Too much of a good thing further delays plantings
Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLEGE STATION – All parts of the state received more precipitation in the last week, further delaying planting of spring crops in many areas, according to reports from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service personnel.
On March 24, the National Weather Service record of the last seven days showed 2 to 3 inches of rain was common in parts of East Texas, South Texas and the Coastal Bend area. Some isolated areas received 5 to 6 inches or more. All of Central Texas, North Texas and the Rolling Plains received at least 1 inch, with large swathes in all regions getting 2 inches or more.
The Panhandle remained relatively dry last week, receiving a trace to 1 inch of rain.
In the last 30 days, according to the Weather Service, East Texas, from the Red River to the Coastal Bend, has received from 10 to 15 inches of rain. From Interstate Highway 35 to Far West Texas, total precipitation has been from 4 to 8 inches.
From reports by AgriLife Extension agents across the state, the total amount of rain is not so much the problem as lack of warmer, sunny weather to dry out fields for planting and to encourage growth of winter forages.
For the first time in 20 years, Jim Wells County, in South Texas, had a surplus of field moisture, with standing water reported in most parts of the county, according to Rogelio Mercado, AgriLife Extension agent there.
Conditions are particularly soggy in East Texas.
“Trinity County had non-stop rain this week,” reported Armon Hewitt, local AgriLife Extension agent. “We received 6 to 8 inches, and with the 8 inches from the previous week it is really wet. Most all land that is not on raised elevation is standing in water. If a vehicle leaves the road in most places, they are getting stuck. Even tractors are having a hard time because of the saturated ground.”
Beef cattle were also getting stuck in the mud and had to be towed out, according to Chad Gulley, AgriLife Extension agent for Smith County.
On the positive side, AgriLife Extension agents reported that pasture, rangeland and wheat were doing very well with the wet weather. More sunny days would go further there to promote growth than more rain, they said.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Central: All counties reported soil moisture as good, and rangeland and pastures conditions as being in good condition as well. Overall, crops and livestock were in fair condition. Fields were still too wet to work due to so much rain in the last two weeks. Producers were anxious to get corn planted. Cool-season weeds were flowering and finishing their life cycle. Small grains looked extremely good. Stock-water tanks were full, and in some counties, rivers were overflowing their banks. Pastures greened up, and livestock had good grazing. Ornamental trees and shrubs were blooming.
Coastal Bend: Soil moisture was excellent, with more rain forecast. Extremely wet conditions were considered a blessing, even though they pushed back corn and grain sorghum planting another two to four weeks. Corn growers were considering other alternate crops. Grain sorghum, cotton and soybeans all have either price or production issues, which increased risk. Corn planted before the rains was in decent condition — where not in standing water. Rice fieldwork was also delayed by wet weather. Pasture and rangeland conditions improved with the recent rains and warmer temperatures. Most livestock stock tanks were full. Creeks and rivers were swollen.
East: The region had significant rains. Many producers were reporting that pastures were more saturated than they have ever seen. They were finding it difficult to access pastures and hay yards. Most counties reported both subsoil and topsoil moisture as surplus. Smith County reported cattle bogged down in the mud. Cattle were slowing down on hay consumption with the warmer weather bringing grass growth, and were in fair to good condition. Spring calving continued. Calf prices continued to fluctuate; prices for slaughter cattle remained strong. Peach trees were blooming. Harrison County reported beaver problems with the higher water levels. Feral hogs continued to be active.
Far West: The region had spring-like weather. Some areas received 0.5 inch to 1.5 inches of rain. Subsoil moisture was mostly adequate, while topsoil moisture was adequate to short. Pastures and rangeland were mostly good to poor as grasses were beginning to green up. Producers were working ground for spring crop planting. Winter wheat was in fair condition, with grain mites reported in some locations. Grain sorghum was 50 percent planted, and upland cotton 100 percent planted. Oats were in fair to good condition. Alfalfa came out of dormancy and was growing.
North: Topsoil moisture was mostly adequate to surplus. One to 3 inches of rain was reported throughout the region. Temperatures were moderate with mostly cloudy days all week. Soils were saturated, and conditions muddy in pastures and wheat fields. No corn had been planted yet. Winter wheat looked better, but plantings in heavier soils were showing some stress. Ponds were full to overflowing in some areas. Creeks were full. Livestock were in good condition and grazing on ryegrass and clover. Wild hogs continued to damage fields.
Panhandle: Temperatures were near average most of the week, with from a trace to 1 inch of rain falling in some counties. Soil moisture was mostly short to adequate. Farmers were applying preplant herbicides, preparing fields for planting and finishing fertilizer applications. Winter wheat growth accelerated with warmer temperatures and rain. Crop consultants and producers were inspecting wheat for aphids and mites. Some wheat fields were treated for both pests. Producers were gearing up to plant corn soon. They may wait until the last minute to decide whether to plant cotton or grain sorghum. Cattle on wheat pasture were making great gains. Weeds were emerging, and producers were treating for them. Most rangeland and pastures were in good to fair condition. Cattle were in good condition, with producers continuing to provide supplemental feed.
