Texas crop, weather for Nov. 19, 2013

Preliminary South Plains cotton quality reports generally good

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Cotton harvesting in the South Plains is about 60 percent finished, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service cotton specialist. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Mark Kelley)

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

COLLEGE STATION – “Pleasantly surprised.”

That’s how Mark Kelley, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service cotton specialist, Lubbock, describes cotton producers’ reactions as yield and quality reports roll in.

Despite an “unusual” season with a late start, untimely dry weather and more than a few hail and wind damage events, many producers are seeing good yields and generally high quality, Kelley said.

Though some factors, such as bark content, have been a little high, and the total crop for the area is below the 10-year average, most producers are happy, he said.

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And the harvest, though still somewhat late, has been helped along by hard freezes and harvest-friendly weather.

“We’re getting a lot of cotton out of the fields these days,” he said. “There’s a lot of cotton still to go, but we’re getting it done pretty fast.”

Kelley estimated harvesting to be about 60 percent finished. Wet weather forecast for the upcoming weekend may slow things down, but he still predicted a majority of the crop to harvested by Thanksgiving.

There will be, however, some late-planted cotton that will stretch the final finish date into December, he predicted.

Quality is good, with color grades mostly 11s and 21s, he said.

Simplified, color grades are a measure of whether the cotton is white, spotted or light spotted or tinged with yellow. Both 11s and 21s signify white color. There are 25 official American upland cotton grades, and five below grades.

“Looks like 11s and 21s coming out of both Lamesa and Lubbock U.S. Department of Agriculture classing offices,” Kelley said. “Lubbock has a little better color with more 11s.”

Leaf grade, a measure of how much leaf material is in the harvested cotton, has been running mostly two and three.

“I anticipated we might have some leaf-grade issues in some locations, just with the lateness of the crop,” he said. “Though our harvest aides performed well, we just didn’t get the defoliation we would have liked.”

Micronaire has been mostly running in the premium range, 3.7 to 4.2. Staple was running around 36 at both locations, which is a good number, Kelley said.

There wasn’t a lot of dryland cotton left, which has brought down the total estimated yields for the region of about 2.4 million bales, Kelley said.

Of course, at better than 50 percent harvested, a lot depends upon how the rest of the crop goes as for the region’s crop total.

An “average” year is hard to classify, as in the past few years, totals have been 5 million or more bales, and some really poor years where the total has been below 2 million, 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:

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

The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Districts

Central: The region had its first hard freeze, and warm-season grasses went dormant. Small grains still looked great, but could use some rain. Some producers were turning stocker cattle into winter pastures. Stock-water tanks, creeks and rivers were full. A lot of hay was laid down just prior to the hard killing frost.

Coastal Bend: Earlier weather of mild days, cool nights and low humidity were replaced by the end of the week with warmer and humid weather. All row crops were harvested, and the last hay cuttings were taken prior to an anticipated frost in a week or two. Row-crop farmers were tending to fields as soils dried out. The ratoon rice harvest, which was delayed due to the late planting of the first crop in the spring, was still ongoing. Stock-water tanks were three-quarters full or full thanks to recent rains and runoff. Rangeland and pastures were in marginal condition but improving with the emergence of some winter grasses and clover. The warmer than average weather promoted insect activity, and wheat and oat fields were being treated. Cattle prices remained extremely high. The pecan crop was nearly non-existent, due to poor pollination and dry summer weather.

East: A cold front brought two nights of freezing temperatures, sending warm-season grasses into dormancy and ending hay production. Winter forages showed good growth. Producers were waiting for drier conditions before turning yearlings out into winter pastures. Most producers had a fair to good amount of winter forages going into the winter. Cattle were in good shape with some supplemental feeding being done. Fall calving began. Spring-born calves were being weaned and sold. Feral hog activity increased in pastures and hay meadows. White-tailed deer were on the move and in good shape.

Far West: The southern part of the region had low temperatures, but still above freezing. The eastern counties had a light freeze at the beginning of the week, with no precipitation. The cotton harvest was underway. Pecans were also being harvested. Winter wheat growers were planting. Hunting season began. Producers were feeding livestock and wildlife.

North: The region had its first hard freeze as overnight temperatures dropped into the high-20s. The cold weather caused summer grasses to enter dormancy. Fields were just beginning to dry down enough from previous rains for growers to plant wheat. Livestock appeared to be in good condition. Most livestock producers were feeding hay to cattle after the frost. Feral hog damage was reported in Camp, Morris and Titus counties.

