favorable temperatures, but more moisture was needed to keep crops growing. Rangeland and pastures were in good shape and continued to rebound along with good winter grasses and forbs after the recent rains. However, a few areas still showed drought stress and needed more moisture. Warm-season grasses and forbs went dormant after the hard freeze. Livestock remained in good condition, with some producers starting supplemental feeding. Stock-water tanks in all areas still needed run-off. The pecan harvest was in full swing.