Dr. Carlos Fernandez, Texas A&M AgriLife Research agronomist, Corpus Christi, said cropland preparations in the area are on target and fields look good amid favorable conditions. “Fields are clear and farmers are preparing soil beds for planting,” he said. “Everything looks to be on or ahead of schedule.”
Fernandez said soil moisture levels are good following recent rains and herbicides and tillage have been applied to area fields. There have been several dry, windy days that have depleted topsoil moisture levels, but forecasted rains will further improve conditions before planting begins in the next few weeks.
“There was a good recharging of the soil with moisture and the post-harvest preparations made by farmers,” he said. “We expect very good conditions for germination.”
Grain sorghum is expected to be planted within the next two weeks with cotton to follow.
Fernandez said the vast majority of croplands in his area will be planted with sorghum and cotton, though some producers may plant corn because soil moisture recharge was favorable.
Milder-than-normal winter weather won’t likely change when or how producers scout for pests, said Dr. Robert Bowling, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service entomologist, Corpus Christi.
Bowling said the area experienced a hard freeze recently, but that overwintering insects are good at insulating themselves. Aside from higher-than-normal temperatures, the last few months have been very dry, which is advantageous for some pests.
“Sugarcane aphids like dry conditions and have shown an ability to overwinter in South Texas,” he said. “That’s one that producers around Corpus Christi, the Upper Gulf Coast and the Rio Grande Valley will be watching for because they have a remarkable ability to expand populations in such a short period of time.”
Bowling said it could be a bumper year for grasshoppers especially in the Rio Grande Valley, but predicting which pests will emerge as a problem going into any season is difficult.
“There is always something that pops up,” he said. “It’s usually the one you miss even thinking about.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
CENTRAL: Weather conditions were warmer. Good widespread rains halted field work. Good soil moisture levels were reported. Producers lost approximately 25 percent of the oat crop to freezing temperatures that dipped between 12-16 degrees on consecutive mornings. There could be more damage to oats. Pecan harvests neared completion. All wheat pastures were being grazed. Wheat was doing well but was slow to respond due to hard freezes in late December and early January. Producers were supplementing livestock with hay, and stocker cattle were doing well. Livestock were in good condition. Prices on slaughter cattle were steady. Crops were growing strong with great subsoil moisture and rains in recent weeks. Insect pressure was light in winter grains, but temperatures were a little warm, which may create some early pest issues. Rivers and tanks were full from recent rains. Small fires were reported. Most farmers were getting ready for corn planting.
ROLLING PLAINS: Cotton harvest was nearly over with record yields being reported in some counties. Subsoil moisture was good, but the topsoil was dry for the past month. Wheat pasture conditions ranged from poor to fair, but should improve in counties that received recent rainfall. Livestock continued to look good as calving season was in full swing. Rangeland and pastures were in good condition.
COASTAL BEND: Mild temperatures in late January, coupled with good soil moisture, triggered early regrowth of warm-season perennial grasses in some areas. There was good rainfall reported, from half an inch to 5.5 inches, and soil moisture conditions were favorable. Most producers applied fertilizer and pre-emergent herbicides, as many began final preparations for spring planting. Winter pastures provided much-needed grazing forage. Livestock were fed hay and protein but remain in good condition.
EAST: Daytime conditions were warmer than normal with cool nights. Most counties received rain. Amounts ranged from zero to 9.5 inches. Pasture and range conditions were poor to fair with only Rusk County reporting excellent conditions. Subsoil and topsoil were mostly adequate. Ponds and creeks were full. Marion County reported two tornadoes at the east and west ends of the county, which took out several trees, but crops were still in good condition. High winds and sunshine were drying out soil moisture in Polk County. Wood County needed sunshine for winter pasture growth. The dry conditions had some county commissioners courts recommending residents burn with caution, but no burn bans were in effect yet. Producers were trying to purchase hay. Pasture renovations were underway by many producers in Cherokee County. Winter pasture production was underway in Upshur County. Cattle were calving and calves were growing. Many producers were feeding hay and supplements. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Cattle prices were holding steady. Disease and insects such as aphids, scale and canker were being seen on fruit trees. Black spot was reported on roses in Smith County. Asian lady beetles were heavy this year and were seen inside homes. Tender plants were showing freeze damage. Onions were planted. Some producers were preparing to plant potatoes. Wild pigs were active and continued to be a problem.
SOUTH PLAINS: Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels continued to drop in some areas due to high winds. Scattered moisture was received with amounts ranging from 1.5-2.5 inches. Temperatures ranged from lows below freezing to highs in the 70s. Lubbock County reported a low of 7 degrees Jan. 7. Pastures and rangeland remained in fair condition, but would benefit from rain. Winter wheat struggled due to cold temperatures, but outlooks were good. Harvest was finished and producers began to prepare land for spring planting. Cotton harvest was complete. Most gins finished their ginning season, but some were still wrapping up. Yields were better than expected.