Panhandle: Temperatures were mostly near average, and conditions were windy, with some moisture received late in the week. Soil-moisture levels were short to very short, with most reporting short. Some producers were still harvesting corn. Cotton was in poor to excellent condition, with most reporting fair to good. Winter wheat was in all growth stages, from being planted to having the third or fourth irrigation applied. Cattle were in good condition. A few producers were placing stocker cattle on winter wheat pastures. Cattle supplies were very tight and high priced, therefore stocker numbers were expected to be down. Livestock producers were increasing supplemental feeding of cattle as pastures were well past the first freeze.

Rolling Plains: A large part of the region had a killing frost. Conditions were favorable for cotton harvesting, and more strippers entered the fields. Within the next week, cotton harvest was expected to be in full swing. So far, current yields and grades were better than expected. Rangeland and pastures perked up from limited moisture received a couple of weeks ago, but more rain was needed if there was to be grazing through the winter. Wheat producers were struggling to get adequate stands established because of dry planting conditions. Most stands were skimpy, with no-till fields having the best stands. With very little wheat pasture available for fall grazing, livestock producers will have to start feeding hay and supplements earlier than they would like. Livestock were in good condition as some producers were already feeding supplements. High cattle prices deterred some ranchers from restocking or getting back into the business after downsizing or completely selling out during the past drought. Earthen stock tanks were extremely low or dry. Some people were hauling water for livestock, with no relief in sight. There was increased feral hog activity with the cooler weather, and many producers were hunting and trapping them.

South: A cold front dropped temperatures but did not bring rain. Nighttime temperatures throughout the northern, eastern and western parts of the region dropped to the mid- to upper-30s. Daytime highs were in the mid- to upper-60s. The cooler temperatures slowed the growth of rangeland and pasture grasses. Soil-moisture levels were mostly adequate throughout much of the region. The northern counties reported 25 to 80 percent adequate levels; the eastern counties, 70 to 75 percent adequate; western counties, 65 to 80 percent adequate; and Starr County, 50 percent adequate. A few counties in the western and southern parts of the region reported short to very short soil moisture. Rangeland and pastures were mostly in good condition throughout the region. With good grazing, supplemental feeding of livestock was light. Stock-tank water levels were good to fair. Cattle body condition scores remained good. In Atascosa and Frio counties, peanut harvesting was ongoing. Also in Frio County, wheat and oat growers finished planting, and producers were harvesting Bermuda grass hay. In Maverick County, most planted oats emerged. In Zavala County, growers were harvesting baby spinach in some early planted fields. Cabbage harvesting there was also active, and onions were in good shape under irrigation, and the pecan harvest was completed. In Cameron County, fall vegetables such as tomatoes, onions and peppers were maturing. Starr County vegetable crops were also progressing well.

South Plains: The harvesting of cotton and small grains was nearly complete. With mostly warm open weather, some counties predicted the cotton harvest to be finished by Thanksgiving. There was some heavy fog a couple of days that temporarily slowed harvesting. Winter wheat that had already emerged was looking good despite the lack of rain, but rain was needed to fill the soil profile. Rangeland and pastures were mostly in fair condition, with rain needed for cool-season grasses. Livestock were mostly in fair to good condition. Hay harvesting continued in some areas, with yields mostly lower than average.

Southeast: Wet conditions delayed the completion of wheat and oat planting. Mid-week freezing temperatures significantly slowed warm-season forage growth. Soil-moisture levels throughout the region varied widely, mostly in the adequate range, with some counties reporting from 20 to as much as 90 percent surplus. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely too, even within counties, from poor to excellent, with fair to good ratings being the most common. Some counties had enough rain to help fill ponds and give pastures some relief. Cotton stalk destruction was delayed by wet weather in some instances. Brazoria County reported livestock to be in good condition, with pastures still actively growing. In Chambers County, the ratoon rice crop was being harvested. Winter wheat planting was delay by rain.

Southwest: Some areas had their first freezing weather but warmed up by the end of the week. Early planted dryland wheat and oats was starting to show signs of stress. Pecan trees were beginning to drop nuts, and good yields were expected. The last hay cutting of the year was taken. Livestock were in fair condition.

West Central: Days were mild with cool to cold nights. The first hard freeze arrived, about a week earlier than normal. Cotton harvesting accelerated, with good to above average yields. Farmers continued planting winter wheat; some were taking a late cutting of hay. Early planted wheat was mostly in good condition, but showed some signs of drought stress. All small grains needed more moisture. Rangeland and pastures were in good condition going into the winter. All warm-season forages and grasses were dormant. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. The pecan harvest was ongoing, with some concern about the effect of the early freeze on the crop.


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