Texas crop, weather for Oct. 6, 2015

Agricultural engineering centennial a ‘tip of the hat’ to the past and the future

A past tractor and technology fair by the Texas A&M University department of biological and agricultural engineering in front of Scoates Hall at College Station featured mainly “modern” farm iron. This year’s centennial technology fair will also feature tractors, both antique and modern, as well as unmanned flying vehicles, remote-sensing equipment and other cutting-edge technology, said event organizers. (Photo courtesy of the Texas A&M department of biological and agricultural engineering)

A past tractor and technology fair by the Texas A&M University department of biological and agricultural engineering in front of Scoates Hall at College Station featured mainly “modern” farm iron. This year’s centennial technology fair will also feature tractors, both antique and modern, as well as unmanned flying vehicles, remote-sensing equipment and other cutting-edge technology, said event organizers. (Photo courtesy of the Texas A&M department of biological and agricultural engineering)

Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, rd-burns@tamu.edu

COLLEGE STATION — On Oct. 9-10, the Texas A&M University department of biological and agricultural engineering at College Station will celebrate its 100-year birthday, and you’re invited.

Officially, the outdoor centennial event is called a “technology fair,” but that title could be misleading, said Russell McGee, Texas A&M AgriLife Research engineer, College Station.

There should be something for everyone, tech-minded or not, whether they’re young or old, engineers or farmers, prospective students or former students, or just people who like a mixture of technology, history, futurism, music and dancing, he said.

Download or preview a two-minute MP3 audio version of this report

In the technology demonstration on the lawn surrounding Scoates Hall, there will be unmanned aerial vehicle displays, new irrigation and cotton gin equipment, remote sensing equipment and robots in development for enhanced harvesting and crop management, McGee said.

Also included in the events will be the Aggie Pullers’ Small Scale Tractor club and the department’s robotics team, which travels nationally in competition. There will be modern and antique tractors, bluegrass music, and performances by the Aggie Wranglers, a student country and western exhibition dance group.

“We’re kind of tipping our hat at the past while looking to the future,” McGee said.

There will also be indoor tours, giving department faculty the chance to show off recent restorations to 80-year-old Scoates Hall and a look inside the labs.

“Former students will appreciate it, but if you have never been in the building, it is a nice piece of 1930s architecture,” he said. “It’s really quite lovely. And we’ll have a couple of sessions in the lecture hall for story telling and remembering the old days with professors and former students.”

McGee noted that the Oct. 9 open house tour is more geared for former and prospective students. While the outdoor events on Oct. 10 were planned more as a community event, all are welcome to attend both days.

Agricultural engineering today is not just gears, engines and large machinery design, he said. It still is that, but it’s a lot more.

“Recently agricultural engineering has expanded to encompass biological and agricultural engineering,” McGee said. “Which really takes what we’ve always done at the macro level in terms of processing and storage and utilization of food and fiber products down to microscopic level. We’re able to look into the genetics and nanotechnology of food for pharmaceutical use.”

More information on the event can be found at http://bit.ly/1Lwiwe3.

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Districts

The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Districts

Central: Soil moisture, rangeland, pastures and crops were rated mostly in fair condition. Livestock were in good condition. Temperatures dropped somewhat, but the region remained dry. Though still in fair condition, pastures were declining. Farmers were waiting on rain to plant small grains. In some areas, livestock producers were heavily supplementing cattle. Groundwater was beginning to be less available, and the levels of stock-water tanks and rivers were dropping. The cotton harvest was nearly finished, with average yields reported. The harvesting of Pawnee pecans was expected to start in a few days.

Coastal Bend: Hot, dry conditions persisted. Soil moisture was short in some areas. The cotton harvest neared completion, and some farmers were actively tilling already harvested fields. Planting of wheat, oats and ryegrass for winter pastures continued. Ranchers hoped to get fields planted before the forecasted wet weather. Some hay was being cut. The drier conditions allowed livestock producers to get cattle worked, and calves weaned and taken to market. Calf weights were heavier than normal due to good grass-growing conditions. Livestock market prices were dropping.

