High plains cotton still late but catching up some with hot weather
Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLEGE STATION – Cotton in the Texas South Plains and Rolling Plains typically remained two to four weeks behind in development, but current weather patterns are helping, said cotton agronomists.
“You can almost hear the cotton growing out there, it’s looking so good,” said Mark Kelley, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomist, Lubbock.
Temperatures in the South Plains and Lubbock area have typically been reaching the high 90s, with nighttime lows in the 70s, which was perfect cotton growing weather, Kelley said. And the same wet conditions earlier in the year that delayed planting, along with some July rains, made for some favorable moisture conditions.
“We saw our first blooms towards the last of July, so we’re going into the first week of bloom for most of the crop,” Kelley said.
Despite the lateness of the crop, Kelley is very optimistic about the chances of South Plains growers making yields.
“Even with ideal weather, the crop isn’t going to catch up that much. But with proper management and timely rainfall, we can gain some ground.”
However, with another strong El Niño building, there is a chance the area could have wet weather late in the season, which could delay harvest and/or result in regrowth, he said.
Even with ideal weather, the earliest harvest will likely start is about the first of November, and the average first freeze date for the region is about Nov. 7, Kelley said. But a sound harvest aide program can take care of both issues, should either occur.
“You just have to stay on top of it,” he said. “I do feel that if we can dodge fall rains and have an open fall with good maturation temperatures, both irrigated and dryland yields could be excellent.”
In the upper Gulf Coast, Brazos Valley and Blacklands, the situation isn’t quite as rosy, said Dr. Gaylon Morgan, AgriLife Extension state cotton specialist, College Station.
“We kind of had the worst case scenario,” Morgan said. “It was so wet early, and then turned off so dry. So the plants didn’t have the chance to develop a good root system.”
The hot weather is maturing the crop quickly, and some of the earliest maturing crop in the Blacklands could be harvest ready in about three weeks, he said. But a lot of the harvest could stretch into October because plantings were spread out over several weeks.
“Our biggest concern is getting into a wet pattern where we can’t get the crop out of the field,” Morgan said.
Both Morgan and Kelley agreed that the U.S. Department of Agriculture early estimates of planted acreage in Texas were a little high. On June 30, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service put the planted acreage at about 5.2 million acres for the state, down from the long-term average of more than 6 million acres.
But more rainy, cool weather prevented planting, particularly in the Rolling Plains, Morgan said, and he “guesstimated” the total acreage will be even lower, somewhere in the neighborhood of 4.9 million acres.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Central: Soil moisture, rangeland and pastures were rated in fair condition. Crops and livestock were in good condition. The weather was hot and dry. The harvesting of grain sorghum and corn began. Some producers were planting a second corn crop. Silage harvest was in full swing. There were varying levels of infestation of sorghum crops by sugarcane aphids. Pasture conditions were declining.
Coastal Bend: The region had brief showers on July 31, but otherwise, hot, dry conditions persisted. The dry weather was favorable for grain harvesting. The grain sorghum harvest was expected to be finished during the first week of August. Yields were below average. The corn harvest was proceeding quickly. Cotton development was progressing; the crop looked fairly good, though there were some reports of stress. Producers were concerned about low yields in cotton and soybeans due to heat and moisture stress during July. Rice producers started to drain fields in preparation for harvesting. Hay making stopped due to lack of rain. Rangeland and pasture conditions had severely declined during the last two to three weeks due in part to the hot, dry conditions. Cattle looked good, and producers were selling calves.
East: Hot and dry conditions continued throughout the region. Only Shelby County received rain and then only 0.5 inch. In most counties, subsoil moisture was adequate and topsoil moisture short. Pond and creek levels dropped. Forages decreased both in quantity and quality. Grass that had been earlier cut or grazed off was not growing back. Producers were harvesting all the grass hay they could before fields dried out more. Bermuda grass stem maggots were found in Upshur and Wood counties; armyworms in Polk County. Overly wet conditions followed by drought severely hammered most Houston County crops. Corn was a complete loss. Millet was still growing, but the crop was thin. Vegetables in Anderson County were suffering from the dry conditions. Peas were drying out soon after ripening. Producers were slowly planting fall crops. Cattle were in good condition. Some producers were providing protein for cattle, sheep and goats. Working cattle slowed due to the heat.
