Texas crop, weather for Feb. 16, 2016

Texas cotton ‘actual’ plantings could be down a little compared to last year

National surveys show “intended” 2016 cotton planting in Texas to be higher than 2015 “actual” plantings, but Dr. Gaylon Morgan, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service state cotton specialist, believes actual 2016 plantings will be down a little from 2015. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Dr. Gaylon Morgan)

National surveys show “intended” 2016 cotton planting in Texas to be higher than 2015 “actual” plantings, but Dr. Gaylon Morgan, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service state cotton specialist, believes actual 2016 plantings will be down a little from 2015. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Dr. Gaylon Morgan)

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

COLLEGE STATION – The Feb. 5 National Cotton Council’s 35th Annual Early Season Planting Intentions Survey indicated Texas growers intended plantings to be up 5.6 percent over the actual plantings in 2015.

According to the survey, “Overall, Texas cotton acreage is expected to increase by 5.6 percent, with South Texas responsible for the statewide increase. The survey responses indicate that cotton growers expect to plant land that was idled in 2015 due to excessive moisture. Little change in acreage was indicated in the state’s other regions.”

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For the U.S. total, the council’s survey suggests cotton plantings to be up 6.2 percent at 9.1 million acres, with some Southeastern regions seeing deep declines in planting intentions, while the Delta states are looking at eight to 40 percent increases. A summary of the survey results for all the U.S. can be found at http://bit.ly/1oxNIQ5.

The survey showed Texas upland cotton intended plantings at a little more than 5 million acres, up from 2015 actual plantings of 4.8 million, a change of about 200,000 acres.

However, the survey bears some interpretation to get the accurate picture, said Dr. Gaylon Morgan, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service state cotton specialist, College Station. There are some extreme changes predicted in cotton acres across the Cotton Belt.

“Based on predictions from last year at this time — 5.3 million expected planting acres — our acreage could actually be down a little bit compared to last year,” he said.

First, the survey is, in a way, comparing apples to oranges, or in this case, comparing intended plantings to actualities, Morgan said. Intended plantings in 2015 were 5.3 million acres. However, due to excessive moisture, more than 500,000 acres were not planted, in particular in the Rio Grande Valley, Coastal Bend, Upper Gulf Coast and definitely the northern High Plains.

From weekly reports by AgriLife Extension county agents across the cotton growing areas, there has been some indication that producers were considering planting less cotton this year because of low prices last year. Moreover, future contracts are suggesting prices will be about the same this year.

The problem is, Morgan said, prices of the usual alternatives to cotton in Texas — corn, wheat and sorghum — are down as well this year.

“We’re really looking at an acreage switch that is going to be minimal, overall a couple of hundred thousand acres,” he said. “Some might switch to sorghum – or maybe to wheat if they got it planted earlier; or, depending upon their irrigation capacity, to corn. But none of the commodity prices look that good, and producers are going to be faced with making some hard decisions to see what crops pencil out the best.”

Morgan said some Rio Grande Valley growers were planning to begin planting cotton this week.

“Part of that situation is they want to take advantage of their current soil moisture situation, which is good,” he said. “Last year, it was too wet to plant, which led to about 40 percent of the intended acres not getting planted. Some folks want to avoid the possibility of being in a similar situation. They also remember the string of years where they didn’t have enough soil moisture to plant. So they are pushing the planting envelope a bit.”

In the Blacklands and Central Texas, the usual planting dates starts about April 1 to May 1. In the High Plains, planting will start around May 15.

“So, despite good soil moisture now, additional rain will be needed to be able to establish the cotton crop,” Morgan said.

It’s a little too early to predict how cotton plantings will go this year, but conditions so far are much more favorable than in recent years, he said.

“However, we will need some in-season rain to obtain the yields necessary to make cotton profitable in 2016,” Morgan said.

