Source: AgriLife Today
Corn and sorghum fields around the state appear to be in good shape overall despite weeks of dry conditions, said Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.
Dr. Calvin Trostle, AgriLife Extension agronomist, Lubbock, said corn and sorghum acreage in the High Plains is down this year as many producers have decided to plant cotton. The decision to forgo corn and sorghum is based on relatively good cotton prices, the lingering threat of sugarcane aphids in sorghum and water availability.
“Cotton prices are around 15 cents higher per pound than last year, and so producers are feeling pretty good about switching to cotton,” he said.
Trostle said awareness and monitoring of sugarcane aphids has improved producers’ ability to fight the pest over the past three years, but many producers remain concerned about the crop.
Many High Plains producers were hammered by sugarcane aphids in 2015, Trostle said. There was evidence the pest overwintered in johnsongrass around the region. In 2016, sugarcane aphid infestations reached moderate levels with some hot spots northwest of Lubbock as the pest blew into the region on southeasterly winds.
“As of May 30, we’ve not had any reports of sugarcane aphids in the High Plains,” he said. “We have so much information available now for producers to put into action against the pest, and it has made a difference. Our AgriLife entomologists note that you can’t understate the value of early sprays as soon as the aphids approach economic thresholds.”
Topsoil moisture, or the lack thereof, is also a concern for corn and sorghum producers in swaths of the High Plains, Trostle said. Poor topsoil moisture could delay plantings as dryland producers wait for rain.
“Surface soil moisture is getting scarce in many areas,” he said. “There is good deep moisture, 6-inches or deeper, but a 1-inch rain would help many producers.”
Trostle said June is typically a wet month in the High Plains, so moisture is not a concern yet. But some producers are choosing to go with cotton because they face irrigation limits, and the plant is more drought tolerant than corn.
Dr. Josh McGinty, AgriLife Extension agronomist, Corpus Christi, said it’s likely corn and sorghum yields will be affected by a lack of moisture this spring. Most fields were planted early due to warmer-than-usual temperatures, but timely spring rains didn’t arrive to many areas.
“We received 3-6 inches of rain this weekend, but it’s too late for most fields,” he said. “We needed moisture in April when corn was tasseling and sorghum was in the boot stage. At that point the crop was at its peak water demand, but it was dry and it stayed dry, so yields may have dropped off.”
McGinty said some areas in the Coastal Bend received rain and should fare fine. Some areas received extreme weather, including hail storms in San Patricio County and high winds, up to 60-70 mph, that laid fields near Beeville flat and unlikely to be salvaged.
Dr. Ronnie Schnell, AgriLife Extension agronomist, College Station, said there was also some hail and storm damage to corn and sorghum fields near Hondo and Elgin. But overall, Schnell said, corn and sorghum fields from the Coastal Bend to Central Texas “looked pretty good.”
Corn was beginning the grain fill-stage and sorghum was getting close to flowering in Central Texas, he said.
“We missed rain chances for about three weeks, but most areas received a good rain,” he said. “There are a lot of areas that could have used rain a few weeks ago. There was some slight moisture stress, but everything looks good.”
Rain was in the forecast, and Schnell said there is a possibility areas that missed substantial rains from recent storms could receive moisture from those systems as they move through the state.
Schnell said sorghum producers were monitoring small numbers of sugarcane aphids but there have been no major infestations reported so far. Producers will be watching the weather for temperatures and weather that is conducive to sugarcane aphid populations building.
“It’s a complex interaction of weather, temperatures, moisture and beneficial insects that keep their numbers in check,” he said. “If we get hot and dry, producers will need to monitor sugarcane aphids closely.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
CENTRAL: Good rainfall was received and led to hot, humid daytime temperatures and cooler evening temperatures. Some fields of wheat, oat and cotton were lost due to hail. Corn looked good with most early planted fields in the silking stage. Sorghum was also doing well. Harvests slowed due to wet conditions. Bermuda grass pastures should green up after the rain. First cutting uniformity and quality was expected to be poor. Steer and heifer prices were higher. Cattle in pasture were in excellent condition, and pastures were improving. Livestock were holding steady with plenty of forage and water available. Tanks were full. Counties reported good soil moisture. Overall crop, rangeland and pasture conditions were good.
ROLLING PLAINS: Very hot and windy conditions allowed farmers to return to the fields after recent rains. Some counties experienced storms that brought high winds, damaging hail and heavy rains. The wheat harvest was ongoing with yield reports varying from poor to good. Sudan emerged, and planting was still taking place. Cotton planting started. Canola harvests were underway with disappointing yields reported. Hay production was at best average, with some fields yet to be cut. Pastures that received good rainfall took a turn for the better and were in good condition.
COASTAL BEND: Many areas received from 1-5 inches of rain or more. Rains improved soil moisture levels. Storm conditions with wind speeds up to 90 mph were reported, along with some hail that caused losses in some row crop fields. Rain will benefit cotton, grain sorghum and rice. Cotton was squaring and blooming. Wheat and oat harvests should be completed soon. Hay fields were nearing the first cutting. Cattle remained in good condition.
