Texas Crop and Weather Report — Sept. 7

Wet conditions causing problems for cotton producers

  • Writer:  Adam Russell, 903-834-6191, adam.russell@ag.tamu.edu
  • Contact: Dr. Gaylon Morgan, 979-845-0870, gdmorgan@tamu.edu

COLLEGE STATION — Cotton yields in West Texas are looking better with recent rains, but extended untimely rains have producers in the Upper Gulf Coast and Blacklands worried about yields and lint and seed quality, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialist.

Dr. Gaylon Morgan, AgriLife Extension cotton specialist, College Station, said recent rains that moved across the state brought beneficial moisture to cotton fields in some areas such as the High Plains and Rolling Plains. However, he added, prolonged wet conditions have been detrimental to cotton fields in the Upper Gulf Coast and Blacklands.

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Cotton seeds have begun sprouting in many fields within the Upper Gulf Coast and Blacklands regions of Texas. Prolonged rainy conditions have prevented farmers from harvesting cotton, which is leading to various problems that could effect the quality of cotton coming from around 375,000 acres within those regions. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Dr. Gaylon Morgan)

“It’s a big issue, but we don’t know how big,” he said. “We know lint and seed quality will be off quite a bit. The total impact on these estimated 375,000 acres will not be known until these fields are harvested, ginned and classed.”

Quality will depend greatly on whether rains stop or continue, Morgan said. Producers had cotton fields with open bolls, and many had defoliated their fields before the rain came.

Continuous rain over seven to nine days in the Upper Gulf Coast and Blacklands regions starting in mid-August caused a major cotton sprouting issue, and continued scattered showers since have delayed harvests, he said. Delays have caused further degradation of fiber quality and delayed harvest has prevented producers from knowing the extent of the damage.

Most fields will require a second round of defoliation treatment, which is an additional expense on top of a decrease in lint and seed quality, he added.

“It was not the amount of rain that fell, it was that the rainfall occurred consistently over several days, and the cotton lint did not dry out, which provided a perfect environment for seeds to germinate,” Morgan said.

Lint with sprouted seeds is problematic for ginning because it is difficult to separate the lint from the seed and costly lint cleaning is required to obtain the best possible lint, he said. Producers will have to wait for everything to dry out, then harvest, gin and have their cotton classed to determine quality losses in seed and lint.

Without quality seed, producers will likely face additional costs, Morgan said, because they typically swap seed for ginning expenses.

Producers face investing more money to defoliate, harvest and complete the ginning process before lint can be classed to determine fiber quality discount, he said. Lower color grades are expected to be the biggest discount at this point, but strength reductions and higher leaf grades are a possibility as well.

Also, there will be some level of yield loss in fields due to lint on the ground and hardlock bolls, he added.

Morgan said one producer he’d talked to in the Blacklands compared lint values of fields harvested before and after the prolonged rains. The producer saw a 20 percent loss in lint value from wet fields compared to those harvested and ginned before the rains started.

Losses are expected to vary greatly when it comes to yields or staining, trash content, strength and color grade, and Morgan recommends producers visit with their insurance agents before counting fields as total losses.

“The hope is that the quality isn’t going to be as bad as expected,” Morgan said. “But the gins haven’t ginned much of the damaged cotton at this point and we won’t know the level of lint and seed discounts until then. The take-home message is that we need to give these cotton fields every opportunity to allow the lint and seed to dry down and ‘bleach-out’ some of the stains. Otherwise, putting high moisture seed cotton into a module will further degrade lint and seed quality while the modules are waiting to be ginned.”

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

CENTRAL: Summer pasture conditions were great for August and September. Cattle were in good condition and no supplemental feeding was needed. Local auctions reported lower prices on steers, mixed prices on heifers and steady prices on bred cows. Wheat pastures were prepared. Field work was in progress after counties dried out. Corn and grain sorghum harvests were finishing. Milo and cotton were sprouting. Hay was cut. Army worms continued to be a problem. All counties reported soil moisture and overall pasture and range and livestock conditions as good. Most counties reported fair crop conditions.

ROLLING PLAINS: Some areas received beneficial rainfall, and conditions were favorable for farmers and ranchers. Daytime temperatures remained around 90 degrees, which should help cotton fields finish out.  Cotton acres looked very promising after timely rainfall and warm temperatures. Insect pressure continued to be mild. Pastures and rangeland looked better over the past few weeks than they have in the previous months. Moisture helped boost grasses and forages, however, some areas of the district remained dry. The threat of wildfires declined but some areas still remained on alert. Some producers planted winter wheat while others were considering planting triticale. Livestock were in good to excellent condition with plenty of grazing. A few producers bought good young bred cows.

COASTAL BEND: Scattered showers prevented many growers from completing the cotton harvest, however, only a small amount of cotton remained for most growers. The crop destruction deadline was extended to help growers working to get cotton harvested after rain delays. Some farmers reported cotton seed sprouting. Lint and seed quality continued to deteriorate due to wet weather during the month of August. A final cut of hay was expected to add to a surplus supply. Pastures were lush and should be set up nicely for the fall. Spring calves were growing, and cattle work continued with most cattle in excellent condition.

EAST: Spotty rains continued across the region. Houston County reported soaked ground. Pastures and range conditions were fair to good. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were adequate. Grass was green and growing well. Many producers were getting another hay cutting. Armyworms were the biggest issue facing producers. Producers were spraying or cutting and baling hay to remove the food source for the armyworms. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Cattle prices were down. Producers were preparing cattle for fall and winter. Fly counts were up. Pecan limbs were breaking on some trees due to stress in the summer months and heavy nut loads.

