Texas Crop and Weather Report — July 24

Record high temperatures around the state

  • Writer: Adam Russell, 903-834-6191, adam.russell@ag.tamu.edu
  • Contact: Dr. Lee Tarpley, 409-752-2741, ltarpley@tamu.edu

COLLEGE STATION – Most areas of the state have set or tied high temperature records this summer, including a string of 100-plus days last week, according to the state climatologist.

Irrigated tomatoes’ at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Overton leaves curl from heat stress in the mid-day sun. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Adam Russell)

Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, College Station, said San Angelo is experiencing its hottest summer to date, and much of the state is experiencing above-average temperatures. 

Records were tied or set in Brownsville, Amarillo, San Angelo, Waco and Fort Stockton over the past seven days, Nielsen-Gammon said, with the highest recorded temperature at 114 in Waco and 108 in San Angelo.

Nielsen-Gammon said Texas was on pace to experience its second-hottest summer on record.

Extreme high temperatures have stressed plants and vegetation around the state, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service reports.  

Dr. Lee Tarpley, Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant physiologist, Beaumont, said all plants and vegetation experience heat stress when daytime and nighttime temperatures hit extreme highs.

The heat and dry conditions have put the progress of some crops in doubt.

“A plant’s most sensitive period is flowering,” he said. “Most crops like corn and sorghum are well beyond that point, so they should be fine if there weren’t problems already.”

Most rice fields were planted early enough to get past flowering stage before extreme temperatures arrived, Tarpley said. Some later-planted fields may show damage and experience reduced yields, but most fields were expected to produce good yields.

The combination of high daytime and nighttime temperatures can negatively affect both flowering and processes in vegetation, such as photosynthesis and respiration. This can hurt cell membranes and metabolic efficiency.

“Anytime a plant gets out of the optimal range of temperature, it can be tough and there will be incremental damage from heat stress,” he said. “The combination of heat and drought stress can be worse than either of the two individually.”

Heat stress can damage cell membranes, Tarpley said, and drought stress can cause leaves to shut down transpiration, which further increases leaf temperature. These stresses affect the plant’s ability to photosynthesize.

When leaves start to wilt during drought stress, the crops are likely already experiencing economic damage, Tarpley said.

“It’s hard to completely recover from that,” he said. “If you catch the drought stress early, the plants can recover, but it’s downhill from there when it hits a certain degree of stress.”

One thing that can help protect plants from high temperatures is enough water to allow their metabolic processes, such as transpiration, to work efficiently, Tarpley said.

Some later-planted commodity crops, especially cotton, could be susceptible to the recent high temperatures, especially if high temperatures are coupled with a lack of moisture, he said.

AgriLife Extension reports indicate dryland acres in parts of the state suffered due to dry conditions before the recent heatwave. Many acres did not emerge and were replanted with other crops that are also showing signs of stress or have not emerged.

The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Districts

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

CENTRAL: Conditions were hot and dry with record heat. Daytime temperatures were breaking all-time highs. Hot, dry south wind was drying everything out even more. Pasture conditions continued to decline. Calves were being weaned and sold early. Stock tanks were getting low, and hay was scarce. Producers were rolling corn stalks for hay and were deeply culling herds. Most producers reported good body conditions in livestock. Producers with irrigation were concerned about suspension of water rights to more senior water-rights holders. Corn harvest was underway, and yields were very low. Grain sorghum harvest was nearing completion. Cotton was struggling with limited moisture. A little more than half the district’s counties reported fair overall crop, pasture and rangeland conditions.

ROLLING PLAINS: Conditions were dry and hot with no rain received. Severe heat was stressing all agriculture production sectors. Soil moisture was too limited for cotton or sorghum roots to survive. Temperatures were in the 100s with highs ranging from 113-119 degrees. Heat warnings were received multiple days. The week started off with large fires in Archer County that totaled over 3,000 acres burned. Sorghum and haygrazer were cut and baled where possible. Many fields were too dry, and some will not cut a crop or hay. Ponds were taking major hits on water evaporation, and pastures were suffering due to lack of moisture. Grasshoppers continued to do damage.

COASTAL BEND: Conditions were extremely hot with little to no rainfall reported. Harvest was underway for grain sorghum and corn, with a great variance in yields. Grain moisture was favorable with very little harvest aid application necessary. Soybeans were still maturing. Rice was nearly all headed out. Cotton bolls were opening. Sugarcane aphid pressure increased significantly over the past 10 days. Hay production was in full swing with good yields recorded. Rangeland and pasture conditions deteriorated significantly with the very hot, dry weather. Cattle remained in good condition.

