Texas crop, weather for Dec. 17, 2013

Despite ‘rough’ August, peanut yields about average or a little above

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After pollination, peanut flowers form a peg that rapidly grows downward and buries itself in the soil. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Dr. Jason Woodward)

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

COLLEGE STATION – With about 120,000 to 125,000 acres harvested, and about average yields, this year’s peanut crop is certainly much better than it has been the past few growing seasons, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

“Starting off, it was geared to be an above-average year, but I feel a rough August cost us a little bit of yield,” said Dr. Jason Woodward, AgriLife Extension plant pathologist and statewide peanut specialist, Lubbock.

Peanuts require a lot of water, as much as 2 feet per acre, much of which usually comes from irrigation, he said. But given pumping costs and water table levels and the need for higher quality, growers also rely on rainfall to supplement irrigation, and August was drier and hotter than normal.

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

Still, Woodward expects yields to be in the range of 3,800 to 4,200 pounds per acre.

“Still a little above-average year, and much better off than we’ve been the last two years,” he said.

Peanut production in Texas peaked in the 1990s, with as much as 300,000 acres grown annually, he said. For the last 10 years, competition for other crops, such as cotton, and the water needs of peanuts, have brought the average yearly production down to about 125,000 acres.

Increasing feral hog damage has also been a discouragement for peanut growers, he said. A troop of feral hogs, which is called a sounder, can root up several acres overnight. They may attack the crop at all stages of production, from planting to pegging to digging.

“Feral hogs like peanuts for the same reason people do,” Woodward said. “They’re high in protein and essential oils.”

Most Texas peanuts are grown in the High Plains and Rolling Plains; however, Frio and Atascosa counties account for 15 to 20 percent of acres, he said. Harvesting times for peanuts in Texas are opposite of other crops. Harvesting begins first in the High Plains, followed shortly thereafter in the Rolling Plains.

“Central Texas is later, and harvesting typically concludes in South Texas, as they can plant later,” he said. “Overall, I would say peanut harvest is nearly complete.”

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

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

Central: Overall, rangeland, pastures and crops were in fair condition. Livestock were in good condition. Stock-water tank and river levels remained high. Forages and grazing for livestock were plentiful, as pastures and small grains responded to sunshine and slightly warmer temperatures. Livestock producers began feeding hay. Livestock came through the cold weather in good condition.

Coastal Bend: Windy conditions dried out soils. Winter wheat and oats were affected by the unseasonably cold weather. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued. Rangeland and pastures were in poor to fair condition.

East: Cold and wet conditions continued. Several counties received freezing rain and ice with the cold front that pushed through earlier in the week. Soil-moisture levels were higher than they have been in several years, with surplus moisture accumulating in low-lying areas. Lake O’ the Pines water levels were up 2 feet since October. Wheat planting was finished, but fields needed some drying weather in some areas. Winter pastures looked good. Cattle remained in good condition. Producers were feeding hay and supplements. The fall calving season was well underway. Feral hog activity increased.

Far West: The area had temperatures from the low 30s and high 50s all week. Grain sorghum producers were harvesting, with most hoping to finish before the end of the year. Winter wheat still looked great; most fields were not adversely affected by last week’s freezing weather. The pecan harvest was poised to begin. Livestock producers continued to provided hay and supplemental due to winter conditions and diminishing pasture quality.

North: Soil-moisture levels continued to be adequate in most of the region, with surpluses reported in a few counties such as Collin and Tarrant. Last week’s weather brought about 0.5 inch of ice and 2 to 3 inches of sleet to most of the area. Trees suffered the most damage. Most producers said they weathered the storm well, but had to feed more hay and supplements while the ice was on the ground and cattle were stressed by the low temperatures. Breaking ice on ponds was a daily chore to ensure livestock had access to the water. Even though the ice storm had its drawbacks, it provided some soil moisture as it thawed. There was minimal damage to small grains crops. Winter wheat was in fair condition across the counties. Titus County reported continuing problems with feral hogs.

Panhandle: Temperatures were below average early in the week but reached normal ranges by the weekend. A few isolated areas received some moisture, from a trace to 0.5 inch. Soil-moisture levels varied from very short to adequate, with most counties reporting short. The cotton harvest continued, albeit slowly, with producers trying to finish up the last of the cotton harvest before the next winter storm. Producers were wrapping up planting of winter wheat. The earlier plantings looked good. Rangeland and pastures continued to be mostly in very poor to poor condition. The cold weather was hard on livestock, and producers continued supplemental feeding.

