Texas Crop and Weather Report — May 2

Establishing Bermuda grass pastures takes time, preparation

  • Writer: Adam Russell, 903-834-6191, adam.russell@ag.tamu.edu
  • Contact: Dr. Vanessa Corriher-Olson, 903-834-6191, vacorriher@ag.tamu.edu

OVERTON – Producers planning to establish or expand Bermuda grass pastures can improve their chances of success with recommended practices, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension forage specialist.

The most important aspect for establishing a Bermuda grass pasture is land or site preparation, said Dr. Vanessa Corriher-Olson, forage specialist, Overton.

Bermuda grass sprigs are required to establish some varieties, such as Coastal and Tifton 85. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service staff photo)

“If you don’t prepare the ground well, you won’t be successful,” she said.

Soil tests are critical to determine how much lime, phosphorous and potassium will be needed to  prepare the soil for optimal establishment and ultimately production of Bermuda grass, she said. Herbicides should be applied to kill all existing vegetation.

Corriher-Olson recommends using products with glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. Applications should be made according to label recommendations.

She also recommends two herbicide applications, one in the fall and one in the spring before Bermuda grass seeds or sprigs are introduced, to ensure elimination of any vegetation that might compete with the grass. Ryegrass can be planted as a cool-season cover crop between herbicide applications.

After land is plowed, disked and rolled, or packed, a heel print should leave no more than a quarter inch impression in the soil, she said. When soil is packed too firmly, seeds and sprigs may not be able to penetrate the soil and establish roots. Water may not absorb into the soil as well.

Potassium, phosphorous and lime should be added as land is being prepared, she said.

Corriher-Olson said most people broadcast seeded varieties, but some varieties, such as Tifton 85 and Coastal, require establishment with sprigs. In that instance, producers should contact a reputable contract planter.

“When planting sprigs, it’s easier for most people to hire a planter and have them planted because it takes special equipment,” she said. “Hopefully you just need to plant once.”

Producers should choose Bermuda grass varieties based on the site, such as whether the soil is well-drained or bottomland, and based on production expectations, she said

Producers who utilize seeded varieties should check labels regarding potential grass “blends” or “weed seed,” which allow a certain percentage of weeds and undesirable plants.

Nitrogen should be applied after sprigs and seeds are actively producing “runners,” above-ground stems, and are establishing more plants, she said. Corriher-Olson recommends 50-60 pounds of nitrogen per acre.

“Depending on weather, you may not be able to harvest or graze a newly established pasture until September,” she said.

She also recommends avoiding over-seeding newly established pastures with cool-season forages to reduce competition for the fledgling pasture.

Corriher-Olson said the Forage Fax website, https://foragefax.tamu.edu/ can provide more information about establishing Bermuda grass, including a step-by-step guide for establishing sprigs.

“Once you establish a perennial stand, you want it to last several years,” she said. “Management is important so you don’t have to replant.”

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

CENTRAL: Rain chances passed over most areas leaving no considerable moisture. Topsoil moisture was declining due to the extremely strong south winds. Nighttime temperatures were still very cool. Producers were beginning to plant cotton. Area farmers fertilized and sprayed for weeds in Coastal fields. However, Coastal was slow to grow due to cooler evenings. Other Bermuda grasses also slowed due to cooler temperatures. Sorghum hay fields continued to do well and were starting to sprout. Corn was growing rapidly due to the significant amounts of rain in recent weeks. Oats were cut and baled for oat hay, and wheat fields were cut for wheat ensilage. Cattle and other livestock were in good body condition. Stock tanks were full. Most counties reported good soil moisture. Overall livestock and rangeland and pasture conditions were good in all counties. Overall crop conditions were good in most areas.

ROLLING PLAINS: Weather in the district was like a roller coaster, with warm and sunny conditions one day then cloudy and cold the next. Farmers began preparing fields, putting out pre-emergence herbicides and bedding up fields for this year’s cotton crop. Ranchers welcomed the recent moisture as pastures and rangeland greened up. The winter wheat crop was just about grazed out, and producers were beginning to move cattle to pastures. Early planted grain sorghum was emerging with good stands in most cases. Canola started to be swathed for combining. Wheat harvest and cotton, guar and peanut planting should begin soon.

