Texas crop, weather for May 14, 2013

Cotton seedling

This cotton seedling is representative of much of the cotton in the Brazos Bottom and Blacklands, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service cotton expert. The on-and-off cool spring has the crop off to a slow start and thrips were causing some major damage. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Dr. Gaylon Morgan)

Not much freeze-damaged wheat likely to be replanted to cotton

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

COLLEGE STATION – Texas cotton planting intentions may be affected by the replanting to cotton of freeze-damaged wheat acreage, but a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert doesn’t expect the change to be significant on dryland wheat acres.

“Most of the shift will occur on irrigated wheat fields lost to late spring freezes in the Rolling Plains and Northern High Plains,” said Dr. Gaylon Morgan, AgriLife Extension state cotton specialist, College Station. “The optimum planting window for cotton has passed in South Texas and the Blacklands.”

However, cotton planting has just begun in the Rolling Plains, South Plains and Panhandle regions, but there are other factors — not the least of which are precipitation expectations — that will limit producers replanting to cotton, he said.

Two-minute MP3 Audio of Texas crop, weather for May 14, 2013Two-minute MP3 Audio of Texas crop, weather for May 14, 2013

“Many of the production regions where wheat had severe freeze damage are not major cotton acre regions, so we won’t see a big shift there,” Morgan said. “And the other factor is that if things remain dry, there’s not a lot incentive for guys to go in with another crop. Finally, it will depend on the multi-dimensional aspects of crop insurance for both the wheat and cotton, which may be different for irrigated and dryland fields.”

But the major factor continues to be the weather, he said. With forecasts not predicting a turnaround of drought conditions anytime soon, things are looking “pretty bleak for the Southern High Plains where most of our cotton is grown.”

In the Rolling Plains, a rough estimate is about 50 percent of wheat was lost due to the late freezes, Morgan said. But with the region still suffering severe to exceptional drought, replanting wheat acres to cotton is really only a viable option for those with sufficient irrigation capacity to make a cotton crop.

In March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Prospective Plantings report predicted Texas intended cotton plantings to be 5.5 million acres, which represented a 16 percent drop from actual cotton plantings of 6.55 million acres in 2012. The National Cotton Council predicted a more severe drop of 25 percent to 4.91 million acres.

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:

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

The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Districts

Central: From 0.5 inch to 2.7 inches of rain was reported in some areas. Pastures were being overgrazed due to the drought. Producers were taking their first hay cutting of winter pastures early to allow summer grasses to come on. Corn had been growing extremely fast, but cooler weather then slowed development. The harvesting of wheat and oats was expected to begin soon. Corn and grain sorghum continued to improve. Grasshoppers were expected to be bad again this year.

Coastal Bend: Recent rains improved crop prospects. There was some very localized hail damage. Cooler temperatures delayed cotton development. Some producers took their first hay cutting of winter grasses. Weekend rains were expected to improve soil-moisture levels.

East: Most counties received rain, with some getting as much as 5 inches. Runoff helped replenish ponds. High winds dried out soils in some areas. Producers continued controlling weeds and applying fertilizer. Many producers were able to apply fertilizers prior to recent rains. The first hay cutting was made in some areas with excellent yields. Below-average temperatures caused various degrees of plant damage. Producers were working cattle. The horn fly population increased. Feral hog damage to vegetable fields increased.

Far West: Parts of the area received from 0.5 to 1 inch of rain, which was not enough to make much difference to the overall agricultural outlook at this point. Days were warm and nights cool. Perennial grasses began to show some green at the base in some areas, but most looked completely dormant. Farmers continued to get fields ready to plant cotton.

North: Soil-moisture levels were short to adequate. Winter wheat was in really good condition. Oats looked fair to good. Ryegrass was maturing, forming seed heads, while summer grasses were greening up. All corn was planted, emerged and in fair to good condition. Early planted corn had a slight set back due to a late freeze, but recovered and looked good. Sorghum was in fair to good condition, and about 50 percent of cotton was planted. Rice was in very poor condition. Livestock across the region were in good condition, with calves growing at a good rate as they took full advantage of spring grazing. First hay cuttings were ongoing. Winter pastures continued to flourish with adequate moisture and cool evenings. Some ponds were very low, however, and more rain was needed. The fly population was on the rise.

Panhandle: Most of the region received some moisture late in the week. Amounts ranged from a trace to 3 inches in some isolated areas. Soil-moisture levels were mostly very short to short. Producers continued to assess freeze damage done to wheat in the last six weeks. Insurance adjusters were trying to get an accurate estimate on the total damage. Most remaining wheat was in very poor condition. Some producers were planting corn and/or cotton, but many were waiting on warmer growing conditions. Early corn plantings began to emerge with some damage from the May 2-3 freezes apparent. Rangeland and pastures were mostly in very poor to poor condition.

