Texas wheat acres are being prepared and planted, and despite fewer acres, projections are for a high-yield 2020.
U.S. Department of Agriculture planting projections suggest producers will plant 1% less wheat than last year nationally. Last year, around 4.5 million acres of wheat were planted in Texas.
But the USDA expects acres to produce significantly higher yields compared to 2019. Hard red winter wheat, which is the class most Texas acres are planted with, is expected to produce almost 27% more wheat than last year in the U.S.
Calvin Trostle, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomist, Lubbock, said wheat research and breeding programs have produced varieties that perform significantly better when it comes to yields and drought, disease and pest tolerance.
“Wheat varieties are better than ever,” he said. “Wheat breeders have been very successful. Nothing planted 20 years ago would be picked to plant today.”
Variety performance is one thing Trostle attributes to the high U.S. stocks of grain wheat. Early stocks were at 462 million bushels, which is double historic averages.
“More wheat on hand tells us why wheat prices are suppressed,” he said. “U.S. and international supplies are up. We’re growing more grain on fewer acres, and other countries are producing more wheat than in the past as they utilize better techniques and technology.”
Low grain prices resulted in a growing number of producers choosing to graze out wheat fields this year, Trostle said.
“Usually producers will stop grazing around March 15 in the Texas High Plains to go to grain,” he said. “That date gets earlier and earlier the further south and east you go. But with grain prices what they have been, we’ve seen more producers decide the value of having calves grazing on wheat four to six weeks longer is higher.”
Just add rain
Weather will continue to be a major question mark for wheat producers when it comes to planting, acres and ultimately yields, Trostle said.
Producers prefer to plant in soil with some moisture, he said. But most of the wheat-producing regions of Texas are dealing with short levels of moisture.
September is typically the second wettest month for Texas’ wheat belt – High Plains and Rolling Plains – but the season has been scattered and delivered less than usual, Trostle said.
Trostle said producers in the High Plains typically plant wheat Sept. 1-Sept. 15 in the hopes of providing winter forage for cattle as early as possible. Irrigated wheat is on schedule, and some dryland producers have put seed in dry soil and are waiting for rain.
“They can wait for rain. The seed will be fine if it sits for a while,” he said. “It may just be a little later for grazing than producers prefer.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
CENTRAL: Severe drought conditions were reported across most counties. Some rain was received, with trace amounts up to 1.5 inches reported in areas. High temperatures around and above 100 degrees decreased the impact of rains on overall soil moisture levels. Row crops were all harvested in most counties with cotton harvest just beginning in some areas. Good yields were reported on early cotton. Later cotton was badly stressed, and producers had not planted winter grazing yet due to dry conditions. Pastures were in poor condition, and livestock were receiving supplemental feed. Stock ponds were holding steady.
ROLLING PLAINS: The district received scattered showers with areas in Archer County receiving up to 4 inches of rain. Area wheat producers began planting fields. The cotton crop was still maturing and reaching the cutout stage. Some cotton producers were having issues with stink bugs. Some forage producers were spraying for fall armyworms in wheat fields and pastures. The potential for wildfires continued to be high.
COASTAL BEND: Scattered showers were reported, improving soil moisture conditions in some areas. Most crop harvests were complete with the exception of cotton in the northern reporting area. Some late planted rice was also still in the field. Stalk destruction and fall field activities continued. Livestock auction markets were picking up in numbers as some producers weaned early, and others were thinning herds. Supplemental feeding continued for many cattle producers. However, pastures were greening up. Rain should help make another cutting of hay and recharge pastures and rangelands.
EAST: Scattered showers fell in a few areas of the district. Rains received were not enough to get pastures and hay fields growing. Burn bans were posted in most counties. Harrison County reported some hay was still being harvested, but without significant rainfall soon it would be the last cutting. Pastures and rangelands were fair to very poor. Subsoil moisture was short to adequate, and topsoil moisture was adequate to very short. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Cattle prices dropped lower. Fly numbers remained high. Armyworms, and Bermuda grass stem maggots were reported. Wild pigs continued to cause damage.
SOUTH PLAINS: Moderate showers across the district ranged from 0.7 inches to 1.7 inches. Most cotton producers turned off irrigation to let plants finish maturing. Cotton bolls were opening. A few farmers who planted late sorghum were still watering. Rains helped pastures hang on. Producers hope enough moisture was available to allow wheat to establish for cattle. Peanuts may need a little more water to finish. The pumpkin harvest continued. Cattle were in good condition.