SOUTH PLAINS: Between 0.5-6 inches of rain fell over much of the district. One county netted between 5-9 inches over the last 10 days. Rainfall greatly improved conditions, but it was too early to tell its impact on the dry land crops. Fields were very wet in some areas. More rainfall was forecast. The moisture was expected to help maintain peanut fields and improve pastures and rangeland. Heat units were needed for area cotton crops to finish out. Corn and sorghum should benefit too. Cattle were in good condition. Producers were starting to see some alternaria problems in cotton. Some dryland fields were already too far gone to benefit from the rain. Excessive amounts of water were expected to create potential for regrowth in cotton that was cut out for several weeks. Wheat farmers who planted last week expected quick emergence, and the moisture index was expected to provide a quality seedbed for planting. Watermelon producers were unable to harvest due to rain.

PANHANDLE: Temperatures were below average, and moisture was received throughout most the district. Amounts ranged from a trace to 7 inches in some isolated areas. Rainfall made field work difficult in some areas. Some areas received significant hail damage, and fields were standing in water. Rainfall was beneficial to some cotton fields which were loaded with bolls and looking to open. Farmers began fieldwork for winter wheat with planting to begin soon. Producers sprayed grain sorghum for sugarcane aphids between rain events. Below-normal temperatures slowed cotton growth. Pastures were excellent to poor, and cattle looked good.

NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels were very good. Temperatures were in the upper 80s with some rain. Rainfall amounts varied from a trace to 1.5 inches. Most corn was harvested, and about 75 percent of grain sorghum was harvested. The soybean harvest started. Some ranchers were getting ready to plant winter pastures following the rain. Pastures looked very good for this time of year, and hay producers should get one more good cutting of hay. Cattle on range looked good with plenty of green grass. Armyworms hit pastures hard following the rains and cooler weather. Many producers were spraying to maintain forage. Fly and mosquito numbers were up. Wild hogs caused damage.

FAR WEST: Temperatures stayed in the high 80s and low 90s. Overcast conditions persisted with rain showers covering most of the district. Heavy rains in some areas caused standing water in ditches and low-lying areas. Rainfall from 0.5-4 inches improved range conditions, and grasses were growing rapidly. Early planted cotton was opening. Sugarcane aphids were active in late-planted sorghum. Stocker cattle were getting ready for shipping. Supplemental feeding of livestock and wildlife continued. Fall cattle work was beginning.

WEST CENTRAL: Temperatures were cooler and scattered showers fell. Farmers were behind on field activities due to wet conditions. Field preparations for small-grain planting was underway as fields allowed. Final plowing and fertilizing was in high gear following the rain. Cut and baled haygrazer fields put on new growth and provided unexpected grazing. Hay producers will start a third cutting soon and expected very good yields. Cotton and wheat crops progressed very well. Cotton fields needed some heat to mature. Grain sorghum harvests were mostly complete with better than average yields on most fields. Corn harvests were mostly complete. Range and pastures were in good condition going into the fall season. Rain helped improve conditions and warm-season forages continued to grow. Stock tanks were full. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Cattle prices were down. Fly and mosquito populations exploded due to cooler, moist conditions.

SOUTHEAST: Additional rainfall was received from the tropical storms. Hay cutting was sporadic due to continued rains. There was still a significant amount of organic rice to harvest. Rain continued to delay cotton defoliation and harvesting as cotton conditions deteriorated. Sprouting was expected to cause 30-40 percent seed loss. Livestock were in good condition with plenty of grass to eat. Armyworms were causing problems. The burn ban was lifted in Waller County. Conditions for livestock were very good going into fall. Soil moisture levels throughout the region ranged from adequate to surplus with most ratings adequate.

SOUTHWEST: Spotted, scattered rainfall throughout the region cooled things down and helped grasses grow. Soil moisture was excellent. Native and improved pastures improved greatly and should offer opportunities to stockpile forage for winter grazing. Some farmers were able to harvest corn and planted winter wheat. Pecan producers experienced major issues with pecan scab and powdery mildew due to humidity. Ewes and does were in fair condition as rams and bucks were turned in. Livestock conditions were good.

SOUTH: Rain measurements ranged from none to 3 inches. Temperatures cooled into the 90s. Hay was being bailed, and cotton was being harvested. Cotton was being defoliated in some areas and harvested in some others. Some cotton fields were losing quality because of persistent rains. The deadline for stalk destruction was extended. Sesame and peanut crops looked good and were growing well. Peanut crops were in the pod-filling stage and under irrigation. Producers were starting to plow fields in preparation for next year’s crops. Range and pasture conditions remained good in some areas.  Soil moisture levels ranged from short to adequate, and summer perennial grasses had good growth. Grass quality improved where moisture levels improved. Body condition scores on cattle remained in good. There were good populations of whitetail deer, quail and dove. Whitewing dove zone hunting season opened with a good turnout. Fall corn fields looked good. Most crops, such as watermelons, cantaloupes and onions were harvested. Pecan producers were expecting a good year in some areas and below average in others. No major pests were reported on pecan trees this year. Coastal Bermuda grass was in good condition, and there were many hay bales available. Some producers reported active oat planting, which should pick up soon. Early spinach planting seedbed preparations were also active throughout Zavala County. Cropland preparations for winter crops continued, including some onion planting in select areas.

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