Rolling Plains: Spring finally arrived with temperatures reaching into the high 80s to low 90s. All crops were severely stressed due to lack of moisture, though pastures and rangeland were in fair condition. However, without any adequate moisture producers feared grazing would run out very quickly. A lot of wheat was being baled for hay. One AgriLife Extension county agent reported producers selling truckloads of hay at $180 per ton. Cotton farmers continued to prepare fields for planting, but with dry conditions they were not optimistic about this year’s crop. Soil moisture levels remained very low, even after the light rains of the past few weeks.

South: The northern part of the region received rain, but soil-moisture levels remained mostly short to very short. The exceptions were Atascosa and Frio counties with 50 percent adequate levels, where rangeland and pastures were slightly improved. Potato harvesting began in Frio County, as well as sweet corn, oats and wheat harvesting preparations. Supplemental feeding continued at a steady pace in that area. The western part of the region remained dry with soil-moisture levels short to very short. In the more southern counties, soil-moisture levels continued to be short to very short, except for Willacy County where they were 75 percent adequate thanks to recent rains. Drought continued to deteriorate range and pastures. In Webb County, as in other counties, livestock producers continued culling herds. Most stock tanks there were completely or almost dry, and wildlife were migrating to other areas in search of water. In Zavala County, producers continued irrigating corn, cabbage, cotton, melon, sorghum and some wheat. Also there, the onion harvesting was very active. In Jim Wells County, crop-insurance adjusters estimated that more than 90 percent of the grain sorghum, corn and cotton were a total loss. Only a few early-planted cornfields had a chance of making a crop, depending on additional moisture. However, soil-moisture levels in Jim Wells County currently were 100 percent adequate because of good rains over the past couple of weeks. In Cameron County, early-planted cotton crops were blooming, and some insect activity was reported. Grain sorghum was in good condition there, and corn was silking. In Starr County, irrigated row crops improved and vegetable harvesting was ongoing.

South Plains: The region received widespread rain, with most counties reporting from a trace to 0.5 inch. Yoakum and Scurry counties got from 0.88 inch and 1.5 inches, respectively. Crosby County got hail, some of which was golf-ball sized, along with the rain. Though the rains were welcomed, they were not nearly enough to fill the soil profile. Soil temperatures at 2 inches deep finally reached 60 degrees, which will encourage planting. Some early planted cotton had to be replanted because of the crazy temperature fluctuations. Winter wheat has been or will soon be cut for hay rather than harvested due to freeze and drought damage. Some Cochran County producers were planting peanuts. Pasture and rangeland were mostly in fair condition but needed rain. Cattle were mostly in good condition.

Southeast: Brazos County received about 3 inches of rain. Freeze damage to crops was becoming evident. In Grimes County, cool weather slowed Bermuda grass growth. Walker County remained dry. Waller County livestock were in fair condition with limited grazing due to the drought. Farmers there took their first hay cutting, a rain last week helped corn. In Burleson County, severe thunderstorms brought 1.75 to 3 inches of rain and wind gusts in excess of 30 mph that caused some slight damage. Chambers County rice planting was being finished up earlier than normal. Though cool weather slowed the development of early planted rice, a later warming trend gave noticeable growth. Galveston County pastures were greening up nicely after recent rains. Harris and Orange counties received heavy rains.

Southwest: Some counties received from 0.40 to more than 1 inch of rain along with hail and strong winds. Hail damaged trees, roofs and a few crops, but the damage was not bad enough for farmers to lose plantings. Overall, pastures and rangeland remained in good condition due to recent rains and temperate weather. Pastures were productive. Sunflowers were blooming. Sorghum neared the heading stage, and corn was close to tasseling. The wheat harvest was expected to begin soon. Even though pastures were improved, producers still had to supply hay and supplemental feed to livestock.

West Central: The trend of warm days with cool nights continued. Some areas reported scattered, isolated showers, but most of the region remained very dry. Many cotton producers were delaying planting until late May to early June, hoping for more moisture before planting. Those who have irrigated fields were expected to start planting within a week. Sorghum was off to a good start, with some fields showing a little frost damage. Wheat was maturing rapidly, though harvestable acreages were greatly reduced by freeze damage. Many fields were being grazed out. Some producers were trying to bale small grain fields for hay. Summer forage planting was under way. Rangeland and pasture remained in very poor condition, but recent rains in some areas were expected to improve them. Livestock remained in poor to fair condition. Livestock producers continued to reduce herds due to poor rangeland and pasture conditions. Pecan growers were spraying orchards.


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