AgriLife Extension specialist: Recent rainfall improved soil conditions for the bulk of Texas’ cotton fields
- By: Adam Russell, 903-834-6191, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Contact: Gaylon Morgan, 979-845-0870, email@example.com
COLLEGE STATION — Most cotton fields in southern and eastern portions of the state are faring well and recent rains have improved soil moisture indexes in portions of West Texas and the Panhandle in time for planting, said Dr. Gaylon Morgan, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service cotton specialist, College Station.
Morgan said he expects cotton acreage to be slightly lower than 2014, but nearly double 2015 acres planted in South and East Texas. Spring 2015 was extremely wet and prevented much of the Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend from being planted that year.
“The 2016 crop has had its challenges with excessive rain, but nothing compared to the prolonged wet weather observed in 2015,” he said.
The bulk of Texas’ cotton planting in West Texas and the Rolling Plains will get underway shortly with adequate soil moisture across most regions. Rain events in West Texas and the Rolling Plains over the previous weeks improved the moisture index in time for planting, but Morgan said another timely rain in mid-to-late May would help establish good cotton stands.
On the other hand, recent rains in the northern and southern blacklands have been detrimental to emerging cotton crops. Morgan said some crop land there would need replanting while others have not been planted due to inaccessible fields. The planting window in those areas is around May 31, he said.
“We are hoping to dry out enough to bring the cotton acres up to about 140,000 for Blacklands region,” he said.
Based on the Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation’s program estimates, cotton producers in the South and East Texas zones will plant around 800,000 acres this year. Approximately 479,000 acres of cotton was planted in the South and East Texas zones during 2015, down from approximately 889,682 acres in 2014.
By comparison, producers in West Texas planted 4.6 million acres of cotton in 2015 and are expected to be comparable for 2016, with some regions increasing slightly and other regions dropping slightly depending on concerns for input costs, sugarcane aphid and irrigation capacity.
Danielle Sekula-Ortiz, AgriLife Extension integrated pest management agent in Weslaco, said cotton planted in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, where cotton typically is planted earliest, is up and squaring nicely, with some older fields showing blooms.
Sekula-Ortiz said the crops appear to be maturing quickly because of warm temperatures and are far ahead of 2015, when plantings were delayed by rains. She said producers were seeing an increase in aphid and fleahopper populations and have begun treating fields to address potential pest problems.
“Everything is looking really good,” she said. “A good rain in the next two weeks would be perfect.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
CENTRAL: Conditions were wet, but some producers were able to access sandy fields for a few days.
A lot of small grain acres intended for silage were not harvested and quality was expected to be poor.
Corn, grain and cotton conditions improved with sunshine. Cattle looked good with no supplemental feeding needed. Pasture conditions were good with the spring rains. Weeds were a big issue where fields have not been sprayed. Stock ponds were full. All counties reported good soil moisture as well as good pasture and livestock conditions. Overall crop conditions were 90 percent good.
ROLLING PLAINS: Severe thunderstorms wreaked havoc in some areas. Hail and high winds destroyed trees and gardens. Rainfall amounts varied from 0.5-1 inch. Although cotton planting hadn’t yet begun, a few producers looked to begin within the next two weeks. Pastures were in good condition with plenty of grazing for cattle. Livestock also were in good condition as producers began to pull cattle off winter wheat and move them into pastures. Wheat crops not damaged by hail headed out and were improving.
COASTAL BEND: Recent rains in the region have greatly improved row crop conditions. Pecan nut casebearer spraying began and the early pecan crop load looked good.