Far West: The entire district had triple-digit temperatures. Glasscock County cotton was stressed by the heat and no rain. El Paso County cotton was in full bloom. Hudspeth, Presidio, Howard, El Paso and Upton counties received scattered showers. Brewster and Jeff Davis counties had some sudden cattle deaths that were thought to have been an indirect result of the high heat. The triple-digit heat may have caused tumbleweeds to produce high nitrate levels that the cattle ate. Otherwise, cattle in the region remained in good condition with calves gaining rapidly and stockers doing well. Pasture and rangeland were in fair to good condition. Subsoil and topsoil moisture were adequate to short.
North: Hot, dry weather dried out soils, resulting in topsoil moisture levels as short to adequate. Corn and grain sorghum continued to mature, but neither crops were in very good condition because heavy spring rains delayed planting. Many farmers were preparing land for planting fall crops. Pastures were still in good condition in some areas but would need rain soon if hot weather persists. In other areas, pastures were already turning brown. Hay production was going full tilt, but lack of rain slowed regrowth. Livestock were stressed. Sugarcane aphids were becoming a problem for grain and forage sorghum crops. Some producers were spraying for the pests, and cutting hay crops that were ready to harvest. Bermuda grass stem maggots were confirmed in a hay field. Wild hogs were still causing damage. Cattle remained in good condition.
Panhandle: Conditions continued to be hot, windy and humid, though temperatures were near to slightly below average for this time of year. Rainfall ranged from a trace to 6 inches. Dallam and Hartley counties had frequent afternoon and evening showers that brought much needed moisture and cooler temperatures. Rainfall amounts varied considerably, from 0.5 inch to more than 3 inches. Corn was progressing well with most fields pollinating. Most producers had sprayed a least once for grasshoppers. Corn silage harvesting was expected to start in a couple of weeks. The wheat harvest was done, and some producers were preparing fields for the planting of the next wheat crop. Grain sorghum looked good and was developing heads. Deaf Smith County producers got from 1.5 to more than 4 inches of rain. Insect pressure increased on corn, consisting mainly of spider mites and southwestern corn borers. Grasshopper numbers were also steadily increasing. Almost all crops were doing well with the exception of cotton, which was somewhat behind. Hansford County received between 2 to 6 inches of rain, and had some wind damage to grain sorghum fields. Randall County received only about 0.5 inch of rain. Many producers were struggling to control herbicide-resistant weeds. The wheat harvest was finished, with yields averaging about 40 bushels per acre. Corn was doing extremely well. Most grain sorghum fields were headed out and progressing well. Cotton was booming but was still two to three weeks behind. Wheeler County dryland crops were stressed by lack of rain. Horn flies remained a problem in many herds.
Rolling Plains: Daytime high temperatures were in the upper 90s, which was excellent weather for the cotton crop and grasses. Some areas also received rain, from 0.9 inch to more than 4 inches, which was just what cotton and pasture grasses needed. Cotton looked promising, though some late cotton might not make it if there is an early freeze in the fall. Grasshoppers were still putting pressure on cotton, and producers were spraying to combat them. Wheat growers were battling tough-to-kill weeds, and might have to cultivate no-till fields because of herbicide-resistant weeds. Grain sorghum and peanuts looked good. Some producers were harvesting high quality grass and sudan grass hay. Ranchers began restocking and keeping heifers, but with replacement prices still high it was a slow process. Cattle were in good condition, and hay was available at reasonable prices. Because the drought was still fresh on everyone’s mind, as well as the realization they were overstocked going into the drought, producers were not expected to rebuild herd numbers to where they were three to four years ago.
