Despite a poor start to the cotton season in the Panhandle, timely and widespread rains arrived in time for flowering and boll development, putting fields on track for a good season, said two Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts. Dr. Jourdan Bell, AgriLife Extension agronomist, Amarillo, said timely beneficial rains fell in Panhandle cotton fields which are mostly in the bloom stage with some earlier planted fields starting to reach cutout.
Bell said severe water stress at any stage can impact plant growth and production, but plants need more water as they bloom. Rain always helps because many of the farmers in the Panhandle do not have the irrigation capacity to fully meet the crop’s water demands during peak water use periods.
“Cotton water requirements are greater during flowering than previous stages,” she said. “Water stress during flowering can also have a significant impact on boll development and fiber quality, which will have a significant impact on production.”
The precipitation also helped refill the soil moisture profile so producers will have needed soil water during boll maturation, she said. This is especially important for dryland producers.
One drawback has been that weeds were really taking off with the rains.
Dr. Seth Byrd, AgriLife Extension agronomist, Lubbock, agreed that two widespread rain events around July 4, when cotton was squaring, and Aug. 1, when most plants were in peak bloom, were very timely.
Now, however, there is a slight concern that cooler-than-normal temperatures and overcast days could mean fewer heat units for plants to maximize production.
Byrd said heat units are an extrapolation of potential plant progress based on maximum daily temperature and the amount of available sun. A hot overcast day delivers fewer heat units than a hot, sunny day, and cooler, overcast days provide even fewer.
“Rain and then sunshine is best,” he said. “There’s good moisture, but temperature highs forecast for the next two weeks are mostly in the 80s, and we’d be better off in the low- to mid-90s and sunny. Hopefully the forecast is lower than what we actually receive.”
Byrd said the region needs all the heat units it can get as bolls develop and mature, but overall, fields look good.
The trouble this year, Byrd said, was getting cotton fields planted and established.
“The first 60 days of the season were a challenge,” he said. “There really wasn’t a green light, a proper window to plant. There would be a few days of good weather then three or four days where you couldn’t plant. There were cold snaps in May and long hot, dry and windy periods.”
There may still be a few field maintenance issues for some producers, such as flushes of weeds due to rains, Bell and Byrd said.
Byrd said cotton canopies and early season herbicide applications will likely prevent or slow weeds for many producers, but others will likely need to use hooded sprayers to address weeds or manually pull them.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
CENTRAL: Extensive rains and cooler temperatures halted field work in some areas, but the much-needed moisture should help forage growth. Temperatures were cooler than average. Corn, sorghum and sunflower harvests were underway. Producers were still cutting and baling hay. Cotton was under full irrigation. Brush work was done, and farmers were beginning to plow fields for fall planting. Some farmers had difficulties with grain storage and facilities not accepting corn due to being at full capacity. Untreated pecan trees were aborting nuts due to scab. However, most other pecan trees were overbearing, and orchard managers started shaking trees to thin crops. Cattle on rangelands remained in great body condition, and overall livestock were in good condition. Tanks and rivers were replenished. All counties reported good soil moisture. Nearly all counties reported good overall crop, rangeland and pasture conditions.
ROLLING PLAINS: Rain was needed across much of the district. Pasture conditions were very dry and posed a threat as potential wildfire fuel. Cotton crops and wheat fields needed rain. Wheat fields were too hard to plow, which slowed preparation for next year’s crops. Cotton acres lost earlier in the year were planted back with haygrazer and looked promising. Some cotton acres remained fallow as producers looked to give the land a rest and get a head start on controlling weeds. Sorghum fields looked good, and early planted fields were ready to harvest. Livestock were in fair to good condition, and producers were supplementing cattle as they waited for greener pastures.
COASTAL BEND: Scattered showers fell and were beneficial to many producers. Grain sorghum and corn harvests were wrapping up. Cotton harvesting was starting slow, and soybean harvesting began. Hay production was in full swing, but pastures still needed rain. Livestock remained in good condition.
EAST: Timely rains continued, which was unusual for August. Rains were keeping warm-season forages in excellent condition. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were adequate with short conditions reported by Houston and Wood counties. Overgrazing was not a problem due to the rains. Hay production was in full swing with quality moderate to good. Pasture and rangeland conditions were mostly fair to good, with Rusk and Shelby counties reporting excellent conditions. Some counties were battling armyworm and grasshopper infestations. Bermuda grass stem maggots were popping up in Wood County. Producers were waiting for drier conditions to harvest grain sorghum. Corn harvests were halted due to rains. Producers in Anderson County expected high quality corn yields. Jasper County corn was in poor condition. Wild pigs damaged crops in Anderson County. Demand was high for fresh vegetables. Pond and creek levels were full. Aquatic weed population was high on most ponds. Cattle were in fair to good body condition. Shelby County reported cattle were in excellent shape, and the market was solid. Horn flies continued to be reported.