COASTAL BEND: Rains in previous weeks put crops and pastures in good condition for the most part. While subsoil moisture remains sufficient in most areas, windy conditions decreased topsoil moisture significantly. Corn planted early was already tasseling. Rice planting neared completion, and grain sorghum in some areas began to flower. Possible wind damage to cotton and soybean crops will be surveyed soon, and some cotton fields previously reported as waterlogged were still suffering. Producers were treating weeds and insects in cotton. Sugarcane aphids were reported at higher levels and corn leaf aphids were also reported. Pecan producers were scouting for pecan nut casebearers. Insecticide applications and hay making were starting early. Pasture conditions and livestock still looked good.

EAST: Rain across the region helped soil conditions in most counties. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were adequate in most counties except Shelby County where subsoil conditions were short. Panola County remained dangerously close to a short supply of soil moisture even with recent rains. A cold front brought high winds, lightning, thunder and rain. Tornadoes were reported in neighboring counties. Pasture and rangeland conditions were mostly fair to good with Rusk and Gregg counties reporting excellent. Hay meadows in Cherokee County were too wet for producers to harvest. Gregg County producers continued to apply herbicide and fertilizer to pastures. Pastures and hay fields continued to make good growth with moisture and sunshine in Polk County. Topsoil moisture conditions in Trinity County were decreasing because of the hard-blowing wind. Cool and even cold nights hurt grass production even with the rain. Oats and winter wheat were in very poor condition in Jasper County. Producers in Marion County were planting gardens. Livestock were in good condition. Cows were gaining weight. Spring cattle work was in progress. Selling of market-ready calves and cull cows continued in Polk County. Prices at the sale barn in Shelby County were getting better. Wild pigs continued to be active.

SOUTH PLAINS: It was windy and warm for most of the week across the district before a cold front.  Rainfall received ranged from 0.3-3 inches, and some areas received snow. Extreme late-season cold temperatures experienced may affect wheat growth in Swisher County. Around 50 percent of wheat may not be fully headed out, so an estimation of the effects will be assessed in the coming warmer days. In other areas, approximately half of the wheat fields were cut and baled. Some common leaf rust was observed in a few remaining wheat fields. Corn emerged and looked good. Some producers were considering planting cotton next week. The area benefited from moisture, but pastures still needed major rains. Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels were adequate to short due to continual windy conditions.

PANHANDLE: Temperatures were again all over the place. The week started with near-normal temperatures and some moisture in most areas. By mid week, temperatures were above average with dry, windy conditions. By week’s end there were frost advisories and blowing snow across most of the district. Rain and snow totals ranged from 0.5-2.25 inches. There was a hard freeze one night in some areas. Deaf Smith County producers had a productive week working around weather events. Corn plantings were going in at a rapid rate as producers try to dodge upcoming weather events. Some fields were very wet. Liquid fertilizers, pre-emerge chemicals and dry fertilizers were being applied as quickly as producers could get into the fields. Corn plantings were about 45 percent complete with nothing emerged yet. Cotton planting was still on hold until corn planting was complete. The winter wheat crop was anywhere from boot to heading stages. A cold front and potential freeze could severely damage area crops. Cattle conditions continued to improve. Ochiltree County corn and cotton planting was delayed due to scattered showers. Wheat and oats were cut for hay. Rangelands were green and growing, and burned areas were recovering rapidly. Supplemental feeding of cattle ceased.

NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels ranged from mostly adequate to short. A cold front came through and brought more rain, with amounts ranging from 0.25 to 3 inches in most areas. Farmers continued to plant grain sorghum, soybeans and cotton between rain events. Producers estimated about 50-60 percent of crops were planted. All corn was planted and was in very good condition. Pastures were doing well due to recent rains. Winter pastures were harvested and production was above normal. Livestock were in good condition, but fly numbers on cattle were high. Wild hogs were causing some problems for livestock. There were four confirmed tornadoes in Van Zandt County. There was storm and tornado damage reported in multiple counties.

