Despite late rains, High Plains dryland cotton crop could still be pretty good
Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLEGE STATION – Rains came to the Panhandle and South Plains a couple weeks too late to ensure a really good dryland cotton crop across the board, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomist.
In early August, dryland cotton in the Texas High Plains teetered on being moisture stressed, but still had the potential to make a very good crop – if rain was received in time, according to Mark Kelley, AgriLife Extension cotton specialist, Lubbock. Unfortunately, the rains came the first week of September, not mid-August as hoped.
“It’ll still make a crop,” Kelley said. “The question is how many bolls did they have set? What was the condition of the plant when the moisture did arrive? Does it still have the opportunity to produce cellulose and fill those bolls? There’s a lot of unknowns out there, and a lot of different conditions and situations. It’s really hard to say. The dryland crop is not going to be a bust, but some is going to be about average and some is going to be pretty good.”
This year, cotton production in the region is still heavily weighted toward dryland production, though there was an increase in irrigated acres over last year, according to Kelley. In 2013, about 37 percent of the crop was irrigated and 63 percent dryland.
According to reports by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, approximately 4 million acres of cotton were planted in the two regions by June. Kelley expects the abandonment rate, the cotton not taken to harvest, to be about 25 percent this year.
The rains did allow some producers to stop irrigating on time this year, which should represent a substantial savings in production costs, Kelley said.
And he also noted that for the crop, whether irrigated or dryland, to finish out well, it needs more heat units and for the first freeze to come at about the normal time. But currently, there are a lot of reasons to remain optimistic about dryland cotton.
“It could average out to be a pretty good dryland year. For sure, it’s going to be a much better crop than we had for the last three years, which was practically zero.”
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: More than three-fourths of the counties reporting had fair soil moisture, and rangeland and pasture conditions. Most rated crops and livestock in good condition. Parts of the region had two to three inches of rain, which benefited pastures. The corn and grain sorghum harvests were finished. Cotton harvesting began. The rain and cooler temperatures were expected to help finish pecan nut-fill. Stock-water tank levels were dropping. Producers were reporting armyworms and grasshoppers in pastures.
Coastal Bend: Showers in the region slowed cotton harvesting in the eastern counties. Yields ranged from two to three bales per acre. Row crop harvest was mostly completed, and producers were preparing pastures for planting winter forages. Sesame was in good condition and maturing. The scattered showers were beneficial to pastures. Where grazing was limited, ranchers were feeding hay and selling spring calves.
East: Spotty showers swept across the region, with accumulations ranging from zero to 3.5 inches. Lake and pond levels were still fairly good but beginning to drop. Landowners were dealing with aquatic weeds. Fields were drying out in some areas, but the hay harvest continued, though more slowly. Producers were mowing pastures to clean up weeds and brush that did not respond to chemical controls. Winter forages were being planted for livestock and white-tailed deer. Fertilizer prices were up. Armyworm and grasshopper infestations continued to be a problem for some producers. The pecan crop looked promising. Pecans in the water/dough stage had some hickory shuckworm damage. Water-stressed trees showed some leaf scorch. Some pecan varieties had scab and powdery mildew. Timber was dying or dead from earlier drought stress. Cattle remained in good condition. Weaning and selling of spring calves and cull cows continued. Cattle prices remained strong.
Far West: Temperatures hit the triple digits early in the week but cooled to the 80s and 90s by the weekend. Upton County received scattered showers, with accumulations of 1.2 inches in some parts of the county. Subsoil and topsoil moisture remained poor to very poor, except in Andrews and Glasscock counties where it was fair to poor. Corn was maturing. Upland cotton was in good to excellent condition in El Paso County; fair to poor in Glasscock, Martin and Upton counties. Grain sorghum was mature. Winter wheat was planted. Pastures and rangeland remained in poor to very poor condition throughout the region.
North: Topsoil moisture was very short to short in most counties, with a few areas reporting adequate levels. Scattered showers fell across the region with amounts varying from a trace to less than 0.25 inch. Temperatures rose to the mid- to high-90s, which dried out soils. The dry weather allowed the hay, corn and grain sorghum harvests to continue. Wheat growers were preparing fields for planting. Due to hot dry weather, pastures and hay meadows dried out. Overall, cattle were in good condition. Armyworms and grasshoppers continued to pose problems for producers. Sugarcane aphids damaged sorghum-Sudan hay. Feral hog activity continued.
