High Plains cotton generally in good shape, but rain needed soon
Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLEGE STATION – Despite a few setbacks, such as cooler-than-normal weather, Panhandle and South Plains cotton is in pretty good shape, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomist.
But the fate of dryland cotton depends on whether the area receives rain soon, said Mark Kelley, AgriLife Extension cotton specialist, Lubbock.
According to reports by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service, approximately 4 million acres of cotton were planted in the two regions by June.
Download or preview a two-minute MP3 audio version of this report
Kelley expected something near the normal abandonment rate, which is about 15 to 20 percent, he said.
“As far as soil moisture conditions go, and crop conditions, we’re a lot better off than we have been in the last three years,” Kelley said. “But some of this dryland crop that hasn’t seen a rain in three or four weeks, it’s going to be needing some soon.”
There’s been a recent large shift from irrigated to dryland, he said. In 2013, about 37 percent of the crop was irrigated and 63 percent dryland.
“This was due to the fact that we weren’t getting any help from Mother Nature, and producers started concentrating their irrigation water on fewer acres,” Kelley said. “In 2010, the split between dryland and irrigated was about 50/50.”
Crop development is “all over the board,” he said. From just blooming to about the third week of bloom and setting bolls.
Kelley’s main responsibilities for cotton include the Panhandle and South Plains, but he said to the best of his knowledge, the Rolling Plains crop is about in the same condition.
One concern for both irrigated and dryland producers is the chance of having another early freeze, which happened in 2012, Kelley said. With much of the better cotton a couple of weeks behind in development, an early freeze could knock back yield and quality.
“I think we’ve got a decent chance of making a good crop. If we have an open fall, where we don’t get too cold too quick, and if we get good temperatures, along with some sunshine, then we should be in pretty good shape,” 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: Nearly all counties reported soil moisture, with overall rangeland, pastures and crops being in good condition. All counties reported livestock as being in good condition. Some corn varieties were being harvested. Sugarcane aphids continued to damage grain sorghum and were moving into haygrazer fields. The pest diminished haygrazer forage quality and quantity. The hay harvest continued. Cooler conditions have slowed the grain sorghum harvest, which had early yields between 5,000 and 7,500 pounds per acre.
Coastal Bend: Harvesting activity switched from grain sorghum to corn. Yields varied depending on moisture received during the season, but it was beginning to look as if grain sorghum yields would be above average. Early corn yields looked promising as well. Hay harvesting proceeded between rain showers. Some livestock producers were shipping calves early, more to take advantage of the high market prices than to relieve cows. Cotton defoliation was in full swing, and cotton was already starting to accumulate at gins. The grape harvest was a success. Yields of the Blanc Du Bois variety, harvested two weeks ago, were more than four tons per acre.
East: Growing conditions throughout the region continued to be excellent thanks to recent rains. With the rains, vegetables growers reported good quantity and quality. Farmers markets remained busy. Pastures were in good to excellent condition. Both topsoil and subsoil moisture levels remained good. Hay harvesting continued, with producers reporting above-average yields. Henderson County producers had problems harvesting hay due to frequent rains. Armyworm and grasshopper infestations continued to be a problem for some producers. Cattle remained in good to excellent condition. Timber was being harvested, and saw mills were running at full capacity.
Far West: Most counties reported varying amounts of rain, but generally conditions remained hot and mostly dry throughout the district. Topsoil moisture was mostly short; subsoil moisture was short to very short. Pastures and rangeland were mostly in poor condition. Cotton was mostly in fair to good condition, with all counties reporting the crop squaring and setting bolls. Corn was in fair to good condition and silking. The condition of grain sorghum varied from poor to good. Glasscock County reported 95 percent of the crop headed and 75 percent coloring, while Upton County reported only 10 percent of the crop headed.
North: Topsoil moisture varied throughout the region, with most counties reporting adequate levels, but a few had a mix of short and adequate. Fannin, Hunt and Morris counties reported surplus soil moisture. Most counties had from 1 inch to 4 inches of rain. Days were unseasonably cool, with highs in the 70s. All crops benefited from the rain. Corn, grain and soybeans looked good. Producers expected at least one more cutting of hay. Livestock were in good condition. Grasshoppers continued to be an issue, and armyworms were reported throughout the region.
Panhandle: Temperatures were below normal most of the week but near normal by the weekend. Soil moisture was rated adequate to short. Most areas received some rain. Cooler temperatures hindered cotton development, putting the crop behind about two weeks. In Deaf Smith County, high winds toppled center pivots, severely damaging them in some instances. Producers were trying to put pivots back in operation as soon as possible. Corn was thriving in the cool, damp weather. Dryland grain sorghum looked good, but needed more rain. Irrigated sorghum was doing well, and producers were hoping they could forgo several irrigations this season. Irrigators in Dallam and Hartley counties were very active watering most cornfields. The potato harvest began. Hay producers were baling sorghum Sudan and alfalfa. Some farmers were preparing fields for wheat planting. Cattle were in good condition. Some stockers and cow/calf herds were put on U.S. Department of Agriculture Conservation Reserve Program acres. Weeds remained a problem throughout the region. Gray County producers were spraying sorghum and other crops to control fall armyworms.
