Texas crop, weather: Uncertainty the name of the game with wheat

Uncertainty the name of the game with wheat

Cattle grazing winter wheat

Some early-planted wheat was already up and grazeable by late October. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo.)

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

COLLEGE STATION — Texas wheat growers may have some hard decisions to make this winter because of market and weather uncertainties, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service marketing expert.

Much of the uncertainty in prices stems from the drought, Waller said. Most of the state’s wheat got a boost from late-summer, early fall rains, with much of the crop emerged, and some already grazeable, said Dr. Mark Waller, AgriLife Extension economist in grain marketing and policy, College Station.

“From a traditional standpoint, grain prices are high,” he said. “We’ve been trading in a kind of sideways pattern since June, if you look at future market prices. A lot of that is because grain supplies are tight, and not only wheat supplies. If you look at what happened with the drought in the Midwest, we’re likely to see pressure for more wheat to go toward feeding because there is a shorter corn crop.”

Two-minute MP3 Audio of Texas crop, weather for Nov. 6, 2012Two-minute MP3 Audio of Texas crop, weather for Nov. 6, 2012

“Some of those look like relatively profitable decisions now,” Waller said. “With prices at these levels they at least have something to consider — it’s better than having low prices, but there’s a lot of uncertainty right now.”

And there’s continued uncertainty when it comes to winter weather. As recently as late August, forecasters, including those at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center, were expecting a stronger-than-average El Niño to develop in the tropical Pacific. A strong El Niño would have increased the chances for a wetter than average winter, which is exactly what the crop needs, Waller said.

Most experts agree, he said, that because soil-moisture levels were severely depleted during the 2011 drought, this year’s crop will need greater-that-average rainfall to show an average performance.

“The markets by this time would usually start to decline, but we’re still looking at enough uncertainty, especially with changes in the weather forecast, that we may not see as much rainfall as earlier expected this year,” 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 for the week of Oct. 30- Nov. 5:

Map of the 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Districts

The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Districts

Central: Early emerged winter grasses and forages needed rain. Parts of the region received a killing frost. Winter wheat looked good. Wheat and oat pastures emerged but were not grazeable because of poorly developed root systems. Supplemental feeding livestock was expected to begin within a month. Some producers may be forced to feed hay earlier than planned. Armyworms were still being reported. The pecan harvest was going strong, with nut quality mixed.

Coastal Bend: Warm, humid weather returned, with scattered showers providing some moisture. A few areas experienced severe thunderstorms, small hail and high winds. However, most areas remained dry. Fall fieldwork continued, though most fields were worked, with producers waiting for better conditions for planting. Wheat planting continued. Warmer-than-normal temperatures resulted in more forage production, though most winter forages were moisture stressed. Producers were trying to take a last hay cutting before the first frost. Livestock producers were supplementing cattle with protein and hay. Pecans were being harvested in most areas. Many homeowners reported bad pecans, which was most likely associated with poor nutrition as a result of last year’s drought, as well as stinkbug damage. Commercial pecan growers had some problems with pecans sprouting, but otherwise the crop looked very good.

East: Trinity County reported 1 inch of rain, but otherwise there was little to no rain across the region. Despite warmer than normal temperatures, many counties already had the first frost. Hay harvesting was winding down as many producers worked on their last cuttings. Winter pastures progress slowed because of lack of moisture. The cotton harvest was completed. Horn flies continued to be a problem. Feral hogs were on the move.

Far West: Highs were in the mid- to upper 70s, with lows in the mid- to upper 40s. Pecos County had a mild frost, which initiated defoliation of trees. Val Verde County received 0.5 inch of rain. In most counties, soil moisture levels were dropping, and cooler night temperatures caused perennial grasses to enter dormancy. Pecans were being harvested. In Pecos County, the cotton harvest was in full swing, and the chili harvest neared completion. Pumpkins were also being harvested, and the last alfalfa cuttings were being baled. Some stocker cattle were moved into Ward County to graze. Livestock producers in most counties continued to supplement livestock and wildlife.

