Sorghum fields have been planted in much of the state, but lack of soil moisture could be problematic for areas yet to be planted, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert. Dr. Ronnie Schnell, AgriLife Extension cropping systems specialist, College Station, said sorghum planting is complete or well underway in major production regions like the Coastal Bend, Rio Grande Valley and Central Texas. Overall, soil moisture indexes in those regions is good, but another production region – the Panhandle – will need significant rainfall to improve conditions as planting approaches.
“Moisture is good in some areas, a little wet in some areas, drier in others, but good overall for this point,” he said. “A lot of acres are planted already, but it’s still early to know how many acres will be planted this year.”
Concern regarding sugarcane aphids has largely subsided in regions devastated by the pest in 2014 and 2015, Schnell said. Utilizing effective insecticide treatments and increased planting of aphid tolerant varieties has allowed producers to approach sorghum more confidently.
“Producers appear to be comfortable managing aphids with tolerant hybrids and insecticides, and I think we’ve seen the impact of that over the last few years,” he said. “The combination of favorable environmental conditions, tolerant hybrids and improved management has reduced the impact of sugarcane aphids for many producers.”
Schnell said the concern this year, especially in the Panhandle where no significant precipitation has been received since October, will be drought. There are pockets of the state experiencing differing levels of drought. Whether it subsides or worsens will have a major impact on production.
“A lot of the state is in decent shape overall,” he said. “We’ll have to wait and see how weather plays out.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
CENTRAL: Corn planting was nearly complete. Cool soil temperatures slowed down Bermuda grass emergence, but upper 80-degree days in the forecast should change that. The local cattle, sheep and goat markets were up some. Pasture and rangeland conditions continued to improve. Expected rain should help keep wheat and oats growing. Most producers reduced hay for cattle but continued to supplement feed. Producers were irrigating in preparation to plant cotton, and pecans and alfalfa fields were being irrigated. Pastures were green with spring forage, but Coastal Bermuda grass fields were extremely short due to colder than normal temperatures this winter that included multiple freezes. All counties reported good soil moisture. Most counties reported good overall crop, rangeland and pasture conditions.
ROLLING PLAINS: Conditions were dry, windy, and warm. Some producers in the western part of the district were extremely short on moisture. Cotton farmers were busy preparing fields for the upcoming season but were finding even subsoil moisture was extremely low. Livestock were in good condition with producers feeding supplements daily. Some producers were beginning to wean calves earlier to relieve some pressure on cows. Several wheat acreages were being evaluated for insurance. One county reported wheat will not be harvested, but will serve as grazing for stocker cattle. Wheat looked better in areas that received moisture, but is still behind where it should be. Mites were reported in wheat.
COASTAL BEND: Dry, windy conditions continued to cause concern as soil moisture diminished in many areas. The weather forecast called for scattered showers, and some farmers said they would wait to see how much rain materialized before resuming planting. Cotton planting was in full swing with corn and sorghum coming up and doing well. Rice planting was also starting up, and some fertilizer and herbicide applications were made. The calf crop looked good, and cattle were doing well.
EAST: The district received traces of rainfall with mostly warm weather conditions day and night. Cherokee County reported ponds were full, and Harrison County reported fields were still soggy. Producers around the district reported growth and greening of all grasses. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair to good throughout the district apart from Anderson, Newton, and Shelby counties, which reported poor conditions. Panola County peach producers were extremely excited due to abundant chilling hours for the first time in numerous years. Vegetable producers continued to prepare and plant throughout the district. Wheat fields were in very good condition in Anderson and Cherokee counties while Panola County reported very poor conditions. Cherokee County also reported oats were in good condition. Subsoil conditions were adequate. All district topsoil conditions were adequate except for Marion County which reported a surplus. Cattle were in good condition with deworming and calving in full swing throughout the district. Cattle sale numbers were good with low prices at sale barns in Gregg, Houston, and Shelby counties. Small amounts of supplemental feeding were reported by producers throughout the area. Gregg County reported summer weeds were emerging while Upshur County reported preparations being made for spraying winter weeds. Very costly wild pig damage was reported in Anderson, Trinity, Wood and Upshur counties. Flies caused worry to producers in Houston County.
SOUTH PLAINS: Dry, windy conditions during March caused problems for producers. The soil profile was lacking moisture going into spring planting. Some producers were beginning to pre-irrigate and prepare for spring planting. Cattle were being moved from wheat that was grazed completely, and irrigation increased on wheat intended for grain. Irrigated winter wheat fields looked good. Cow/calf producers were supplementing their herds to make up for poor range conditions.