SOUTH PLAINS: There were two major rain events that led to some localized flooding and delayed producers from getting into fields. There were many acres of sorghum planted after failed cotton that was around the nine-leaf stage. Bollworm and sugarcane aphid activity increased. Cattle were in good condition.
PANHANDLE: Temperatures were mostly below average. Some moisture was received throughout most of the district. Producers received scattered amounts of rainfall measuring 0.2-0.75 of an inch in some areas and 1-2 inches in others. Many irrigated producers were able to turn off wells for the reporting period due to rains. Corn fields progressed well with most of the crop in soft dough stage. Some corn was tasseling, and ears were beginning to reach complete fill. Insect pressure was increasing in corn and cotton. Cotton was still squaring and beginning boll development but could use more heat units. Grain sorghum was in boot to heading stages with reports of sugarcane aphids. Producers were encouraged to scout fields two to three times a week. Hall County rain eased heat stress on cattle and crops, but rain will need to continue for fields to produce wanted yields. Hemphill County experienced a brief cooldown and some scattered thunderstorms. Producers were hopeful forecasts of strong rain chances over the next 10 days would materialize. Pasture conditions were dry, and producers need more grass before the fall and winter months. Cows were in good condition, and breeding season was complete.
NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels ranged from mostly adequate to short throughout the district. Most counties received rain and cooler summertime temperatures. Pasture conditions looked good, and hay producers were cutting in full swing. Corn and soybean fields were doing well. Sorghum continued to look good, and cotton was doing well. Livestock were in good condition.
FAR WEST: Temperature highs were in the 90s with lows in the 70s. Rain reports showed from half an inch to more than 4 inches throughout the region. Corn harvests started, and sorghum was expected to not be far behind. Pima and upland cotton looked very good this season with uniform square and boll sets for the most part. Some lygus pressure was reported, especially along the river. Most farmers have sprayed growth regulator. Pastures greened up a bit but were browning again. Pecans were starting to reach dough stage. Yields looked promising, but some pecan trees were dropping fruit due to wind and lack of water. Pastures responded to the rain. Producers continued to feed livestock and wildlife.
WEST CENTRAL: Temperatures were seasonable throughout the reporting period. Conditions were hot, dry and windy with highs in the upper 90s. A late cool front lowered temperatures and brought some needed rain to many areas. Soil moisture continued to decline due to lack of rainfall. Hay cutting and baling continued. Corn harvests were in full swing. Small grain fields were ready to plant. Rangeland and pasture forages were declining due to hot, dry conditions. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Cattle market prices were holding steady. Pecan crops were spotty. Nut drop due to extreme temperatures was noted.
SOUTHEAST: No report.
SOUTHWEST: Most counties received rainfall, however the amount varied from a trace to 3 inches. Rain will improve grazing in areas that received it. Temperatures remained in the 100s and cooled into the 90s towards the end of the reporting period. Grain crops looked good, and peaches were pretty much done. Milo harvests were wrapping up with average yields. Ranch owners were keeping livestock properly fed in areas that received less rain.
SOUTH: Conditions were very hot, dry and windy. Rainfall was reported in parts of the district and was expected to temporarily relieve those conditions. Heavy rainfall, up to 3 inches, was reported in Frio County. Other areas received traces to 2 inches from scattered showers. Some rain fell in areas that had received precipitation in previous weeks. Precipitation was not expected to help conditions in other areas. Some cotton fields were in the boll opening stage, and peanut crops were in the pegging stage. Both crops were being irrigated. Some cotton harvests were in full swing, and yield reports varied from 600-1,200 pounds per acre. Sorghum harvests were winding down. Pasture and rangeland conditions were poor, but the recent rainfall should help. Supplemental feeding increased as body condition scores on cattle declined a bit. The live cattle market suffered a little the past few weeks but nothing major. Coastal Bermuda pastures for hay production were under irrigation. Watermelons, cantaloupes and onions were also under irrigation. Pecan producers irrigated orchards, as pecans were reaching critical nut-development stage. Oat field bed preparations were underway.