Rolling Plains: Spring weather finally arrived, with warmer daytime temperatures and cool evenings. Some counties received from 2 to 3 inches of rain, which fell fast and hard, and created runoff. However, most counties reported that more runoff was needed to fill stock tanks and lakes. Some livestock were in fair condition, with most improving, thanks to winter annual forages becoming available. Many herds have finished calving. Warm-season grasses were just starting to show a small amount of green-up. Some producers were planting new grass, though many plantings were delayed due to rain. Farmers were slowly beginning to prepare fields for this year’s cotton crop, but with low cotton prices and the new farm bill provisions, there may be considerably less cotton planted this year. Peach trees were in full bloom.
South: Rainfall continued throughout much of the region, further delaying harvesting and planting of crops. In the northern part of the region, wheat and potato crops were in good condition. Green beans were being planted and early planted corn began to emerge. Corn planting stalled out due to rain and wet field conditions. Winter wheat had grown above and beyond the usual for this time of the year. Winter pastures with oats were in excellent condition. As rangeland and pastures improved, livestock producers were able to reduce supplemental feeding of cattle. Subsoil moisture was adequate, with topsoil moisture as much as 100 percent surplus in some areas. In the eastern part of the region, planting of corn, rice and grain sorghum was still at a standstill because of wet conditions. Sorghum and cotton planting was as much as three weeks behind schedule. However, livestock producers no longer had to provide supplemental feed to cattle because of the good range and pasture forage conditions. Soil moisture conditions were 40 to 80 percent surplus in Duval County, 50 to 70 percent adequate in Jim Hogg County and 100 percent surplus in Jim Wells, Kleberg and Kenedy counties. In the western part of the region, consistent rainfall caused rangeland and pastures to continue to green up. Stock tanks were filling. Winter oats remained in fair condition. In Zavala County, producers were trying to get cotton, sorghum and corn seed in the ground by late week before a forecasted heavy rain. Spinach producers were harvesting fresh market and processing spinach. Cabbage harvesting was idle. Soil moisture was mostly adequate in Dimmit, Maverick and Webb counties, while it was 100 percent short in Zapata and Zavala counties. In the southern part of the region, planting of cotton and sorghum remained at a halt due to extremely wet soil in fields. Cold and wet field conditions further delayed sugarcane harvesting. Vegetable and citrus harvesting continued under muddy field conditions. Onion harvesting preparations continued in Starr County. Soil moisture was 100 percent surplus in Cameron County, 50 to 100 percent adequate in Hidalgo County and 95 percent surplus in Willacy County. Starr County soil moisture remained short.
South Plains: Most of the region had warmer temperatures during the last week, with highs in the 60s and 70s, and lows in 30s and 40s. Warm temperatures helped wheat. Tillers were standing erect and near the jointing stage. Sub-economic levels of Russian wheat aphids were present in some fields. Fieldwork was active as producers were preparing fields for the growing season. Although precipitation was forecast, only two counties reported any significant rainfall. Garza County received from 0.2 to 0.5 inch, and Scurry County reported accumulations of 0.5 to 0.75 inch over the county. Rangeland improved where there was substantial rain, and cattle were seeking cool-season grasses in bottom areas or underneath mesquite trees. Livestock were mostly in good condition.
Southeast: Soil moisture throughout the region varied widely, but was mostly in the adequate to surplus range. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely too, from excellent to good, with fair ratings being the most common. Clovers and grasses were beginning to produce volume. Wet conditions continued to prevent farmers from entering fields to plant corn and grain sorghum. Soils were saturated. Some producers who were planning to plant corn may switch acreage to sorghum or cotton. The ground was so wet that livestock were having trouble getting around in some areas. More rain was forecast for Chambers County, so there will definitely be no early rice planted. With the window for planting a ratoon crop closing, coupled with low rice prices, the acres planted may be considerably lessened. Livestock were in fair condition as pastures improved with wet, warmer weather promoting grass growth.
Southwest: Several inches of rain further delayed corn and grain sorghum planting. Pastures improved with recent rains and warmer temperatures. The wet weather was great for pre-established crops and grass production. This rain season is giving farmers and ranchers the soil moisture necessary to restore the condition of pastures and farmland. However, it was challenging to use heavy machinery in the fields. Wheat and oats were in good condition. Livestock continued to be in good shape.
West Central: The region had warmer weather, with rain showers in most areas. Days were mild with cool nights. Soil moisture continued to improve due to recent rains, and winter wheat followed suit. Producers were spraying for aphids in the wheat. There were also some reports of rust and insects in wheat fields. Small-grain fields continued to improve and were in very good shape. Producers were waiting on drier weather to continue spraying for weeds. Rangeland and pastures continued to improve. Warmer weather promoted spring green-up and gave spring forages a boost. Winter weeds and cool-season grasses provided adequate grazing. Livestock were in fair to good condition and continued to improve. Supplemental feeding of livestock was ongoing, but was beginning to slow down. Predators continued to plague ranchers. Fruit trees began to bloom.