EAST: Severe storms brought more rain. Subsoil and topsoil moisture conditions were adequate to surplus. Pasture and range conditions were mostly good. San Augustine County reported 5 inches of rain. Smith County reported tornadoes caused damage to trees and personal property. Localized flooding in low-lying areas resulted from flash flooding. Marion County reported 8 inches of rain. Some gardens were flooded and washed away. Polk County received storms with heavy rain and strong winds that caused damage across the county, such as downed trees damaging structures and fences, and flooding in low areas. Range and pasture conditions continued to improve due to increased temperatures and plentiful rainfall. Cool nights put the forage growth about two weeks behind in Polk County. Some fertilizer and herbicide applications were taking place there. Wet conditions have prevented producers in Smith County from cutting the first hay fields of the year. Peach crops were looking good even though some varieties did not receive adequate chill hours to make. Cattle remained in good to excellent condition. Spring calving slowed with most calves on the ground. Selling of cull cows and market-ready calves continued. Gopher and feral hog control continued in Upshur County.
SOUTH PLAINS: Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels in Cochran County dropped due to windy conditions. Pasture, range and winter wheat were in fair to good condition. Producers started planting peanuts. Cattle were in good condition. Floyd County received some moisture, ranging from 0.25-1 inch. The majority of wheat headed out and corn plantings started. Producers will begin planting cotton next week. Temperatures in Scurry County were generally mild but also had some high winds and trace amounts of rain. Hockley County reported high winds and blowing dust and little precipitation. Cool night temperatures slowed planting progress.
PANHANDLE: Texas Panhandle temperatures were near normal. There were reports of cooler temperatures and some moisture for most the region. Rain amounts ranged from a trace to about 4 inches. Collingsworth County conditions were cool and wet. The moisture improved soil conditions. Cooler temperatures delayed planting activities as some areas experienced near-freezing temperatures during nighttime hours with marginal warm-up during the day. Soil moisture profiles going into planting were adequate. Pasture conditions were becoming more favorable, with more forage being produced on pasturelands. Deaf Smith County producers started planting corn before rains came. Planters were parked due to wet conditions. Rainfall amounts of 0.5-4 inches were reported in Deaf Smith with few reports of any hail. Most wheat was in the boot stage to heading and rains helped its condition. More rainfall was in the forecast so wheat has a chance to make a decent grain crop. Corn planting had only begun and will continue when conditions allow. Cotton planting was expected to begin after most of the corn is planted. Some area wheat fields were chopped for dairy producers. Producers were concerned severe storms in Hutchinson County may have damaged wheat fields. Crop conditions will not be known until roads and fields dry enough for proper inspections. Some irrigated wheat in Ochiltree County was treated for stripe rust. Corn planting started. Cotton planting was expected to start soon. Range and pasture began to green up and grow. Supplemental feeding of cattle on rangeland was ceasing. General rain showers and cooler weather halted all field activities. Sherman County received about 2.5 inches of rain and producers were expected to begin planting corn and cotton as soon as field conditions allow. Scattered showers were received across Wheeler County with accumulations from 0.1-0.5 inches recorded. Cooler temperatures were expected to delay cotton planting. Corn planting began. Cattle were in good condition. Range and pastures were mostly fair.
NORTH: Topsoil moisture was adequate to surplus throughout the district. More than 2 inches of rain continued to make fields soggy. Recent rainfalls filled and provided runoff for all tanks, ponds and cisterns. Forecasts called for more rain. Hay producers talked about losing the first cutting of hay if dry weather doesn’t arrive soon. Many producers started cutting and baling winter pastures. Corn and milo looked decent except where water has been standing in the fields for weeks. Wheat and oats were all headed out for the most part. Oats looked good, but the wheat did not look nearly as good. Pasture and range conditions were mostly wet and muddy with grasses growing. Stockers looked good and were grazing on winter wheat and oats, but gains were expected to be below expectations due to the wet weather. Calving season was wrapping up for most producers. Cows were doing extremely well with available forage. Fly numbers were up on livestock, and wild hog reports were heavy.
FAR WEST: Weather conditions in Howard and Andrews counties were good. Pasture and rangeland conditions in Reagan County were great. Producers in Brewster and Jeff Davis counties finished up spring branding, and most livestock were doing well. High sustained winds, up to 50 miles per hour in some areas, caused damage to outbuildings. Pasture and rangeland conditions in those counties were good.