PANHANDLE: Conditions were dry. Pastures and rangelands were in fair to poor condition. Sorghum had colored around the district. Soybeans set pods and were in fair condition in the northern Panhandle. Corn in the southern Panhandle had dented. Cotton was in fair condition. Winter wheat was planted in northern parts of the Panhandle. Topsoil and subsoil were adequate to short.
NORTH: Soil moisture was adequate to very short throughout the district. Weather was nice as daytime temperatures dropped into the low- to mid-90s. Half an inch to 0.75 of an inch of rain was reported in several areas. Cotton and soybeans were starting to stress from heat and lack of moisture. Pastures were declining as well in some areas. Other producers reported plenty of green grass. They were cutting hay, talking about another cutting of hay or adding more cattle. Sorghum harvest was all but finished, and reports were still coming in with average yields around 3,500-4,000 pounds per acre. A few producers planted wheat early. Those fields had emerged, and many were sprayed for armyworms. Armyworms were a big problem in several areas after rains. Several producers sprayed hay pastures. Most producers were preparing fields for planting. Cattle looked great with calves making good gains. Ranchers were considering weaning calves. Most ranchers were expected to hold calves a little longer because forages were plentiful, and prices were down at sale barns.
FAR WEST: High temperatures were in the upper-90s with lows in the mid-60s. Thunderstorms brought 0.4 to 3.5 inches of rain. The cow/calf market continued to slide. Pecans were starting to fill out and show the load on the trees. Farmers plowed fields to prepare for winter wheat and oats. Alfalfa production continued, but weeds were a problem due to rains. A lot of Sudan grass was planted because many farmers put their cotton ground under prevented planting insurance. A couple of cotton fields had been stripped, and harvest was expected to ramp up going into October. Precipitation received was expected to fill out some bolls on later-planted cotton. Moisture was expected to help winter forages to follow cotton. Pastures were dry, and fires were sparking easily. Livestock conditions remained fair and needed supplemental feed.
WEST CENTRAL: Light showers mid-week did little to help soil moisture levels and forages. Wildfire risks were high, and most counties remained under a burn ban. Field preparation for wheat and oats continued. Some producers planted oats. The pecan crop looked promising in some areas, but supplemental water was important now. Stock tank levels continued to decline, and many smaller tanks were close to dry. Livestock remained in average body condition. Lighter weight steers sold steady, and 300- to 450-pound heifers and heavier steers and heifers sold $5 lower per hundredweight. Fleshy calves, 500-600 pounds, sold $5-$10 lower per hundredweight. Packer cows sold $2 lower, and bulls were $1 lower per hundredweight.
SOUTHEAST: There were reports of scattered showers and localized brief deluges, bBut more moisture was needed. Some counties reported extremely dry conditions. Brazos County reported high temperatures and no rainfall. Forecasts called for 4-12 inches of rain from a tropical storm system. Cotton harvest started. Rice harvesting was progressing. Rangelands and pastures were excellent to very poor with fair being the most common rating. Soil moisture levels were adequate to very short with short being most common.
SOUTHWEST: Scattered showers were reported throughout the district but just enough to settle the dust. Cotton harvest was 80% complete. Producers were disking fields preparing to plant winter forages. Rangeland and pastures continued to decline due to drought. The impact of anthrax on deer populations and the upcoming hunting season was still unknown. Wildlife population counts were planned. Livestock and wildlife continued to be in fair to good condition.
SOUTH: Spotty showers and short to very short soil moisture levels were reported. McMullen and Dimmit counties reported up to 3 inches of rain in some areas and dry conditions in other areas. Starr County reported up to 1.5 inches. Zapata County reported only light drizzles of moisture. Peanut fields were maturing and were under irrigation. Cotton harvest was in full swing with about half the crop to go. Rains delayed cotton harvest in some areas. Pasture and rangeland conditions were in fair to poor condition and needed rainfall. Supplemental feeding continued for livestock and wildlife. Irrigated crops were in good condition. Field preparations for fall plantings of cabbage, spinach, onions and broccoli were active. Cotton harvest and ginning was active. Dimmit County reported rains were spotty and generated 0.5 to 3 inches of much needed rain. Zapata County producers were still hauling water for livestock.