EAST: Triple digit temperatures paired with drought conditions continued to rob moisture from the soil throughout the district. Harrison County producers were concerned about stock water levels drying up. Smith County reported to be abnormally dry, according to the latest drought monitor. Wood County reported excessive heat. Lack of of rain slowed down hay and grass growth countywide. Cherokee County reported second hay cuttings were less than average in yield. Marion and Smith counties reported producers continued to cut hay but the number of rolls per acre was very low. Pasture and rangeland conditions were good in Sabine County and fair in Rusk, Shelby, San Augustine and Marion counties. All other counties reported poor pasture and rangeland conditions. Anderson County reported sorghum, soybean, as well as most late-planted corn were lost due to drought conditions. Marion County reported many producers’ gardens dried up, while other continued to water two or more times a day to keep them alive. Topsoil conditions were reported as adequate in Anderson, Sabine and San Augustine, while all other counties reported short conditions. Subsoil conditions were adequate in Anderson, Sabine and San Augustine counties, while all other reported short conditions. Livestock were reported to be in fair body condition overall. Shelby County reported the cattle market as steady. Bollworm problems were reported by Anderson County. Armyworms began their assault on hay meadows in Cherokee and Wood counties. Grasshopper control was underway in Wood County, and wild pigs caused damage in Henderson county.   

SOUTH PLAINS: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels remained short to very short due to high temperatures. Cotton was progressing rapidly due to high temperatures. Producers were monitoring and treating Lygus, worms and cotton aphids. Peanuts continued to do well. Worm foliage feeding remained light. Weeds were a concern. Grain sorghum continued to mature. Pasture and rangeland needed rain. Cattle were in good condition.

PANHANDLE: No report.

NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels were mostly short, with some counties reporting very short conditions. Record heat indexes were recorded this reporting period, with six days of 100-plus temperatures, and 5-15 mph winds continued to dry soil moisture. Pastures were showing drought stress, and stock ponds were starting to recede. Producers baling hay reported 50 percent or less their normal harvest. Bermudagrass stem maggots and grasshoppers were reported. Producers in the northern part of Van Zandt County reported signs of armyworms. Saharan dust caused problems in Cass County.

FAR WEST: Temperatures averaged highs in the low to mid-100s and lows in the high 70s. Rainfall was needed badly. Scattered showers averaged less than half an inch of recorded rainfall. The extreme heat was taking a toll on already very stressed crops. With water in short supply, producers were having a difficult time keeping up with demand for irrigated crops. Quite a few acres of haygrazer, sorghum and cotton were replanted dryland after cotton failed and are barely holding on. Martin County experienced severe drought for four months, and conditions destroyed all possible dryland crops. Most producers plowed cotton and took a total loss. The area was 6 inches below normal rainfall average. Continued high temperatures and lack of rain continued to negatively impact livestock, wildlife and production operations. Both Pima and Upland cotton looked excellent. Pecan orchards looked very good as well. Producers reported very minimal pest pressure across the board. Shipping of calves and unwanted cows was ongoing.

WEST CENTRAL: No report.

SOUTHEAST: Continued heat and no rain was removing moisture from the soil profile rapidly. Rice harvest was about to kick off. The weather was cooperating so far. Hay was being bailed. Livestock were in good condition. Grain sorghum harvest was underway with yields ranging from 2,000-6,000 pounds per acre. Corn was maturing and estimated to average 50-75 bushels per acre. Cotton was progressing, and some insect sprays were needed for worms and stink bugs. Some cotton producers may defoliate soon. Forages continued to maintain growth. However, other plants such as vegetables and turfgrass were requiring moisture supplementation to maintain condition. Rangeland and pasture ratings were excellent to very poor with fair ratings being most common. Soil moisture levels were adequate to short with adequate being most common.

SOUTHWEST: Hot temperatures and dry conditions were taking a toll on rangelands and pastures. Ponds and rivers were drying up. Wildfires were a threat. Harsh conditions will affect harvests. Supplemental feeding and monitoring of water availability for wildlife and livestock was necessary.

SOUTH: Conditions were hot and dry with short to adequate moisture levels throughout the district. Daytime temperatures were 100 degrees or above. Hay was being produced, and cotton looked good overall. Cotton harvest began in some areas, while bolls were setting or opening in other areas. Peanuts were progressing in different stages. Corn harvest was in full swing. Irrigated croplands looked good. Pasture and rangeland conditions declined due to excessive heat and no rainfall, but areas that received recent rains were performing well. Livestock received supplemental feeding. High temperatures took a toll on soil moisture levels, with many pastures burning up. Body condition scores on cattle remained fair. Beef cattle conditions improved due to forage production in areas that received recent rains. Wildfires were a concern. Dry and hot conditions were favorable for sorghum and corn producers by reducing moisture content significantly and accelerating harvest activities. Producers reported about 40 percent of corn and 30 percent of the sorghum crop remained in the field. Failed sorghum fields continued to be harvested for hay. Live cattle market demand was up.

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