East: A few counties received a small amount of rain, from 0.5 inch to less than 2 inches, but most counties remained dry. Only five of the 22 counties in the region rated subsoil and topsoil moisture as adequate. The other counties rated moisture as very short to short. Pasture grass in many areas was so dry it crackled under foot. Many counties issued burn bans. Cooler morning temperatures have eased the heat stress on animals and plants, but small stock-pond levels continued to drop. Small vegetable crops were in need of rain as well. Hay production in most counties came to a halt, but producers in Smith County were still cutting and baling. Preparations for planting winter pasture was underway in several counties. Armyworms were still a problem in some counties. Livestock were in fair to good condition, with producers providing supplemental feed. The fall calving season was underway. Producers were selling market-ready spring calves and cull cows. No rain and declining cattle prices made tough choices for producers: Cut losses and sell calves or plant winter pastures so they could maintain ownership and hope for better prices. Feral hog control continued in Upshur County.

Far West: All counties received some much-welcomed rain — as much as 1 inch in some areas — along with slightly cooler temperatures. Pasture and rangeland conditions varied from very poor to fair. Topsoil and subsoil moisture was adequate to short. Cotton stripping began, and alfalfa growers were taking their sixth cutting. Cattle were in good condition, and ranchers were shipping spring-born calves. Pawnee pecans shucks were 50 percent opened; Western pecans had no shuck separation yet.

North: The region had another week without significant rains, and topsoil moisture varied from very short to adequate. Some counties were in desperate need of rain to raise topsoil moisture. Some wheat farmers who dry planted wheat early received a few showers, most just enough to get the crop up, but then needed more rain to keep it alive. Dry-planted oats either didn’t emerge or emerged only to die from lack of moisture. The grain sorghum harvest was completed, with the early planted yields decent. However, late-planted grain sorghum yields were poor. Some farmers even plowed under some grain sorghum fields or baled the crop for hay. Rangeland and pastures were very short and looked scraggly. Pond levels were dropping. A few producers started to feed hay. Armyworms were a big problem in some areas.

Panhandle: Temperatures were above-average for most of the week but dropped to near normal by the weekend. Some areas received rain, from a trace to as much as 3 inches in isolated areas. Soil moisture continued to be rated mostly short. In Collingsworth County, rain and cool temperatures stalled harvesting. Wheat planting was expected to ramp up due to the added moisture. Wheat planted in the last two weeks had emerged and looked good. The peanut harvest was delayed significantly due to the weather, as drying time was extended. Farmers were holding off digging anymore until drier weather is forecast. In Dallam and Hartley counties, the corn harvest started, but much of the crop needed to dry down more. The grain sorghum harvest was stopped due to wet weather. Wheat planting continued. Fall calving continued, and spring calves were being weaned. Deaf Smith County producers were harvesting corn, sorghum and sunflowers, and drilling wheat hard and fast. Corn yields were all over the board. Hail-damaged cornfields are averaging 120 to 180 bushels per acre, while undamaged fields were yielding 225 to 290 bushels per acre. Grain sorghum yields were above average, yielding 5,000 to 8,000 pounds per acre. The Hansford County corn harvest was proceeding well, with dryland fields making 150 to 180 bushels per acre, and irrigated fields making 240 to 288 bushels per acre. Ochiltree County producers were harvesting corn, soybeans and grain sorghum. Preliminary yield results were excellent. Sherman County received 3 inches of rain that set back the corn harvest temporarily. Most dryland wheat was planted. Irrigated wheat will follow corn so it will be planted towards or at the end of harvest.

Rolling Plains: Cooler weather moved into the region. Some cotton farmers were harvesting while others were still defoliating. Moisture was needed across most of the region. Some wheat was planted, but many producers were still waiting on rain to raise soil moisture. Rain was also needed to maintain pastures and fill area ponds and reservoirs. Livestock were in good condition. Armyworms were reported in a few counties.