PANHANDLE: Near-normal temperatures were reported. Several counties reported rainfall ranging from 2-4 inches. Some received freezing rain. Rains helped winter wheat. Some fields were still wet. Hutchinson County reported damage to wheat fields from extreme cold. In Lipscomb County, the winter storm took out miles of electric service poles and lines, and repairs were ongoing. Some residents were without electricity for almost two weeks and counting. Reports suggested it could take another three weeks before rural residents and livestock watering facilities have electricity. Many were using generators to water cattle. The cotton crop was all in and being ginned with yields above normal for all areas. Yields of 2-4 bales per acre were reported in many locations. Cattle were doing fair on wheat, but freezing rain was hard on them. Irrigated wheat looked OK, and some dryland wheat has emerged but much hasn’t. Before the freezing rain, several producers were strip tilling fields for cotton and corn in the spring. Cattle producers were supplemental feeding. Gains were excellent due to overall mild conditions. Soil preparation work continued with application of fertilizers.
NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels varied from adequate to short. Recent rains added topsoil moisture needed for small grains and winter annual pastures. Water was standing in some wheat and oat fields for a few days, but it didn’t seem to hurt them. Runoff water was still needed to fill livestock ponds and lakes, which were very low. Ryegrass showed a little growth. The winter wheat and oat crops were doing very well. Hay and supplements were fed to stocker cattle due to hard freezes in some counties. Calving started, and cows looked good even though they were on hay and supplements. Most crops were harvested, including cotton and pecans. Yield for both crops were average to slightly below average.
FAR WEST: Temperature highs were in the 70s with lows in the 30s. Some freezing rain and snow pellets were reported. Windy conditions were prevalent. Substantial insect activity indicated higher-than-normal temperatures. Pecan and fruit trees needed watering. Area cotton farmers finished harvesting, and yields were good. Producers continued to feed livestock and wildlife. Preparations were being made for new crops.
WEST CENTRAL: Conditions were warm and dry for this time of year. Temperatures were unseasonably warm. Topsoil was good but began drying out fast due to high temperatures and windy conditions. Burn bans were in effect in all counties due to dry conditions and very high winds. Some spring field work was underway in preparation for planting. A few cotton fields still were not harvested. Fair-to-above-average yields were reported. Ginning was expected to go into late February and early March. Winter wheat was in mostly good to excellent condition. Rangeland and pasture conditions were fair to good. Cool-season grasses and forbs stopped growing. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Stock tank levels were mostly full. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued to increase. The cattle market was active, and demand was strong with stocker and feeder steers and heifers selling steady. Pecan harvests were mostly complete and winding down. Pecan yields were mostly good with excellent prices.
SOUTHEAST: Temperatures around the district ranged from lows that produced hard freezes to highs of 80 degrees. Some areas received 1-5 inches of rain, which should provide enough moisture to carry through planting. Corn could be planted in the next two weeks. Soil moisture ranged from adequate to surplus. Livestock were in good condition. Rains helped maintain forage quality. Cold in some areas set winter annual grasses back. Clover started to show some top growth, and wheat looked good. All livestock looked good. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely, from excellent to very poor, with good ratings being most common.
SOUTHWEST: Winter weeds and grasses increased and benefited livestock and wildlife. Soil moisture was declining. There was some spring wheat planting, and fields were being prepared for planting corn and milo. Some areas received scattered rain totaling 1.5 inches. Livestock were in fair condition, and shearing of Angora goats was underway.
SOUTH: Conditions were good overall. Soil moisture levels were mostly adequate but short and very short in some areas. Temperatures were mostly mild with a few reports of rain. Dimmit County reported dry conditions and 90 degree days. Some heavy wind affected field work in some areas. A late freeze shut most of the grass and vegetable growth down, but crops, rangeland and pastures began growing again following recent moisture and warm temperatures. Pasture and range conditions were poor in some areas due to an earlier freeze. Supplemental feeding of livestock increased as a result of the freeze. Wheat and oats planting was completed with the majority of the crop already emerged. Potato planting started. Cool-season annuals lacked moisture necessary for growth. Body condition scores on cattle remained fair. Local cattle markets opened the year about 10-15 cents higher per pound than at closing in 2016. An 8,000-acre fire occurred in one county, which may put some stress on neighboring ranches. Other smaller grass and brush fires were reported around the district. High winds continued to cause rapid loss of soil moisture in range pastures in some areas. The planting season was expected to begin the second week in February. Most fields were prepared for planting. Some wheat was planted. In Zavala County, dry conditions forced cool-season crop growers to apply irrigation to spinach, cabbage, onions and small cool-season grains. Mature fields of cabbage were harvested. Fresh-market and processed spinach harvests remained active. All cool-season crops made good progress following irrigation. Irrigation continued in some fields, as producers prepared to plant corn and cotton. Producers did not harvest some vegetables in some areas due to low prices in the market. In Hidalgo County, harvesting of sugarcane, citrus and vegetables continued.