WEST CENTRAL: Days were warm with mild nights. Scattered showers were reported throughout the week. A few storms were severe with hail and high winds. Soil was saturated and stock tanks were full from runoff. Isolated damage to some crops was reported. There was very little field activity as farmers wait for fields to dry out. Producers needed to apply fertilizers and continue planting. Some farmers want to plant sorghum but were waiting for fields to dry. Wheat continued to progress well and was finishing strong with more than adequate moisture. Disease was still a concern with small grains. Rust showed up on some wheat. Some producers continued to harvest wheat for forage and hay as they were able to access fields. Corn and grain sorghum emerged and were in excellent condition. Haygrazer started well. Range and pastures continued to improve and were in good to excellent condition. Spring green-up took off after recent rains. Forages and grasses grew rapidly. Livestock were in fair to good condition and doing well on grazed-out winter wheat fields and green pastures. Cattle prices remained steady.
SOUTHEAST: In Montgomery County, winter annuals such as ryegrass headed out. Many legumes were still growing. There was some late flowering. Rain this week ranged from 3-8 inches range and kept field activity at a standstill. Brazos County experienced scattered showers and strong wind. Wet conditions limited crop growth and production progress. Soil moisture levels varied widely, mostly adequate to surplus with surplus being the most common. Walker, Chambers and Liberty counties reported 100 percent surplus. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely too, mostly fair to good, with good being most common.
SOUTHWEST: Plenty of moisture was reported throughout the district. Range and pasture conditions remained the same. Some crops were doing well despite hail damage from hail, while others continue to recover. Rain fell but nothing significant. Bermuda grass growth rate increased from the rain. Peaches were progressing well. Livestock were in fair condition with spring lambing and kidding nearly complete as shearing continued.
SOUTH: Conditions were warm and humid throughout the district. Some light showers brought some relief. Atascosa County received some rainfall. Mild temperatures accompanied scattered showers in Frio County. Potato crops were prepared for harvest. Corn crops entered the silk stage. Cotton planting continued and should be completed soon. Wheat crops turned color and matured. Pasture and range conditions were good. Topsoil moisture levels continued to decline in McMullen County. Range and pasture conditions declined in quality as a result. But mild temperatures helped reduce evaporation and transpiration rates. Cattle body condition scores remained good. Overall soil moisture conditions were adequate in McMullen County. Conditions were hot and humid in Brooks County. No precipitation was reported. Pasture conditions were fair, and livestock prices began to drop. Some ranchers, mostly hay producers, began irrigating in hopes of better production. In Jim Wells County, planting wrapped up with the exception of a few fields reserved for novelty crops like sesame. Most established fields looked good and were performing well after recent rains. Range and pasture conditions improved and cattle have good quality forage available. Trace amounts of rain fell in Kleberg and Kenedy counties. Weather conditions there were mostly cloudy with a couple extremely hot and humid days. Soil moisture conditions remained adequate. Favorable conditions continued for forage production in Dimmit County. The forecast called for chances of rain but no significant moisture was reported. Webb County received some rainfall, but temperatures reached above 100 degrees afterward. Humidity was over 50 percent. Rangeland and pastures were in good condition. In the Zavala County area, cotton, oats, sorghum and wheat progressed well in Zavala County, with winter wheat 100 percent headed. Range and pastures were in good condition. Soil moisture remained adequate throughout Zavala County. The sugarcane harvest wrapped up in Hidalgo County. Citrus harvesting was winding down and spring onions were being harvested. Irrigation was active on row crops throughout Hidalgo County. There were abnormally high temperatures in Starr County, and range and pastures began to show signs of stress from lack of moisture. Spring row crops were progressing well. Soil moisture conditions remained mostly adequate.