Wheat crop below average; cotton planting delayed
Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLEGE STATION –The Texas wheat crop remains below average, and very little cotton has been planted, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomist.
Dry weather is the culprit for the poor wheat crop, while lower-than-normal soil temperatures have been the primary reason for the delay in the planting of spring crops, said Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension agronomist and Texas A&M University soil and crop sciences associate department head, College Station.
“Much of South Texas corn and sorghum crops are planted, while cool weather and wet soils on the coast delayed planting,” Miller said. “Much of the dryland wheat crop in the High Plains and Rolling Plains remains in very poor shape, with 87 percent of the crop rated from fair to very poor conditions. However, the irrigated crop is in relatively good shape. In my opinion, it (dryland wheat) will be a below-average crop because of dry weather.”
It’s unusually cold weather that has slowed the planting of spring crops, he said.
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“The state climatologist says Texas averaged three degrees colder over the last couple months than normal,” he said. “I don’t know if that will equate to any difference in yields, but we could have some stand problems associated with the cold weather.”
Miller said that though drought conditions have improved somewhat –particularly in the Coastal Bend and South Texas — drought continues for a fourth year in the Panhandle, South Plains, Rolling Plains and parts of Central Texas.
“Meanwhile, there is some hope on the horizon in the form of the possible development of an El Niño climatic pattern this year,” he said. “Current models are showing a chance of this development by midsummer. “
A strong El Niño typically causes wetter and cooler conditions in Texas.
“Right now, they’re giving about a 50 percent chance for an El Niño, which is a little better than a coin toss,” he said.
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. Rangeland and pasture were mostly rated fair. Crops were in fair to good condition across the region. Some oats and wheat suffered significant leaf burn from the freeze that occurred the previous week. From 0.5 inch to 1.29 inches of rain fell over the weekend. Trees and ornamental plants were blooming in some areas. Producers were planting into dry seedbeds, hoping for more rain. Spotty germination was expected as moisture varied across some fields. Sorghum producers were planting shallow and also hoping for a good rain. Cattle continued to look good as producers continued providing supplemental feed and hay as winter grass production fell off.
Coastal Bend: Light rains left fields slightly muddy. In the northern part of the reporting area, many corn farmers had still not planted due to low soil temperatures. In the southern part of the region, most corn and grain sorghum fields were planted, with some already emerged. Also in the southern counties, most producers were ready to plant cotton, but had muddy fields to contend with. Wheat was beginning to head and appeared to be in fair to good condition. Growers were fertilizing pastures between rains. There was limited forage growth, but rapid improvement was expected for both grasses and cattle as weather warmed.
East: A warming trend allowed winter pastures to recuperate. Most counties reported rain, which improved topsoil and subsoil moisture. Low-lying fields had surplus soil moisture. Some counties reported decreased hay consumption thanks to improved winter forages. Hay supplies across the region were short, and some producers were forced to buy out of county. Cattle were in good shape. Spring calving continued. Vegetable planting increased. Fruit growers continued to evaluate damage from last week’s freeze. Some later peach varieties were starting to bloom. Feral hogs were becoming more active.
Far West: Warm, windy days and cool nights were the norm for the week, with from a trace to 0.45 inch of rain received. The vacillating temperatures through the winter have had a profound drying impact on both vegetation and soils. Fall-planted onions were at the five-leaf stage with good rooting. Alfalfa was free of pests and looked good. Pecan growers were irrigating orchards though trees were still dormant with no bud break. Cotton growers were irrigating fields. Chile growers were preparing seedbeds. Wheat producers continued irrigating. Most cattle herds were in the middle of spring calving season.
North: The region received from 1 inch to 2 inches of rain. However, windy conditions continued to dry out any excess moisture, and topsoil moisture ranged from very short to adequate. Temperatures warmed a little until another cold front pushed through during the middle of the week, but lows stayed above freezing. At times during the past few weeks, wheat was coming out of dormancy and starting to grow again, but the periods of cold weather slowed down growth. Collin County reported wheat appeared about a month behind schedule. Delta County reported that wheat tops were brown. Winter pastures were also in a similar state across the region. Kaufman County livestock producers were still providing heavy supplemental feed. Land preparation for spring corn planting continued. If conditions held, farmers in some counties were hoping to be able to plant corn soon. Collin County had already planted 10 percent of their corn, while Hunt County had most of the intended corn acres planted and planned to start soybean planting soon. Livestock looked good across the counties. Feral hogs were still causing damage in Camp County.