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Districts

The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Districts

Central: Soil moisture, rangeland, pastures and overall crop conditions were fair in most counties. Livestock were in good condition. However, high winds and unseasonably warm weather depleted soil moisture. Producers were hoping for rain prior to planting corn and other row crops. A few producers were already planting corn, but others were holding off until late February. Oats and wheat were in poor condition. Stock-water tanks were full.

Coastal Bend: No significant rainfall was received. Persistently dry conditions dramatically changed the soil-moisture profile. Topsoil was dry, but deep subsoil moisture was still available. Most producers finished fertilizing. Corn planting was underway, and some sorghum planting began. Rice planting intentions were up due to the availability of Colorado River water for irrigation. Pastures were dry, but grass was holding its quality. Producers were making prescribed burns. Cattle remained in good condition, thanks in part to the unseasonably mild weather. Early peach varieties were blooming.

East: Drying winds and wildfire danger were the biggest concerns around the region. A few counties reported rain, with Marion County reporting the most at 2 inches. Subsoil and topsoil moisture was adequate except for a couple of counties reporting short. Sunny and warm conditions prompted vegetable producers to prepare fields and plant onions and potatoes. Fruit growers were pruning. Temperature fluctuations, along with drying soil conditions, decreased winter forage growth. Pastures were not growing and were in poor condition, requiring livestock producers to continue feeding hay and supplements. However, most livestock remained in good condition due to the milder-than-normal winter. Spring calving was in progress. Many producers planned to begin turning out bulls for breeding soon. Weaning and selling market-ready calves and cull cows continued. Calf prices were lower on certain classes. Pairs and bred cattle were steady. Feral hog damage was reported.

Far West: Temperatures were above normal, with highs in the low- to mid-70s and lows near freezing to the 40s. Windy conditions with no measureable moisture raised the danger of wildfire. Pastures were greening up some with cool-season forbs and grasses, but their growth was not sufficient to provide needed nutrition for livestock. Some producers were still feeding cattle, both stockers and brood cows, while others were shipping livestock to feedlots. It was the middle of calving season for most herds. Ranchers struggled to maintain the condition of cattle they hung onto throughout the last drought and were providing large amounts of supplemental feed. Lambing and kidding season began. Farmers were preparing cotton fields for planting. Pecan growers were pruning trees.

North: Topsoil moisture varied from adequate to surplus, with some counties reporting shortages. Nighttime temperatures dropped below freezing on many nights. Drier weather allowed soils to dry slightly, permitting fieldwork. Thanks to clearer weather, winter wheat looked a little better. Late-planted winter pastures showed some growth. The last of the cotton crop was being harvested. If dry conditions continued, farmers expected to start planting corn in late February and into March. Ranchers were able to turn cattle back on winter pastures with the drier conditions. Elm trees were budding, peach tree buds were swelling. Livestock were eating more hay than expected, but were generally in good condition as clover and ryegrass pastures slowly came on. Calves were doing well. Wild hogs continued to cause problems and do damage. Hopkins County was declared a disaster zone by the federal government due to damages from December rains.

Panhandle: Open weather allowed producers to do fieldwork, apply fertilizer and repair equipment in preparation for spring plantings. Pasture and rangeland were in fair to good condition across most of the region, with a few counties reporting poor conditions and a few rating it excellent. Subsoil and topsoil moisture was short to adequate. Winter wheat was nearly all emerged and reported in fair to good condition, with a few reporting excellent. In some areas, the crop needed water. Cows on dormant range were being fed supplements. Calving was in full progress in some areas, while in others ranchers were beginning spring roundups and weaning calves. Cattle on wheat pasture were doing well due to mild weather. The biggest concern across the region was the high potential for wildfire.

Rolling Plains: Warm weather allowed farmers to do fieldwork. Wheat was generally greening up and growing, and stocker cattle on wheat were gaining and doing well. There were concerns about rust in wheat along with other fungus issues due to the wet winter conditions. Wildfire danger was an issue, and a few small burns had to be controlled. Wind and warm temperatures were rapidly drying out soils. Some small grains showed growth.