Rolling Plains: The region had freezing temperatures along with large amounts of sleet, snow and ice accumulations. Producers were kept busy dealing with the weather’s effects on livestock. They were feeding extra hay, busting ice or hauling water. The recent moisture slowed the cotton harvest, but residents and producers were thankful for the moisture. In some areas, soil-moisture levels were improved, as was the condition of pastures and wheat. Once the snow melted off, farmers were able to get back into fields and begin harvesting again. In some areas, the cotton yields were higher than producers earlier expected. Wheat was coming along well. Some wheat fields just didn’t have the moisture needed during planting time, but the majority of the crop was in good condition. Some producers had already turned cattle in to graze wheat, while some were waiting a little while longer. Stock-water tanks and lakes still needed runoff water.

South: Cold temperatures and wet conditions continued. Counties in the northern part of the region reported adequate soil-moisture levels. Atascosa and Frio counties reported 100 percent adequate soil moisture, and McMullen reported 60 percent adequate soil moisture. Damp conditions slowed the last of Atascosa County’s peanut harvesting. In Frio County, most peanut harvesting was completed, and wheat and oats were in good condition under irrigation. Rangeland and pasture conditions remained mostly fair but forage quality decreased due to recent freezes and grass dormancy. McMullen County ranchers began supplemental feeding to help cattle herds cope with cold stress. Atascosa County cattle producers put bulls in with cows for the fall calving season. A cold front moved through the eastern parts of the region early in the week, with some areas getting a little moisture. The cold temperatures decreased forage quality and production there as well. Kleberg/Kenedy County had a light freeze that lasted about three hours. Despite the cold temperatures in that part of the region, producers continued fertilizing fields for next season’s crops. In the western part of the region, conditions were also colder with trace amounts of moisture helping stimulate winter weed growth. Winter conditions in that area were judged to be more favourable to agriculture than in past years. In Zavala County, steady heavy drizzle benefited dryland wheat and oats. Cabbage harvesting was very active, and onions progressed well with additional water applications applied late in the week. Livestock grazing was good on native rangeland and pastures, which were in fair to good condition. In the southern counties, citrus, vegetable and sugarcane harvesting continued. In Starr County, fall vegetable crops progressed well thanks to rain early in the week.

South Plains: Most counties reported harvesting of all crops was winding down with very little left in the fields. However, the arctic cold front kept low temperatures in the teens and wind chills in the single digits, hampering the final wind up. Some areas had light precipitation and cooler temperatures, a reminder the region was still on the winter weather rollercoaster. Gins were running day shifts only. Pastures and rangeland in the counties that received heavy snowfall a couple of weeks ago were improving, but additional precipitation was needed in most of the region. Livestock were mostly in fair to good condition, with producers providing supplemental feed during the cold, wet spells.

Southeast: Most counties reporting had cooler weather and a heavy frost, which slowed warm-season forage growth. Soil-moisture levels throughout the region varied widely, with most in the adequate range, but some counties reported from 30 to as much as 90 percent surplus. Rangeland and pasture conditions varied widely too, even within counties, from poor to excellent, with fair to good ratings being the most common.

Southwest: Conditions remained about the same as last week, with some ice, rain, fog and light drizzle. Rangeland and pastures took a hit from the continued freezes, but overall remained in good condition. Wheat plantings were completed. Livestock were in good condition, and small grains were in fair to good condition. Soil-moisture levels remained fair. Livestock producers continued to provide supplemental feeding. Deer activity was high.

West Central: Days were cool, and nights cold, with icy conditions. The ice and rain did help to replenish soil moisture. In most areas, soil-moisture levels ranged from short to adequate. Some producers were waiting for the fields to dry out to complete planting and harvesting. There was also a wait-and-see approach for whether the ice storm damaged the remaining unharvested cotton. Warmer conditions in the next few days should allow cotton harvest and other field operations to continue. Early planted wheat looked good, and was being grazed. Livestock were in fair to good condition. The unusually cold temperatures were hard on livestock as well as producers. There were some reports of livestock loss due to weather, but mostly the losses were of old, young or weak livestock. Producers continued supplemental feeding of hay and protein due to the weather conditions. The pecan harvest continued with low yields reported.


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