Texas crop, weather, May 30, 2012

Source: AgriLife TODAY

Though the areas of extreme and severe drought shrank further, large parts of Texas remained either in one stage of drought or abnormally dry, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor and Texas AgriLife Extension Service reports.

Producers throughout the state continued to make hay, and plant cotton and other crops, according to weekly reports from AgriLife Extension county agents throughout the state. Cattle were generally in fair to good condition in most regions. Some livestock producers were restocking herds, but doing so at a cautious rate, concerned that the weather will turn dry again.

Without timely June rains, South Plains cotton producers are unlikely to irrigate at the levels they did during the 2011 drought, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service expert. (Texas AgriLife Extension Service photo by Robert Burns)

In the South Plains, where the majority of the Texas cotton crop is grown, the situation is certainly better than last year, said Mark Kelley, AgriLife Extension cotton specialist in Lubbock. Producers are actively planting throughout the region but aware they are still in a drought.

“We’re going at it like gangbusters,” Kelley said. “The northern part of the region — up around Parmer and Bailey counties — they are at the 90 to 95 percent mark, with some replanting going on, but they’re wrapping things up pretty quickly.”

Despite large swathes of the region rated as being in either a moderate or severe drought, there are areas where things look “really good,” he said.

“Lubbock County and south had some pretty good rains in May,” Kelley said. “Further south into Dawson County, they’ve had some good rains too. West of there it looks pretty good too in some spots, but we’re not out of the woods yet, by any means.”

Subsoil moisture levels remain the issue, he said, and timely rains will be needed throughout June to keep the crop growing.

“The good news in parts of the area could turn to bad in a hurry if the June forecast doesn’t shape up better, in my opinion,” he said.

But the current June forecast doesn’t look too promising. The area has already been passed over where the forecast has been for 20 to 30 percent chances for rain.

“I’m not giving up hope, and I’m sure the producers aren’t either,” Kelley said.

Hot, dry windy days are going to dry out dryland cotton very quickly. The irrigated stands are looking good, he said, but producers are unlikely to irrigate to the levels they did in 2011, and will likely divert water to other crops if the drought intensifies.

A moderately dry summer is a different story, he said. Growing dryland cotton could still be a dicey proposition, but irrigated farmers will continue to keep fields they’ve planted under irrigation.

More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at agrilife.tamu.edu/drought.

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:


The 12 Texas AgriLife Extension Service regional districts.

Central: Cotton farmers were planting.
 Some counties saw rain, but others were becoming very dry. Hay fields remained green but were making little growth. Vegetables and fruits made good progress. Spring-planted crops such as corn, milo and haygrazer were showing stress from lack of moisture. In others, corn looked very good. Many of producers made a good first cutting of hay, but some worried that if the weather turns dry there will not be another cutting. Stripe rust and septoria were two of the more prevalent fungal diseases in wheat. Armyworms were another problem in many wheat fields; if they ate the flag leaf, yields dropped. 
Pasture conditions declined as cool season annuals stopped growing and only warm-season grasses remained. Many producers with improved Bermuda grasses noticed sparse stands. Native-grass pastures also had yet to recover from the drought.

Coastal Bend: Temperatures were above normal with no rain reported. Some cotton was being cultivated; all crops needed rain. Sorghum showed signs of drought stress. Some producers were cutting it for hay. The recent dry spell was causing wilting in many grain crops. Most corn and sorghum growers who had wells were laying pipe to furrow irrigate. Pasture conditions remained steady. Many producers reported problems with aquatic weeds in their ponds, including filamentous algae and duckweed. There were more reports of trees not recovering from last year’s drought and dying.

East: Soils continued to dry out due to lack of rain, increased temperatures and high winds. Grass growth slowed, and most ryegrass was already baled. Cattle were in good condition. The fly population on cows continued to build. Feral hogs were active. Grasshopper numbers increased in pastures. Vegetables were selling well at local markets. Blueberry and blackberry growers began harvesting.

Far West: Highs ranged from the upper 80s to the 100s, with lows in the low 60s. Most Counties had windy conditions, which raised the risk of wildfire. Pecos and Presidio counties had as much as 1.5 inches of rain accompanied by hail. Reeves County and Terrell counties also received some precipitation. Cotton and sunflower planting was in full swing, with most farmers starting to plant on dryland fields. Farmers were applying the product TopGuard under a Section 18 emergency use exemption for cotton root rot. Warm-season annuals began rapidly growing. Alfalfa production was up, and wheat hay was abundant. In Presidio County, toxic weeds were reported in some areas. Beneficial weeds such as shin oak and other summer species were in full growth and providing much needed nutrition to cattle and wildlife. Livestock were in good condition due to more abundant forages.