South: The region continued to be cold and dry with no rain received in any county. In the northern part of the region, potato and wheat plantings were completed, with most of the latter crop already emerged. Some early corn planting began, and farmers increased irrigation of some crops due to dry conditions. Soil moisture was short in Frio and McMullen counties. Atascosa County had 70 percent adequate subsoil and 80 percent short topsoil moisture. Live Oak County had 90 percent adequate soil moisture. In the eastern part of the region, early-morning frosts and lack of rain caused rangeland and pastures to decline. Beef cattle body condition declined because of poor forage quality. Local cattle markets averaged sales of 500 to 600 head per week, with prices holding steady. In Jim Wells County, the demand for replacement cows remained good, but prices varied tremendously depending upon age and quality. Soil moisture was adequate in Brooks, Kleberg and Kenedy counties, and 100 percent short in Duval and Jim Wells counties. In the western part of the region, dry conditions kept producers busy irrigating carrots, cabbage, spinach and onions. Spinach and cabbage harvesting was active. Leaf and stem rust on wheat was reduced, probably as a result of extremely dry conditions. Available cool-season forages continued to decline on native rangeland and pastures, causing ranchers to increase supplemental feeding. Soil moisture was short in Dimmit and Zavala counties, and adequate in Webb County. In the southern part of the region, farmers were fully engaged in planting row crops, particularly grain sorghum. Cabbage, broccoli and tomatoes progressed well in Cameron County, and there was some harvesting of lettuce. In Hidalgo County, sugarcane, citrus and vegetable harvesting was active. Field preparations for spring plantings were also going strong in Hidalgo County. Soil moisture was adequate in Cameron and Starr counties, while in Hidalgo County, it was short to adequate.

South Plains: Producers throughout the region were taking advantage of milder weather and drier conditions to do fieldwork: tilling, incorporating pre-plant herbicides, applying fertilizer, plowing under cotton stalks and preparing planting beds. Winter wheat was growing, but in some areas, it could use more moisture. Some farmers began pre-watering for cotton planting. With low commodity prices, many farmers were struggling with hard choices on what to plant. With cottonseed prices expected to decline, gins and elevators were offering production programs to entice farmers to grow cotton.

Southeast: Soil moisture throughout the region varied widely but was mostly adequate to surplus, with adequate ratings being the most common. Fort Bend and Walker counties reported 100 percent adequate moisture. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely too, mostly from fair to poor, with fair ratings being the most common. Walker County had warmer weather, which promoted cool-season forage growth. Brazos County had no measurable rainfall, above-average temperatures and windy weather. Corn producers were preparing to plant soon. In Grimes County, unusually warm weather allowed for more fieldwork. Waller County was still having cold, frosty mornings. In Chambers County, farmers were gearing up for fieldwork. Fields there remained wet but were drying out quickly. Fort Bend County had dry weather as well, and producers expected to be able to plant corn soon. They will likely follow planting corn with grain sorghum by the end of the month. Livestock were in good condition, and pastures were in fair condition but needed rain.

Southwest: Winds and warmer temperatures were quickly drying out soils. Continued dry conditions caused some areas to institute burn bans. Rain was also needed to help with spring planting. Peaches needed a few more chilling hours. Most small grain crops showed moisture stress. Livestock were in fair condition. Lambing and kidding continued.

West Central: The region had dry, windy conditions with cold nights but unseasonably warm days. Soil moisture continued to decline. Rangeland wildfires were still a concern in all areas. Field activities increased. Preparations for spring planting were underway. Winter wheat broke dormancy and showed noticeable growth. Some insect issues were reported. Most small grains remained in fair to good condition despite lack of moisture but needed rain soon for continued growth. Cotton harvesting was mostly completed, and local gins expected to finish processing in the next couple of weeks. Overall, cotton yields were slightly below average, along with lower lint grades. Rangeland and pastures were improving. Livestock remained in fair to good condition with continued supplemental feeding.


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