Panhandle: The region remained hot and dry, with temperatures near average for most of the week. However, cooler temperatures and rain came at the end of the week. Amounts ranged from a trace to as much as 4.5 inches in some isolated areas. Soil moisture was rated short to adequate. Deaf Smith County reported the recent moisture would help finish out corn and cotton. The grain sorghum crop was coming along well, but there were many late fields that needed heat units to finish. Wheat growers were planning to start planting in earnest as soon as fields dried out. Silage harvesting and haying activities were at a standstill after the rains. Hall County reported cotton starting to finish out and looking good. Most irrigation ceased for corn. Irrigation of cotton, soybeans and grain sorghum continued. Cotton was making bolls, soybeans setting pods and grain sorghum changing color. Dryland grain sorghum did not look good and some fields may not make a crop. Wheat planting was expected to begin soon. Randall County corn dried down rapidly, and the harvest was projected to begin soon. The silage harvest there was currently underway with average yields. Hutchinson County reported recent rains came too late to be beneficial to dryland crops. Rangeland and pastures were in poor to excellent condition, with most counties reporting fair to good and a few reporting excellent. Cattle were in good condition.
Rolling Plains: Parts of the region received some rain. Cotton was in fair condition with most of the dryland crop flowering at the tops. Wheat producers planned to begin planting soon. Cattle continued to be in good condition going into the fall calving season. Hay supplies were good. Pecan growers were spraying for pecan weevils. The pecan crop looked promising in most orchards. Areas that did have rain reported grasses were really starting to burn up and stock-water tank levels were dropping rapidly.
South: Tropical Storm Dolly brought substantial rains to parts of the region. The eastern and southern counties received good rains, while others received only trace amounts. In the northern part of the region, spotty showers gave relief from hot temperatures, but did little to improve soil moisture, which remained short. Peanuts were doing well, sorghum harvesting continued and cotton harvesting began. Rangeland and pastures remained in poor condition, and supplemental feeding of livestock continued at a steady pace. In the eastern part of the region, good rains in much of the area helped green up rangeland and pastures and slightly improved soil moisture. In Jim Wells County, some parts of the county received 7 inches while others only saw light showers. Other than a few fields of cotton, sesame is the only commodity left in the area to be harvested. Soil moisture throughout the area remained short to very short in Jim Hogg and Jim Wells counties and adequate in Brooks, Kleberg and Kenedy counties. In the western part of the region, isolated showers brought from a trace to 0.5 inch of moisture. Coastal Bermuda grass was in good condition and being baled for hay. Pecans under irrigation progressed well. Cotton harvesting was active, and producers with irrigation capacity were pre-watering fields before planting wheat. Soil moisture conditions remained short to very short throughout the area. Supplemental feeding and light culling of livestock continued. In the southern part of the region, fieldwork halted due to wet conditions. Fall onions and tomatoes were in good condition. Starr County received from 1.75 inch to 2.5 inches of rain. Rangeland and pastures remained in good to excellent condition.
South Plains: The region received much-needed rain, from 0.5 inch to as much as 5 inches near the Texas/New Mexico border. In Bailey County, producers were harvesting corn silage and planting wheat. Lynn County producers shut down irrigation on cotton and planned to begin planting wheat within a week. Lubbock County producers were also planning to cut off irrigation on cotton. The rain there came too late to benefit most dryland cotton. Cotton continued to progress in Garza County; the moisture helped fill older bolls and retain smaller ones. Rangeland will benefit with moisture for both warm and cool season grasses. Cattle are in mostly good condition. After being slowed by rain, Floyd County producers were harvesting corn. Some producers are concerned they may not get enough heat units for cotton to make a strong finish, but all were glad to have the rain.
Southeast: Soil moisture was mostly in the adequate to short range, except for Hardin County, which reported 100 percent adequate. Rangeland and pastures were mostly in fair to poor condition, with good ratings being the most common. In Brazoria County, livestock were in good condition. A countywide rain was good for pastures and livestock, but slowed the cotton harvest. In Chambers County, rain delayed some rice harvesting and maturing. Harvesting soon continued, but the rain left fields in less than desirable condition. In Orange County, more moderate temperatures enhanced forage growth. In Walker County, the scattered showers had little impact on the dry conditions. In Brazos County, the small-grain harvest neared completion. Yields exceeded expectations, and storage is at capacity.
Southwest: Weather in the eastern half of the district began to cool a little. Much of the district received spotty showers. The cooler weather and the showers helped stabilize topsoil and subsoil moisture. The grain sorghum harvest was wrapped up, with average yields reported. The corn harvest was mostly finished, with fair to poor yields. Cotton was in various stages of defoliation, with a few areas gearing up to strip or pick. Both pasture and forage crops in the eastern part of the region needed rain. Livestock and pastures remained in fair condition in the western counties. Dove numbers were solid. Forage availability and browsing for deer was good, and a good acorn crop was predicted, which promised an excellent deer hunting season.
West Central: A few areas reported some scattered showers, but generally the weather was hot, dry and windy throughout the week. Cotton was progressing very well. Most grain sorghum was harvested. Hay production was ongoing on irrigated fields. Producers increased field preparations for fall planting. Grasshoppers continued to be a problem in some areas. Rangeland and pastures remained in fair condition but began to show signs of heat and moisture stress. Stock-tank water levels continued to drop. Livestock remained in good condition, though numbers were low.