FAR WEST: Temperature highs were in the 90s with lows in the 30s. Precipitation reported for the week averaged between 0.06 -0.36 inches of rain. Wheat is progressing quickly with the warmer temperatures and warm winds that continually blow these days. Harvest should be a couple weeks earlier than usual this year. Corn and sorghum was up and doing well. A good rain would help them along and help store moisture for drier months. Cotton planting should start shortly. Drip irrigation continued to run as producers prepared fields for cotton planting. Many ranchers were conducting spring branding and should continue branding calves into early summer. Producers continued to work sheep and goats.

WEST CENTRAL: Temperatures were up and down. Days were hot, dry and windy with cool nights.  A cold front brought temperatures to the 40s. Soil moisture conditions continued to decline due to strong winds and lack of rainfall. Risk of range fires increased throughout the district due to dry conditions and high winds. Corn was planted and irrigated and doing well. Sorghum could be in bad shape soon without rain. Many producers planted Sudan grass for hay production this summer. Some fields were too dry to plant summer forages. Winter wheat was maturing rapidly with the majority of fields headed out and some starting to turn colors. Wheat harvest should begin soon, and cotton planting should follow soon after. Row-crop producers were preparing for cotton planting, however dryland acres needed moisture. Rangeland and pastures remained in good condition and were improving every week, however weeds were abundant as well. All forages needed rain. Livestock remained in mostly fair to good condition. Cattle markets continued to be strong. Cattle continued to look good with good grazing pastures available. Small-grain fields were grazed by livestock. Pecan trees were in good shape and in full tassel.

SOUTHEAST: Planting of rice continued, and planted acres were progressing. Expected rain held off and conditions should allow for the remaining acres to be planted. Growing conditions were good. Livestock were in good condition. Some areas experienced cold fronts. Row crops were in good shape with plenty of soil moisture and rain in the forecast. Some cotton started to square, and producers were on the lookout for flea hoppers. Some corn was tasseling. Growth was seen on arrowleaf clovers, and ball clovers were in late bloom while crimson clovers were drying seed heads. Annual ryegrasses have gone to seed. Winter annuals, including ryegrass, were baled and grazed. Warm-season grasses were growing rapidly, but cool evenings continued to slow perennials. High winds were removing soil moisture. The slow growth of grasses may cause the continuation of supplemental feeding. Overall crops and pastures remained in fair to good condition.

SOUTHWEST: Favorable weather continued, but recent days were dry. Forage remained abundant. Producers were fertilizing hay fields and applying herbicides for weed control. Most oats were used for grazing. Peaches were harmed by hail and were not leafing well. Cotton planting was completed. Livestock were in good condition, but horn flies were a problem. Lambing and kidding neared completion.

SOUTH: Daytime temperatures continued to rise throughout the district. Nighttime temperatures were reported in the 50s in some areas. Some spotty showers occurred in northern parts of the district, but most counties did not receive any rainfall. Some areas received some hail and high winds. Temperatures fluctuated from 100 degrees one day back down to the 50s the next. Much of the district could use additional rain. Wheat harvests continued. Sweet corn, carrots, green bean and potatoes were harvested as well. Cotton planting also began in some areas. Corn fields were in the tassel stage in some areas and emerged in others. Rangeland and pastures were in good condition in some areas while others declined significantly due to hot, dry and windy conditions. Crop conditions also significantly decreased in that area. Forage grasses were showing signs of moisture stress. Rangeland and pasture conditions remained good. Beef cattle and wildlife continued to be in good condition. Some spring and fall calves were processed or shipped to market. The live cattle market showed minimal progress. Most sorghum in fields emerged. Around 60 percent of winter wheat fields were in good condition and 100 percent of fields had headed. Stock tanks remained in need of rainfall. Coastal Bermuda grass producers were harvesting hay. Producers were planting and irrigating some crops like onion and watermelons. Pecan groves were doing well due to recent rains and additional irrigation water applications. No supplemental feeding of livestock was reported by producers. The sugarcane harvest was completed, and vegetable and citrus harvests continued.

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