PANHANDLE: Dry, windy conditions continued with warmer temperatures. Moisture was needed throughout the district, and fire danger was high. Soil moisture was very short. Areas reported no precipitation so far in 2018. Irrigation was active on wheat and alfalfa, and some pre-irrigation was made in preparation for corn planting. Warmer weather caused wheat to green up in irrigated fields, but growth was still below average. Calving season continued. Supplemental feeding was very active. Horn flies on cattle were reported much earlier than usual. Producers reported field work would be limited until a good general rain occurs.
NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels ranged from mostly adequate to short in most counties. Temperatures were warmer with high winds and no rain. A heavy rainfall event was in the forecast. Winter wheat and oat fields were doing well, and many producers took advantage of the dry week to fertilize pastures. Corn farmers continued to plant, with about 15-20 percent complete. Producers have not planted any cotton or grain sorghum yet. Volunteer ryegrass was starting to grow, and cattle were starting to graze. Livestock were in good condition, and spring-born calves looked good. Wild pigs were active in some counties.
FAR WEST: Temperatures ranged, with highs in the 90s and lows in the 50s. Some rain showers were reported through the area but no measurable amounts. More and more pre-irrigation occurs each week. However, many producers said they would not pre-water until it rains since irrigation alone will not be enough to get a crop going. Crop outlooks were not positive. Afternoon winds increased, compounding dry conditions. Some counties were under red flag warnings because of fire dangers. Pastures were showing some slight greening in the bottoms of grass due to spring, but will not last without some rain. Fruits, pecans and vineyards needed irrigation. Lambing and kidding continued.
WEST CENTRAL: Cool mornings and warm windy days were reported. Dry conditions and wind continued fire dangers. Water tanks were very low. Small grain fields were growing, and pasture grasses and weeds were greening up as well. Winter wheat was green and looked good, but behind for the year. Very low grain yields were expected due to low moisture. Field work and planting of cotton continued in anticipation of heavy rainfall in the forecast. Fruit trees were putting on early fruit. Producers were hoping to avoid an Easter frost. Livestock conditions were slowly improving with more grazing available, but livestock producers continued supplement feeding. Cattle prices were still holding steady.
SOUTHEAST: Dry weather in Chambers County allowed for substantial rice to be planted. However, expected wet weather might slow down progress. In Fort Bend County, livestock were in good condition. The last bit of dryland grain sorghum and some cotton were planted. Some farmers were waiting on rain to continue planting. Corn and early planted sorghum emerged with good stands reported. Late-planted sorghum came up slower and spottier due to lack of moisture and weeds. In Walker County, growing conditions were mostly good. Some areas were too wet for vegetable planting, depending on the location. Ryegrass, small grains and clovers were doing very well. Rain was expected, and humidity levels were expected to rise. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied from excellent to very poor with good ratings most common. Soil-moisture levels ranged from adequate to very short with adequate being most common.
SOUTHWEST: Moisture conditions continued to decrease without significant rain. Dry, windy and extreme fire dangers were reported. Rangeland and pasture conditions continued to decline. Tanks needed a runoff rain event. Livestock conditions remained good. However, supplemental feeding and monitoring water availability was necessary for livestock and wildlife.
SOUTH: Daytime temperatures ranged from hot to mild with cold nights and most areas receiving no moisture. Dimmit County reported temperatures reaching into the high 90s. Conditions were windy in some areas. Some areas received showers with no measurable amounts, while Duval County reported 0.25-1 inch. Moisture levels were mostly short. Rain was in the forecast for some areas. Subsoil moisture was declining. Potato and corn crops emerged and were under irrigation. Irrigated wheat and oats were in the heading stage. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair to good but showing stress and needed rainfall. Body condition scores on cattle remained fair. Fall-planted crops struggled to survive all season due to the lack of rainfall. Irrigated fields, including Coastal Bermuda grass were in good condition and the first cutting was expected in April. Producers were busy applying irrigation water to corn, cotton, sorghum, onions, spinach and other crops. Spinach harvest was still active. Livestock continued to do well as native rangelands and pastures continued to green and provide adequate forage. Pastures and rangelands improved in areas that received rain. No insect pressure was reported. Most crops should be planted by the end of the month. Ranchers were preparing to plant their fields for hay grazer or other grain sorghums. Ranchers and deer breeders were providing supplemental feed. In Hidalgo County, harvest of sugarcane, citrus and vegetables continued. Sesame planting was underway.