Rolling Plains: Rain and cooler weather came to parts of the region. Cotton continued to square and set bolls. Irrigated cotton producers were half finished watering this year’s crop, and most will stop about the end of August. Conditions remained favorable for further cotton growth with temperatures staying in the high 90s and plenty of sunshine. Grasshopper populations were high, with some reports of damage to younger cotton. Pastures and rangeland were in very good condition and supplying adequate grazing for cattle. Hay stocks were improving. Livestock were reportedly in better condition than they had been in more than three years. However, municipalities remained under water-use restrictions — the area is not out of the drought yet. The peach harvest wound down. The pecan crop looked good.
South: Dry and hot conditions persisted, with no rain throughout the entire region. Daytime highs were in in the upper 90s and 100s with high winds, which took a high toll on rangeland and pasture conditions, as well as soil moisture and stock-tank water levels. In the northern part of the region, all corn was maturing with some being harvested. Eighty percent of upland cotton was setting bolls, and all the crop was squaring. About a quarter of the crop had opened bolls. Peanut, cotton and sorghum were being irrigated. Cattle body condition scores remained low to fair. Soil moisture was mostly short to very short with the exception of Atascosa County, which reported 80 to 85 percent adequate levels. In the eastern parts of the region, grain harvesting continued and cotton was maturing. Grain sorghum yields ranged from as little as 700 pounds to 6000 pounds per acre. Livestock market prices continued to climb. Local markets reported 500-pound steers bringing an average of $205 per hundredweight. Some cow/calf pairs brought more than $2,000. Soil moisture ranged from short to very short in Kleberg and Kenedy counties to 50 percent adequate in Jim Wells County. In the western part of the region, soil moisture varied from 80 percent adequate to 100 percent short. Corn progressed well, with 90 percent of the crop matured in some counties. Sorghum was 85 percent harvested in Maverick County. In Zavala County, cotton producers and pecan growers were busy irrigating due to extremely hot temperatures. Corn and sorghum harvesting was beginning there. Livestock producers in that area were preparing to resume supplemental feeding as range and pastures began to decline. In the southern part of the region, the corn harvest was completed, and the sorghum harvest nearly finished. Cotton was in good to excellent condition. In Hidalgo County, grain and corn harvesting wound down and cotton harvesting picked up. Starr County had highs of above 100 degrees throughout the week. The extreme high was 109 degrees. In Willacy County, cotton producers reported promising yields. Soil moisture throughout the area was short to very short.
South Plains: Cochran, Scurry and Mitchell counties received rain, from 0.1 to nearly 1 inch. The heavier rain interrupted the constant demand for irrigation and slowed salt and mineral buildup, according to integrated pest management reports. Dryland cotton was doing well in some areas but will need continued moisture in August. In other areas, dryland cotton desperately needed rain. Grain sorghum continued to mature, but there were reports of headworm infestations. Peanuts were doing very well with excellent pod set. Cotton development ranged from a third grown square to five nodes above the upper white flower. Peas, sunflowers and corn were all are in good condition. Pasture and rangeland improved where there was rain. In Hockley County, early planted grain sorghum was doing well, but the late-planted crop was struggling. Lubbock County had cooler-than-normal temperatures with cloudy days, and insignificant rainfall. Most cotton was in bloom in Lubbock County, and sorghum development ranged from whorl to grain fill. Lynn County also had cooler temperatures, which helped drought-stressed crops. Cotton producers are battling weeds in some fields. Corn had tasseled and was silking. Sunflowers looked very good. Adult grasshopper populations were at an all-time high.
Southwest: Generally, the region remained dry, but some areas received spotty showers. The grain sorghum harvest wrapped up, with average yields reported. Some corn was harvested. Hay fields are no longer growing. Haygrazer fields that had been cut once will need another rain to make a second cutting. Livestock remained in fair condition.
West Central: Days were hot, dry and windy, and nights warm, with a few days of cooler weather late in the week. Some areas received widely scattered showers that helped crops. Otherwise, the hot, dry weather continued to take a toll on topsoil moisture and grass growth. Many crops were showing signs of drought stress. Farmers were preparing land for fall planting, and planned to apply fertilizer in the next few weeks. Haying operations remained in full swing. Cotton was blooming. Irrigated cotton and corn were in good condition. Rangeland and pastures were still productive but starting to show signs of moisture stress. Livestock were in excellent condition. Pecans looked good as growers resumed irrigating orchards.