Source: AgriLife Today
Texas cotton is in a varied state of production, but one thing is common for most producers, especially dryland growers, rain is needed to improve soil moisture levels, said Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts. Dr. Seth Byrd, AgriLife Extension agronomist, Lubbock, said cotton producers around the state experienced favorable weather patterns last year but there is some concern 2017 could be a problem, especially for dryland producers. Some cotton fields are yet to be planted, while others are flowering, according to regional reports.
Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, state climatologist, College Station, said long-term forecasts show conditions could be drier and warmer than normal and many areas in the state are relatively dry for this time of year.
Byrd said cotton acres in the region will rise as producers switch from corn and sorghum for a more favorable market option. Cotton is also a more drought tolerant planting option.
“Other options aren’t out there because of the state of the markets,” he said. “There’s always a risk no matter what you plant, but cotton looks less risky.”
Regional cotton fields are about 50 percent dryland and 50 percent irrigated, though additional irrigated acreage in the northern part of the region historically dedicated to corn and sorghum will be planted in cotton, he said.
Conditions were good two weeks ago, he said, so some producers took advantage and planted.
But soil moisture levels, especially the first 3 inches of topsoil, dried significantly due to high temperatures and windy conditions in the region, he said. The region has not received rain in almost two weeks, though some was expected.
“There is some dry planting going on,” he said. “It’s not ideal, but the seed is not going to swell and rot. They’re counting on the rain in the forecast.”
In the Coastal Bend and Rio Grande Valley, Dr. Joshua McGinty, AgriLife Extension agronomist, Corpus Christi, said most dryland fields needed a good rain within the next few weeks or cotton could “be in trouble.”
Most fields were planted in February and March and were already flowering and looked “OK” for now, he said.
McGinty said the past few years were easy as fields received adequate rain and required little to no irrigation and faced few pest and disease issues. This year, the soil profile was not as accommodating, and producers’ decision to stick with cotton rather than rotate to corn or sorghum led to an increase in disease pressure, including nematodes, which are atypical for the region.
“Usually if you start with a good soil moisture profile you can make a crop,” he said. “This year we’ve had enough moisture to get the crop started, but we need a good rain in the next few weeks or the cotton crop could be in trouble. The profile is dry to 2 feet or more in some areas and it won’t be long before roots can’t access moisture.”
McGinty said producers in the Rio Grande Valley were irrigating heavily this year due to arid, windy conditions, but the water is salty and of poor quality. A good rain is needed to improve soil moisture levels and flush the salt out of fields.
“Cotton is the only thing growers think they could make a profit on,” he said. “The last few years we got lucky, but then a few years before that it was bad in some areas, so it is hit or miss. It all depends on the rain.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
CENTRAL: Small amounts of rain as well as severe thunderstorms, high winds, tornadoes and hail were common. More rain was expected and needed because the area was becoming very dry. Pasture conditions should improve. Wheat harvests were underway. Hay was baled, and cotton was re-planted in some areas. Sorghum and corn crops were doing better than average. Cattle and other livestock were in good condition. Stocker calf producers were shipping cattle off winter grazing pastures. Daily temperatures continued to warm, and cool-season annuals such as ryegrass continued to dry down and offer less grazing. With fertilizer, Bermuda grass pastures will green up after rainfalls. Counties were reporting good soil moisture. Most counties reported good overall crop, livestock and rangeland and pasture conditions.
ROLLING PLAINS: Rain fell across parts of the district with amounts varying from a trace to more than 3 inches. Some hail was reported but no reports of significant damage. Wheat harvests were underway before the rain. Cotton planting started, and a high percent of cotton was expected to be planted after wheat harvests end. Some producers planted cover crops behind wheat, and more was planned. Canola was ready or was harvested with one county reporting disappointing yields. Livestock were in good condition. Rangeland and pastures were in good condition.
COASTAL BEND: Rain was needed in most areas, other than the northern portion of the reporting area. All crops, other than cotton, were showing signs of stress due to lack of moisture. Early planted corn fields were nearing dent stage. Fleahoppers caused some damage in cotton. Sugarcane aphid pressure was apparent in many sorghum fields and treatments were being applied. Producers started flooding rice fields. Livestock were mostly in good condition. Beef producers began marketing younger calves due to declining pasture conditions. Rain was in the forecast, and some producers applied fertilizer to forage and hay pastures in anticipation.
EAST: The region continued to receive rainfall although amounts varied. San Augustine County received very little rain while Upshur County reported large amounts. Warm-season forage growth remained slow due to cool nighttime temperatures. Anderson County reported large amounts of weeds in pastures and hay meadows. Producers were fertilizing hay meadows. Pastures around the region were in good condition. Subsoil and topsoil remained in mostly adequate condition. Ryegrass was cut and baled. Cherokee County hay production was in full swing. Shelby County was harvesting their first cutting of hay. Wild pig activity was up. Anderson County reported an active timber harvest. Vegetable crops were looking good. Harvest of onions, tomatoes, potatoes, plums, peaches, pea, sweet corn, squash and watermelons started. All cotton was planted in Anderson and Jasper counties. Oat conditions in Jasper County were good. Livestock were in good condition. Shelby County saw large numbers of cattle at the sale. Cattle prices were holding steady in Gregg County. Polk County had a good spring crop of calves on the ground. Cattle work continued along with selling of market cows and market-ready calves. Anderson County reported an increase in horn fly activity.
