Texas Crop and Weather Report — April 4

Early emergence of insects expected due to unseasonable winter and spring conditions

SAN ANGELO – Above-average temperatures throughout late winter and early spring have Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts around the state experiencing and expecting earlier-than-usual emergence of insects, said Dr. Charles Allen, AgriLife Extension entomologist and integrated pest management coordinator, San Angelo.

Sugarcane aphids have been scouted in South Texas weeks ahead of schedule due to warmer than usual winter and early spring conditions. Producers should expect insect emergence to be earlier than usual due to conditions. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Danielle Sekula)

Allen said producers should be prepared not only for earlier-than-normal pest emergence but also possibly higher numbers of multi-generational species.

“There’s a good chance we will see odd stuff this year,” he said. “There are a lot of producers who mark a date on their calendar based on what happened in previous years, but if they do that this year they could be spraying too late.”

Allen said AgriLife Extension and Texas A&M AgriLife Research experts and other state agencies are monitoring ongoing and emerging pest problems across the state, including cattle fever ticks and sugarcane aphids.

Cattle fever ticks continue to be a major concern for producers in South Texas, as the pest has moved north and been found in 41 locations outside the quarantine zone along the Texas-Mexico border, he said. Sugarcane aphids, which have caused annual losses in the millions of dollars to Texas sorghum producers since they emerged in 2014, have been spotted in the Lower Rio Grande Valley several weeks earlier than usual this year.

But entomologists around the state are also receiving earlier-than-usual inquiries about infestations of pests from fleas, flies and mosquitoes to Crape Myrtle bark scale and forest tent caterpillars, Allen said. Experts expect other insect species to follow that trend.

Pecan nut casebearer is a pest Allen said producers need to watch carefully because they are so well adapted to the trees’ schedule, both of which are responding by emerging early with this spring’s weather conditions. Adult pests emerge to lay eggs when the tree produces nutlets.

“Growers can use traps to biofix the adults,” he said. “They can then use the heat unit model on Pecan ipmPIPE (at http://pecanipm.tamu.edu/Index) to determine when eggs will be laid and larvae will hatch and begin feeding on nutlets.”

Allen said pests with multiple generations per year, such as sugarcane aphids and fall armyworms, could become a bigger problem for producers if they emerge sooner than usual and their reproduction window is lengthened.

“You get stair-step population growth curves with those pests,” he said. “With the warm spring weather we can expect to add a generation or two. So you’re looking at an early start and potentially a late finish, which could add one or two generations and contribute to damaging populations in the fall.”

Allen said potential lengthened breeding time could add cost for producers, who might face additional pesticide treatments to address infestations.

One scenario would be horn fly treatments on beef cattle, he said. Standard fly pesticide treatments have an 80-day efficacy. Additional heat units could lengthen the feeding and breeding window to 100-120 days.

One positive Allen noted is that predatory insect species are also adapted to emerge alongside pests, and beneficial insects often do a pretty good job of suppressing pest populations.

Allen said the key for producers will be shifting the timeline for vigilant scouting and to be prepared to treat crops as pest populations approach economic thresholds.

“We’re all creatures of habit and expect things to happen like they did the year before,” he said. “But with this warm winter I think that won’t work this year. There will be factors that play into how good or bad things will be – dry weather and predators can make a huge difference in populations – but we should expect this to be an odd year.”

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

CENTRAL: The district experienced widespread rain including some serious storms. Rainfall averaged 2 inches in some areas. Hay fields were being worked and planted. Bermuda grass hay fields started to show more growth. Several wheat fields were sprayed with fungicide as heavy rust was noted in some oat and wheat fields. Corn and sorghum were emerging, and producers sprayed fields with fertilizer and herbicides. Cotton was on hold due to wet field conditions. Cattle on pasture looked good as spring calving was well underway. There was limited need for supplemental feeding of cattle. Sugarcane aphids were seen in johnsongrass. All counties reported good soil moisture. Overall crop, livestock, rangeland and pasture conditions were good in most of the district.

ROLLING PLAINS: Rain fell across the district with amounts of up to 6 inches reported in some areas. The rain benefited pastures and rangeland as grasses began emerging. Wheat and early planted corn also benefitted. Farmers were pleased to see the rain as it allows them to begin preparing fields for the upcoming crop year. The possibility of wildfire was suppressed for the time being as well. Livestock were in good condition with plenty of grazing, and supplemental feeding only took place on a small scale.

COASTAL BEND: Recent rains in some areas kept growing conditions favorable. Corn and sorghum planting was complete, and rice was 45 percent planted. Cotton planting was in full swing. Some producers were controlling weeds in croplands, and herbicide applications were being made on pastures and hay fields. Rangelands and pastures were growing and greening up. Cattle were doing well. Flies were reported in high numbers.

EAST: The region received strong storms, which brought heavy rainfall and strong winds. Trinity County reported rain totals of up to 3 inches with some hail. Marion County received 3.5 inches of rain. Pasture and rangeland condition was mostly good. Subsoil and topsoil were mostly adequate. Vegetable production in Anderson County was in full swing as producers planted and harvested crops. Some corn fields were knee high with 100 percent planted and emerged. Peach and blueberry crops looked good with heavy fruit loads. Cotton producers were preparing land. In Jasper County, oats were in good condition, and winter wheat was in fair condition. Gardens were planted and growing well in Marion County. Homeowners in Smith County were managing their lawns and controlling unwanted weed species. Pastures and hay meadows were greening up in Cherokee County. Cattle were in good condition. Polk County reported good grazing conditions as both cool and warm season forages were growing. Producers in Anderson County were supplementing with cubes. Wood County livestock were doing fair to good with some supplementation. Cattle prices in Gregg County were holding steady and a little better in Shelby County. Horn fly activity increased. Spring calving continued with a good crop of calves on the ground. Wild pigs were very active in Trinity County, and Anderson County reported moderate to heavy wild-pig damage.