North: The wheat harvest was nearly complete with about 90 percent to 95 percent harvested. Yields were above average, about 65 bushels per acre on a regular basis, with some reports of 70 and even 80-plus bushel yields. These were the highest wheat yields in recent history. Corn was doing very well, with about 75 percent of the crop tasseled. Both corn and wheat were about three weeks ahead of schedule due to the early spring. The hay harvest was excellent. However, topsoils were drying out due to lack of rain and high temperatures, and grasshopper populations were rising. Soil moisture levels were becoming a factor for dryland soybean planting and young, already emerged plants. Livestock were in fair to good condition.

Panhandle: The region was hot, dry and windy. Soil moisture varied from very short to adequate with most counties reporting short. Corn was mostly in good condition, with some fields under irrigation. The planting of cotton and small grains was ongoing. Early planted grain sorghum was at the two- or three-leaf stage. Wheat was in very poor to excellent condition, with most counties reporting fair. Irrigated wheat was being harvested. Rangeland and pastures were in very poor to good condition, with most reporting poor. Cattle were improving. Cotton farmers were closely monitoring insects, particularly thrips, with some producers already spraying.

Rolling Plains: The wheat harvest was expected to wrap up quickly if the weather remained hot and dry. Wheat yields ranged from very poor to above average. Cotton planting was slowed because of lack of moisture and poor producer enthusiasm. Early planted cotton was at the two-leaf stage. Some producers reported a high death loss of native as well as improved grass stands due to last year’s drought and no spring rain. In King County, haygrazer plantings totaled 900 acres but were in very poor condition. Hay was in short supply, and cattle producers planned to start cutting herds again if rain doesn’t come soon. The grasshopper population was increasing. Early peaches were smaller than normal. Parker and Throckmorton counties reported from 0.5 inch to 2 inches of rain. For Parker County, it was the first significant rain received since March 26.

South: Atascosa County, south of San Antonio, received 10 inches of rain. No rain was reported in the rest of the region. Soil-moisture levels were 50 to 100 percent adequate in the northern and southern parts of the region and short to very short throughout the eastern and western areas. Rangeland and pastures were in good condition but high evaporation rates and temperatures, and persistent winds were quickly drying them out. Cattle were mostly in fair condition, with prices for replacements high. Jim Wells County reported $1,000 being offered for bred cows. Most ranches remained de-stocked on cattle and were expected to remain so for quite some time. Supplemental feeding of cattle with hay, molasses and range cubes continued. Well water remained the primary source of water for livestock and wildlife in some areas. In Atascosa County, corn was tasseling, cotton was blooming and a lot of hay was being baled. In Frio County, the potato harvest continued, peanut planting was in full swing, and irrigation of corn and sorghum increased. In Zavala County, farmers were actively irrigating cabbage, watermelons, corn, cotton, sorghum and oats. Also in Zavala County, some insect pressure was reported and pesticide applications were being applied and closely monitored. In Cameron County, row crops were progressing well. In Hidalgo County, growers were preparing to harvest sunflowers. In Starr County, the cantaloupe harvest continued, and row crops were progressing well. In Willacy County, all corn emerged and silked, all the cotton crop was headed out, and nearly all the cotton crop was squaring.

South Plains: Cotton planting was in full swing, with some fields already emerged. Some stands ranged in development from seedling to two and three true leaves. More rain was needed because high temperatures in the 90s and 100s, along with high winds, dried out what moisture gains were made in the last few weeks. In some areas where there were heavy rains and/or hail, cotton will have to be replanted. Rangeland and pastures improved from the rains a couple of weeks ago, but more rain was needed to regrow stands damaged by the drought. Livestock were in mostly fair to good condition.

Southeast: Daytime highs were in the upper 80s, with lows in the upper 60s. Topsoil moisture levels were fair. Haying was very active. Grass regrowth in hay fields was moderate to good, but more rain was needed. Producers continued to fight severe weed pressure due to the 2011 drought. In Chambers County, oats were grazed and not harvested. Jefferson County received 0.5 inch of rain.

Southwest: The weather was warm and windy, which was quickly drying out soils. Hay was harvested, and the peach crop was very good, with much roadside-stand activity. Grasshopper populations rose enough to cause treatment of field crops to begin.

West Central: Hot, dry, windy conditions continued. All areas needed rain. Producers were busy with field activities, including preparing for planting. The wheat harvest neared completion. Hay producers continued cutting and baling. Cotton planting began under good moisture conditions in most locations. Forage crops were up and growing. Most grain sorghum was planted and off to a good start. Most rangeland and pastures remained in good condition. Warm-season grasses were green and growing, but more rain was needed soon for them to continue producing. Winter weeds and grasses were dying. Livestock were in fair condition. Producers were cautiously beginning to restock herds. Pecans were in good condition.