South: Hot summer weather continued, with high temperatures reaching 104 degrees and above, with a few isolated showers. In the northern part of the region, rangeland, pastures and crops were heat stressed. Corn and grain sorghum harvesting were in full swing. Cotton was in the flowering to boll-opening stage. Peanut development ranged from pegging to early pod development. Soil moisture was short to adequate throughout the northern counties. Cattle body condition scores remained good. In the eastern part of the region, producers began to supplement livestock with protein and hay as rangeland and pastures were slow to recover. Crop producers were harvesting earlier-planted corn and grain sorghum and seeing good yields. Later-planted crop yields might not be as good. Soil moisture was mainly short to adequate in the eastern counties, with moisture in Kleberg and Kenedy counties rated as 60 percent surplus. In the western part of the region, pecans were in good condition, and coastal Bermuda grass hay yields were good. Late-planted sorghum and cornfields were being irrigated, and harvesting of earlier-planted sorghum and corn continued. Cotton made good progress, and pecans continued to develop with no major insect pressures. Soil moisture was mostly short to adequate in the western counties. In the southern part of the region, grain sorghum harvesting was mostly completed, except for some late-planted sorghum in Hidalgo County. Sugarcane harvesting was ongoing. Also in Hidalgo County, cotton growers planned to start defoliation soon. Hay harvesting continued. Topsoil moisture was adequate in Starr County and short in Hidalgo County.
South Plains: The region remained mostly hot and dry, with a few areas receiving light showers to good rains. Otherwise, soil moisture levels were dropping. Cotton under irrigation was generally progressing well. Earlier-planted cotton began to set bolls. Most cotton development was a little behind but was catching up with the hotter days. Cochran County peanuts were doing very well, with pods gaining size. Early corn was nearing the end of its need for irrigation. Some disease pressure was noted, but it seemed to have slowed with the drier weather. There was insect pressure on grain sorghum from sugarcane aphids, spider mites and head worms. Lubbock County cotton was entering its peak water demand period. Spotty showers — less than 0.1 inch to more than 1 inch in localized areas – gave some fields temporary relief. In Garza County, lightning caused two grass fires. More rangeland fires were highly probable because of the high amounts of forage produced on native pastures after the spring and early summer rains. In Mitchell County, hot and dry conditions helped cotton to progress, but some of the later-planted cotton was just barely hanging on.
Southeast: Soil-moisture levels throughout the region were mostly short to adequate, with short being the most common rating. Galveston County levels were 100 percent very short. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely too, from fair to poor, with fair being the most common. Hot and dry conditions were the rule. In Walker County, soils and crops were rapidly drying out. Irrigation of turfgrass was required to prevent losses. Brazos County corn was drying down very quickly. In Waller County, even with daytime highs near 100, hay harvesting continued. In Brazoria County, about half the rice crop was harvested. In Fort Bend County, the sorghum harvest was expected to be nearly completed this week. The harvesting of corn began. Cotton and soybeans seriously needed rain. Livestock were in good condition, but pastures could use some rain. Galveston County had record high temperatures.
Southwest: Daytime highs were between 95 and 100 degrees. Only 0.1 inch of rain was received during July. Rangeland grasses were heat stressed. The corn and grain sorghum harvests were in full swing, and growers were getting above-average yields. Hay harvesting continued. Producers were weaning lambs and goats. Livestock were mostly in fair condition.
West Central: Hot, dry and windy conditions continued, with triple-digit high temperatures every day. Crops were beginning to show heat and moisture stress. Field activities continued but were slowed by the heat. Producers were cutting and baling hay and cultivating fields in preparation for fall planting and fertilizing. Cotton was mostly in good to excellent condition. Grain sorghum was in good shape, and some harvesting was underway. Rangeland and pastures were also showing heat and moisture stress. Pastures were very dry, and with all the grass and weed growth after earlier rains, wildfire danger was rising.