North: Soil moisture was short in most counties. Winter wheat for grazing was emerging but needed more rain. Hay supplies were good going into winter, but because of the dry conditions, some cattle producers were already having to feed hay along with supplementation. There were isolated reports of armyworms.

Panhandle: For most of the week, the region had above-average temperatures, with colder weather by the weekend. Soil-moisture levels mostly were short. The warm weather and light winds were perfect for harvesting crops. Early planted wheat that was pre-watered looked good, and some was already being grazed. Without rain, much wheat continued to need irrigation. Dryland wheat needed moisture badly. Rangeland and pastures were mostly in very poor to poor condition. Cattle remained in good condition with supplemental feeding.

Rolling Plains: Conditions are getting desperately dry in some areas. Wheat and canola started to curl due to weather. Other producers needed a rain just to get wheat to emerge. The dry conditions were ideal for the cotton harvest, although a lot of cotton was shredded due to drought and yields on the remaining were below normal in some cases. Ranchers were working cattle, with a few ranchers weaning and shipping calves instead of over-wintering them. Pastures were in good to poor condition. Many cattle producers were providing supplemental feed. Stock tanks needed runoff water. The pecan harvest was ongoing with excellent yields in most instances.

South: Soil-moisture conditions varied widely. Northern counties had 60 to 100 percent adequate soil-moisture levels. Eastern counties had 50 to 100 percent very short soil-moisture levels. Most of the western parts of the region had 50 to 100 percent short soil-moisture levels, except for Dimmit and Maverick counties which had 40 to 60 percent adequate soil moisture. Soil-moisture levels in the southern counties were 20 to 80 percent short. Rangeland and pastures were in fair to good condition in most of the region, though there were exceptions such as Jim Hogg County, where extreme drought conditions had not lifted. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued in most of the region, except in a few areas where better moisture conditions encouraged forage growth. Fall armyworm activity began to diminish with the cooler temperatures. Cattle body-condition scores remained fair to good. In Frio County, wheat and oat planting was completed, with most of the crop emerged. Also in that area, peanut harvesting and peanut hay baling continued. In Maverick County, producers were preparing fields for planting winter crops. Producers in that area were also busy harvesting coastal Bermuda grass hay and forage sorghum. Pecan growers there were in the midst of harvesting. In Starr County, the late-cantaloupe harvest continued.

South Plains: For most of the week, the region remained dry and mild, with another cold front moving in over the weekend. The pumpkin harvest was mostly completed, though freezes during the last few weeks damaged some of the remaining crop. The cotton harvest progressed rapidly with the dry, open weather. In Lynn County, cotton yields were from two to four bales per acre on irrigated land and a half to one bale per acre on dryland fields. The peanut harvest was mostly completed, and the grain sorghum harvest began. Dryland wheat was beginning to show signs of moisture stress. Pasture and rangeland also needed rain. Livestock producers were providing supplemental feed to some cattle due to poor pasture conditions.

Southeast: Montgomery County had light showers early in the week, but it did little to raise soil-moisture levels. Producers continued to plant winter annuals. San Jacinto, Orange and Waller counties also had continued dry conditions. In Burleson County, armyworms were active in oat and ryegrass pastures. Jefferson County reported temperatures in the low 30s and highs in the mid-80s. Forage development and root growth was limited by lack of moisture.

Southwest: Cooler temperatures continued, with some counties receiving 0.5 inch of rain. More moisture was needed. Winter wheat planting continued. Pastures looked good, and producers were cutting hay. Livestock were benefiting from the good conditions.

West Central: The region had mild weather, with warm days and cool nights. Rain was needed in all counties. Stock tanks were beginning to dry out. The cotton harvest was ongoing, with yields slightly below normal. Many dryland cotton acres were released by insurance companies to be destroyed. Irrigated cotton fields mostly had average yields. Wheat planting was in full swing. Already emerged wheat was doing very well. Producers were turning cattle onto some early planted wheat fields for grazing. Armyworms and spider mites were problems in some wheat fields, and producers continued to treat when needed. Producers were baling late-season hay. Rangeland and pastures continued to improve with fall growth from recent rains. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Livestock producers were considering restocking or saving more replacements to rebuild their herds. The pecan harvest was in full swing.


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