SOUTH PLAINS: The district received 0.25-3 inches of rain from widespread thunderstorms. Sleet and golf-ball sized hail was reported in Wolfforth, Reese, Shallowater, Abernathy and Petersburg. The rain was badly needed to increase soil moisture and to help winter wheat along. Some wheat fields were beginning to head out and were in fair to good condition. Planting for corn and early sorghum was still weeks away, with cotton to start around May 10. Producers prepared for spring planting with deep ground breaking and fertilizer applications. Pecan trees were beginning to leaf out. Pastures started to green back up and were in fair to good condition. A light freeze was in the forecast.

PANHANDLE: Temperatures were near or slightly above average for most areas. Moisture was received in most areas of the district with totals of 1.5 inches to more than 3 inches reported. The rain had producers happy. Winter wheat responded well to the moisture so much that dryland wheat was expected to be grazed out. Producers said the rain would be a great pre-plant soak for the upcoming corn and cotton plantings to start soon. Conditions did prevent some field work. Lipscomb County spent most of the month in wildfire recovery.

NORTH: Rainfall amounts ranging from 0.5-2 inches were reported by the counties. Strong winds blew and caused some damage to trees, but there was no significant damage to crops. Milo farmers started planting as the ground temperatures reached 60 degrees earlier than usual. Wheat was doing very well with the recent rains and fertilizer applied earlier. There were a few reports of wheat and oats trying to head out despite being very short due to stress from unusual weather conditions. Ryegrass and winter grass pastures were green. Calving was good and should wrap up at the end of April or soon after. Barn flies were active on the livestock and caused discomfort.

FAR WEST: Temperature highs were in the 90s and lows were in the 40s with fluctuations throughout the reporting period. Precipitation averaged 1 inch. Damaging winds and massive hail storms were reported. A few cotton and wheat producers noticed some loss. The rains were expected to boost wheat yields, restore soil moisture and help producers plant sorghum. Pecan and mesquite trees were budding out. Fire danger levels were still high. Producers continued to feed livestock and wildlife.

WEST CENTRAL: Area weather was very seasonable with warm, windy days and cool nights. A few areas reported some showers late in the reporting period. All areas needed rain for spring planting. Additional moisture was needed as cotton planting drew closer. Spring planting was underway in some areas. Wheat and oats continued to grow and improve each week. Recent rains should be very timely for wheat crops as grain fill was taking place. Wheat conditions were mostly good to excellent. Producers cut and baled small grain fields for hay. Rangeland and pastures were in fair to good condition and continued to improve with spring green-up and good grass growth. Wildflowers were in full bloom. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Supplemental feeding declined. Stock tanks were mostly full from the recent rainfall. Pecan trees budded out and fruit trees were in full bloom.

SOUTHEAST: The district received rain with amounts ranging from 0.5-4 inches. Soil moisture levels were adequate but were beginning to drop with warm temperatures before the rain. Rice acreage was planted. Summer grasses were starting to grow. Livestock were in good condition. Rains delayed cotton planting. Corn and sorghum were in good shape. Forage grasses were doing well, and some ryegrass varieties were beginning to seed. In Brazos County, the late-planted corn crop looked good. Cool-season pastures were growing well with cool temperatures and abundant rainfall.

SOUTHWEST: Weather was warm with rain. Rains totaled 1-3 inches and helped improve topsoil and subsoil. Hail was reported in some areas. Pecan trees were beginning to leaf out. Corn and milo cultivation continued. Insects were abundant with moisture and mild temperatures. Pastures and forages benefited from recent rain. Most small grains looked good. Livestock were in good condition.

SOUTH: Summer-like conditions were felt throughout the district. A few counties received light rainfall, but high temperatures continued to reach the upper 80s and 90s in most areas. Conditions were very windy as well. Wheat fields were in the ripening stage and began to turn color. Corn fields continued to develop and were in good condition. The corn crop was in its 4-8 leaf stage. Cotton planting continued and was expected to be completed soon. Corn and cotton was under irrigation. Potato fields were flowering and a couple of weeks from harvest. Pasture and rangeland conditions were good due to the rainfall received and the cool front earlier in the reporting period. Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels declined in areas that did not receive rain. Most areas reported heavy dew each morning. Body condition scores on cattle remained good. Local cattle markets showed an increase in prices with 500-pound feeder steers averaging $133 per hundredweight compared to the $126 per hundredweight the prior reporting period. Above-average volumes were also noted with a diversity in type, quality and condition of cattle. Onions made good progress. The cabbage harvest continued. In Zavala County, some producers planted late fresh-market spinach fields due to demand. That crop was expected to be harvested in about 2-3 weeks. So far, the quality seems to be good.  Also in Zavala County, the carrot harvest began and was expected to finish soon. In Hidalgo County, the harvesting of vegetables, citrus and sugarcane continued.

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