Panhandle: For another week, temperatures varied widely. Spring winds of 40 to 70 mph were reported, blowing lots of dust and eroding soils. Soil moisture was mostly rated very short. Farmers were preparing for spring planting and irrigating wheat. Rangeland and pastures continued to be rated mostly very poor. Livestock producers continued supplementing cattle.
Rolling Plains: Dry and windy conditions continued across the region. Cotton farmers were preparing for the upcoming season by fertilizing irrigated fields. Wheat was moisture stressed; a good rain was needed soon to make even an average crop. Livestock generally remained in fair to good shape despite the poor condition of wheat for grazing. Some livestock producers were taking cattle off wheat. Many cattle will be sold soon if rain does not come. Producers continued to supply supplemental feed and hay to livestock. Peaches were just beginning to bloom. Ponds and stock tanks still needed runoff.
South: The northern, eastern and western parts of the region received rain, improving rangeland, pastures and crops. In the northern part of the region, Frio, La Salle, Live Oak and McMullen counties reported rain. Soil moisture was mostly short to very short, except in Live Oak County, where it was 70 percent adequate. Frio County producers continued planting corn and sorghum and irrigating wheat and oats. In the eastern part of the region, rainfall ranged from 1.5 to 4 inches. Jim Wells County reported 50 percent adequate soil moisture, and Kleberg and Kenedy counties reported 100 percent adequate. Cool temperatures throughout the week held back spring greening. In the western part of the region, temperatures ranged from 40 degrees at night to 75 degrees during the day. Most of the western counties did not receive any rain, except for Zavala County, where it saved growers of cabbage, spinach, onions and other crops one irrigation. The rain in Zavala County did delay planting of cotton, corn and sorghum throughout most of the week, but it resumed near the weekend. In the southern part of the region, crop producers were held back from planting sorghum and cotton early in the week due to weather, but were able to continue toward the end of the week. Also in that area, vegetable crops were progressing well. Soil moisture was short, supplemental feeding of beef cattle continued, and rangeland and pastures were in good condition.
South Plains: The roller coaster weather continued, with high temperatures varying more than 30 degrees from one day to the next. Along with the temperature variations, dry weather, high winds and blowing sand were the norm. Only Scurry County reported scattered showers. Winter wheat and pastures were suffering, and livestock continued to need supplemental feed. Producers were preparing for spring planting in hope of eventually receiving rain. One county reported seeing more widespread use of tillage for herbicide incorporation than in past years.
Southeast: Soil moisture throughout the region was mostly in the adequate range, but some counties reported from 50 percent very short to as much as 100 percent adequate. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely too, from very poor to excellent, with good to fair ratings being the most common. In Brazoria County, strong winds continued to dry out soils, but grasses were beginning to grow, and livestock remained in fair to good condition. In Chambers County, dry soils were limiting tillage. Also, soils were not warm enough for crop growth. However, Montgomery County reported average temperatures and plenty of moisture. Winter annuals there were showing good growth. Orange County’s warmer temperatures also continued during last week. Rains across the county accelerated the growth of winter annual weeds. In Walker County, soil moisture was good, but warmer soil temperatures were needed for plant growth. Waller County fields remained extremely wet, making any fieldwork a muddy operation.
Southwest: Light rain slowed the drying of soils and preserved rangeland quality for a little longer. Windy and cool weather continued to threaten new growth of foliage. Winter wheat and oats were in fair to good condition. Rain during the next three weeks will be crucial for several spring and summer crops. Producers had to provide feed and access to water to maintain the condition of all livestock and wildlife.
West Central: Severe drought conditions continued. Up-and-down temperatures with dry, windy weather continued throughout the week. Daytime temperatures were generally mild with cool to cold nights. A few areas reported some scattered showers, which helped crops. Wildfire dangers continued to climb. Many counties were under burn bans. Preparation for spring planting was underway in hope for some rain later. Wheat was suffering and in decline due to drought stress. Wheat producers who graze out wheat to livestock were faced with the decision on whether to graze out or hope for moisture for a grain crop. The pull-off deadline for wheat is March 15 for crop insurance purposes. Rangeland and pastures remained in poor condition and continue to decline due to dry conditions. Some green-up showed in fields with warmer in temperatures, but the green was mostly weeds. Stock tank water levels continued to drop. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued. Fruit trees were in bloom.