South: Except for some light scattered showers, most of the region remained dry. Days were hot, and nights cool. In the northern part of the region, cotton harvesting, peanut irrigation and field preparations for planting wheat and oats continued. McMullen County received isolated showers but without substantial rainfall soon, deteriorating rangeland and pasture conditions will be a concern for livestock producers during the winter. Cattle body condition scores declined a little, but most herds remained in fair condition. Soil moisture was very short to short in the northern counties. In the eastern part of the region, the progress of cotton harvesting varied considerably. In Jim Wells County, late-planted cotton was still not harvest ready. In Kleberg and Kenedy counties, all cotton harvesting was completed. Topsoil moisture was very short in Duval and Jim Wells counties, and short in Kleberg and Kenedy counties. In the western part of the region, daytime highs dropped from the 100s to the 90s, and nights were cool and pleasant. Most summer crops were harvested with some corn and sorghum forage remaining in fields. In Zavala County, growers were irrigating cabbage fields, and onions made good progress. The planting of fresh and processing spinach was ongoing. Cotton gins remained very active. Wheat planting was delayed due to persistently dry conditions. Soil moisture was short in Dimmit and Maverick counties, and very short in Zavala County. In the southern part of the region, field preparations continued for spring and fall vegetable planting, and row-crop field preparations were underway in most areas of the county. Hay baling resumed in Starr County. Soil moisture was surplus to adequate in most of the southern counties.

South Plains: Many areas received some moisture along with cooler temperatures, which halted grain harvesting for a few days. Floyd County cotton was drying down, and harvesting was expected to begin in the next week or so. In Cochran County, subsoil and topsoil moisture remained short to adequate. Producers were harvesting peanuts, peas, sorghum and corn. The cotton harvest began on a few fields, but most fields were still being sprayed with harvest aids. Hockley County cotton producers were preparing to harvest cotton and expected to begin soon. Corn producers were busy harvesting, with average to above-average yields. In Lubbock County, the cotton harvest began but was stalled out by light rains. Garza County cotton was progressing well thanks to the warmer weather of the past few weeks. Cotton bolls were about 50 to 60 percent open in most fields. More rain was needed to promote cool-season grass growth. Cattle were in mostly good to excellent condition. Mitchell County producers began cotton harvesting, but without any measurable rainfall since July some fields did not look very good. With the rains of April, May and June delaying plantings, cotton was in a wide range of development, which should spell an interesting harvest season.

Southeast: Soil moisture throughout the region varied widely but was mostly short to very short, with short being the most common. San Jacinto County was the exception with 100 percent adequate levels. Rangeland and pastures were mostly in fair to poor condition, with fair ratings being the most common. Most of the region received scattered showers if any rain at all. Brazoria County was the exception, having received heavy rains with quite a bit of runoff. Planting of winter annuals was about to begin, though dry conditions were holding many farmers back. Pond and creek levels continued to drop. In Chambers County, there was still some organic rice to be harvested. The ratoon, or second crop, rice was about three weeks from maturity.

Southwest: The region was extremely dry for October. A few areas received spotty showers, but most remained rainless. The wildfire hazard was extremely high. Some landowners began planting oats; others were waiting for better soil moisture. Brush and trees were stressed and dropping leaves or turning brown. Cotton was being harvested. Rangelands continue decline. Livestock remained in fair condition.

West Central: Temperatures cooled somewhat, with daytime highs in the upper 80s and nights in the low 60s. Dry conditions persisted. All areas needed rain. Cotton was opening bolls, and many growers were spraying fields with harvest aids. Farmers continued to prepare fields for fall planting in hope of rain. A few started dry sowing wheat and oats for early grazing. Rangeland and pastures continued to decline due to lack of moisture. Rain was needed to start winter forbs and grasses growing for grazing. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Ranchers were supplying supplemental feed for most livestock. Many had been feeding protein for a while and more recently began feeding hay as well. Stock-water tank levels continued to drop. The pecan crop was expected to be light this year.


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