EAST: Rainfall around the region varied as some counties received light slow rains and other counties received heavy rains. Heavy rain in San Augustine County left between 4-8 inches. Ponds and creeks were full. Pasture and rangeland conditions were mostly fair to good with Rusk, Marion and Gregg counties reporting excellent conditions. Gregg and Upshur counties received some damaging storms. The rains brought cooler nighttime temperatures, which slowed forage growth and vegetable production. Producers were fertilizing pastures. Subsoil was adequate in most counties except Shelby, which reported short. Topsoil was adequate in most counties. Upshur and Gregg counties reported surplus topsoil conditions. Hay production was in full swing in several counties. Some producers needed to cut but could not due to wet conditions. Vegetable crops in Anderson County looked good with a variety of vegetables being harvested and sold at local farmer’s markets and some going to the Dallas market. Early planted corn was knee high. Watermelon harvests started with reports of a good crop. The peach crop was light due to late winter frost. Tomatoes were slow to ripen. Some cotton was in the true leaf stage with some thrip damage. Cattle were in good condition. Producers were weaning fall calves. A good crop of spring calves were on the ground in Polk County. In Anderson County, feeder calves up to 400-pounds ended mostly steady. Heavier feeder calves ended $2 to $4 per hundredweight stronger. Slaughter cows finished $3 per hundredweight higher and slaughter bulls $2 per hundredweight lower. Buyer demand was good with activity on all classes. Cattle prices in Gregg County were holding steady. Horn fly population was heavy in most herds. Wild pigs were on the move.
SOUTH PLAINS: Very light, scattered rain showers occurred in some counties with amounts ranging from a trace to 0.75 of an inch. More rainfall was needed for all aspects of agriculture. Subsoil and topsoil moistures were very low. Cotton was still being planted and was slow to emerge due to cooler weather. Wheat harvest began. Corn was in the V4 to V5 stages. Cattle were in good condition.
PANHANDLE: Temperatures were cool, then warmed to above average and then to more normal temperatures. Some moisture was received. More rain was needed throughout the district. Soil moisture was depleting due to hot, dry and windy conditions. Soil moisture was mostly short. Deaf Smith County producers tried to wrap up corn and cotton plantings. Grain sorghum was planted, however, most of the plantings were for dryland production only. Sorghum seed blocks were still being planted with acreage up somewhat from last year. Winter wheat was moving quickly to harvest with some fields ready. Some wheat was being grazed out, and some fields were significantly affected by rust. Soil temperatures were beginning to rise, which was helping crops emerge. Summer grass pastures were beautiful, green and growing. Beef cows with new calves were enjoying the lush pastures. The breeding season was in progress, and cow body conditions were improving every day.
NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels ranged from mostly adequate to short with a few counties reporting surplus. The first half of the reporting period brought cooler temperatures and rain amounts ranging from 0.5-1 inch. The second half of the reporting period brought warmer temperatures with high winds and no rain. Cotton and soybean pastures were sprouting. Bermuda grass pastures and meadows were thriving due to the warmer evening temperatures. Winter annual grasses were starting to turn and reach maturity and were being baled for hay. Wheat and oat harvests were underway with oats looking average to good and wheat reported as fair. Corn looked good, but moisture levels were starting to dry. Cattle looked good.
FAR WEST: Temperature highs were in the 100s with lows in the 50s. Precipitation averaged 0.5 of an inch. Conditions were windy. Irrigated cotton plantings were almost complete as was the wheat harvest. Dryland cotton planting was expected to begin as soon as possible. Producers continued to feed livestock and wildlife.
WEST CENTRAL: Very warm temperatures reached into the 100s. Much cooler temperatures followed with scattered showers in many areas. Rainfall helped soil moisture levels and should be good for planting. Wheat harvests were in full swing until the rain. Harvest will be delayed until fields dry. Cotton farmers were planting as fast as they could while the soil moisture was good. Recent rains helped grain sorghum and corn fields as well. Some hay cutting and baling was underway. Rangeland and pasture conditions were improving. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Cattle continued to look good going into the summer months. Cattle markets were active, and demand was strong. The pecan crop was off to a promising start.
SOUTHEAST: Livestock were in good condition. Recent rains provided much needed moisture. Rains were a little late for the earliest-planted corn, which will likely see reduced yields due to the recent dry spell. Storms caused damage, blowing down some corn and grain sorghum and causing hail damage on 400-500 acres of cotton. Pastures responded quickly to the rain. Some hay cutting and baling occurred. Overall crop conditions were good. Soil moisture levels throughout the district ranged widely from adequate to surplus, with most reports as adequate.
SOUTHWEST: Some counties received rain ranging from 0.25 of an inch to an inch. Other counties continued to experience dry conditions. Warm-season forage production slowed down in counties with dry conditions. Sorghum and corn began to show stress due to dry conditions. Rain was expected and may help grass conditions. Livestock were in good condition, and spring lambing and kidding was complete.
SOUTH: Hot temperatures continued throughout the district, but most counties reported receiving good, beneficial amounts of rainfall to help relieve hot and dry conditions. Rain amounts ranged from 0.3 of an inch to 5 inches. Some areas received damaging hail. Potato, table corn and green bean harvests continued. Grain corn fields were in the soft-dough stage and beginning to mature. Sorghum was in the heading stage, and cotton continued to develop and should start squaring soon. Some sorghum fields were harvested. Sugarcane aphids were identified in some sorghum fields. Producers were monitoring and addressing the pests. Wheat harvests were expected to be completed in the next 10 days. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair and should improve where rain fell but were declining in dry areas. Irrigation of crops paused in some areas due to adequate soil moisture but continued on cotton fields and improved pastures in other areas. Bermuda grass was cut for hay. Cattle body condition scores remained fair to good. Cattle market trends remained positive. Sugarcane aphids were identified in some sorghum fields in the county. Producers were monitoring and addressing that situation. The wheat harvest was expected to be completed in the next 10 days. Livestock supplemental feeding continued in some areas.