SOUTH PLAINS: Cotton planting was very active. Soil conditions were dry due to hot and windy days. Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels depleted due to very high winds. Some counties reported chances of rain in the forecast, which would help planting if it materializes. Wheat was close to harvest. Cattle were in good condition.
PANHANDLE: Dallam and Hartley counties reported seasonal weather and received a trace to 0.45 of an inch of rain. Moisture conditions were excellent for planting. Corn planting made good progress with about 70 percent planted so far. Cotton planting was around 50 percent completed. Some early planted cotton was emerging. Soil moisture was good. Wheat silage cutting was winding down. Some wheat was swathed for hay. Wheat yield potentials were just above average. Some fields are experiencing losses due to disease issues. Alfalfa was also swathed for first cuttings. Cows and calves were moved to summer pastures as breeding season was beginning. Rangelands were in good shape due to moisture. Cattle and pasture conditions continued to improve. Winter wheat fields were coming along with the warmer temperatures, and many fields were being chopped or baled. Hall County reported storms with hail and high winds that caused damage to structures, vehicles and some crops. Peanut planting kicked off as soil temperatures were rising. Fire-damaged areas were improving rapidly.
NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels ranged from mostly adequate to short. Daytime temperatures were in the 80s, and nighttime temperatures were in the low 60s. Some rain was received over the weekend with amounts ranging from about 0.25-1 inch but more was needed. Corn looked very good and was rapidly growing. Most other crops including cotton, grain sorghum and soybeans were planted and emerged. Pastures also looked very good. Ryegrass hay was harvested, and meadows were prepared for Bermuda grass. Wheat harvests started with about 15-20 percent completed. Fly numbers increased on cattle.
FAR WEST: Temperature highs topped 100 degrees in contrast with lows in the 60s. Precipitation reports ranged from a trace to 1.28 inches of rain. Dry, windy conditions remained with wind gusts averaging 30-50 mph. Cotton planting picked up. Most producers still needed another inch of rain on dryland fields for it to be wet enough to plant. Wheat harvest started, and early reports were positive with yields around 25-30 bushels per acre. Test weights were very good. Pecan and fruit trees needed water at a critical production stage. Pastures dried up with heat and winds, and fire dangers increased. Producers continued to feed livestock and wildlife.
WEST CENTRAL: Temperatures and conditions were seasonable early in the reporting period with isolated storms, heavy rainfall, winds and hail reported later in the reporting period. More rain was needed in all areas. Stock ponds were drying out as high temperatures and high winds reduced soil moisture levels. Wheat harvests were underway in most areas with average and below average yields reported. Some producers worked at full speed to get wheat out before rains arrived. Farmers have Sudan up and growing for summer grazing and hay production. Irrigated corn and sorghum were doing very well. Dryland sorghum was off to a slow start but should pick up after the rains. Cotton planting was delayed due to dry conditions. Planting was expected to begin in the next few weeks following the rains. Rains helped pastures and Coastal Bermuda grass grow. Rangeland and pasture conditions remained fair to good, but were showing signs of moisture stress. Most cool-season annuals matured and played out. Recent rainfall should help pastures achieve good growth. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. The cattle market was active and holding steady.
SOUTHEAST: In Chambers County, organic rice fields were being planted. A little conventional rice was left to plant, as well. Most fields were dry and required extra water to be pumped onto them to prevent rice from getting too dry. Weekend rains helped conditions and more rain was in the forecast. Pastures declined significantly over the past two weeks and needed the moisture. Brazos County experienced heavy rains. Some creeks flooded. Soil moisture conditions in Montgomery County were very poor until light showers were received, with more than half an inch in some areas. Overall conditions were good for the moment. Soil-moisture levels throughout the region ranged from short to very short. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied from fair to poor with fair ratings being most common.
SOUTHWEST: Weather continues continued to be dry throughout the region, although a few areas received between 1 and 2 inches of rain over the past few days. Moisture conditions improved allowing rangeland and pasture conditions to improve as well. Corn continued to look good but not sorghum. Small grain and wheat harvest was in full swing, while winter wheat was poor. Some Bermuda grass fields were starting to go dormant. Rain was still needed. Cattle prices have been fair considering the dry environment. Livestock were in fair to excellent condition.
SOUTH: Temperatures continued to rise throughout the district, continuously reducing soil moisture and browning rangeland and pastures. Most areas remained dry. Scattered rain was received in some areas, and heavy rainfall with localized flooding from heavy downpours of 3-5 inches were reported in the southwest corner of Jim Hogg County near the Starr, Zapata county line. Temperatures were warm with high winds throughout most of the district. Gardeners continued to harvest potatoes and corn. Corn fields were in the silking stage and sorghum was in the heading stage. All cotton fields emerged throughout the district. Irrigation continued where needed. Peanut planting started. Pasture and rangeland conditions continued to dry out in most areas due to strong winds and lack of rainfall. Some supplemental feeding occurred, and body condition scores on cattle declined some but remained mostly in good to fair condition. The live-cattle market showed some improvement in prices. In Jim Wells County, row crops were showing varying levels of moisture stress due to the lack of rainfall. Yields were already being affected significantly. Hot and dry conditions reported in the Zavala County area were favorable for wheat and oat harvesting and for preparing fields for harvest of those grains. Cantaloupe harvesting was active in Zavala County.