It will be some time before Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economists have a solid tally for total vegetable acres planted and their value to producers, but their initial assessment is most crops look good on the ground.
Dr. Robert Hogan, AgriLife Extension economist in Uvalde, said producers had plenty of rainfall to assist irrigation in the southwest portion of the state where almost all vegetable fields are irrigated.
“It’s been marvelous,” he said, describing vegetable crop conditions this year. “Prices paid to producers depended on whether the producer was part of the first batch where there are typically better prices or later when the market can be saturated.”
Hogan said some producers plowed up some fields, specifically onions, due to low prices.
Dr. Samuel Zapata, AgriLife Extension agricultural economics specialist in Weslaco, said results for this year’s vegetable crops could vary greatly based on their location but that producers in southern Texas fared well.
The southern and southwestern regions of the state produce the bulk of the state’s major vegetable crops.
The 2015 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Increment Report estimated combined vegetable and melon values to drop to $415.4 million this year. The five-year peak for those crops was $458.9 million in 2013.
Vegetable values were expected to drop to $280.7 million in 2016 compared to the five-year peak of $344.1 million in 2012, according to the report. Watermelon values were expected to increase to $133 million compared to the five-year high in 2014 of $100.2 million.
Zapata suspects the low estimate for vegetable values was related to producers’ choice of crops. The distribution and acres of vegetable crops changed the expected value.
But on the ground in much of the state, Zapata said success depended on location and timeliness of planting.
Crops in the Rio Grande Valley, including cabbage, onions and watermelons, performed very well, he said. Timely rains and lower than usual pest pressure create good conditions for vegetable crops to succeed.
“It was a good year compared to previous years when it comes to vegetables,” he said. “In terms of weather, the Valley had good water but that may not have been the case in other areas of the state, depending on where you are.”
Hogan said fresh and chip potatoes, market-fresh spinach, cucumbers, broccoli and cabbage all performed well under 2016 conditions.
Other parts of the state where flooding occurred in the spring likely produced mixed results, he said. Rains helped fields on higher ground and that drained well, while low-lying areas may have experienced damages and subsequent poor conditions due to high moisture levels.
Zapata said specialists have observed changes in the traditional weather patterns which has made it more difficult for producers to predict when and how much rain will fall.
The final numbers for acres planted will be available in January, and the values will be finalized in May, he said. The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency report shows total vegetable acreage for crops, including peas, cucumbers, radishes and broccoli, have remained steady, between 70,000-83,000 acres, the past five years. But those numbers are down compared to 2009 when 130,000 total vegetable acres were planted in Texas.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
CENTRAL: Grain harvest occurred with widely varying yields. Some areas excelled while other areas were extremely poor. Grain sorghum, soybean and corn harvests continued, with grain sorghum yields ranging from 2,000-4,000 pounds per acre. Corn fields were producing 40-120 bushels per acre and soybeans were producing around 40 bushels per acre. Temperatures were very hot and windy, and soil conditions dried up significantly. There were giant cracks in dry soil throughout the counties. Cotton crops needed rain. Stock tank levels dropped. Cattle remained in good condition.
ROLLING PLAINS: The district experienced the warmest week of summer so far. It’s been several weeks since any measurable moisture was received. The fire threat was increasing rapidly, and small fires were reported. Most daily temperatures peaked at over 100 degrees. The heat units were good for cotton, although dryland cotton was not looking as good as irrigated. Corn harvest was underway. Producers were starting to make plans for fall planting season and were evaluating their soil fertility needs. Water tanks were holding. Livestock were in good condition.
COASTAL BEND: Hot and dry weather persisted, and forecasts anticipated heat indexes around 105 degrees. Scattered showers were reported in some areas, but rainfall amounts were minimal, and moisture was very short in most pastures and fields. Cotton yields were good with most producers reporting around two bales per acre. Producers continued to defoliate cotton fields and most expect harvest to continue through August. Sorghum and rice harvests progressed well with good yields. Soybean harvest was ongoing. Some tillage was being done in preparation for winter pasture planting. Dry conditions allowed corn harvest to move along quickly and should finish soon. Pastures were getting dry, but still have good measure of forage. Hay was being made in abundance. Matagorda County reported a burn ban in effect. Cows and calves were doing well.
EAST: Conditions around the region were extremely hot and dry with temperatures in the 100-degree range several days. Some counties received a few light rains, but that moisture was gone quickly. Subsoil conditions were mostly adequate. Topsoil conditions were short to adequate. Pond, lakes, and creek levels were dropping significantly. Pasture and range conditions were good to fair. Pastures were getting shorter. Hay baling slowed down or even stopped. A few producers in Trinity County baled a second cutting, but most have not and were trying to buy hay. Anderson County producers began feeding hay. Livestock conditions remained mostly good. Cattle prices were holding steady in Gregg County. In Houston County, cattle numbers were up through the market but prices were still dropping. Weaning and selling of market-ready calves and cull cows continued in Polk County. Some Trinity County producers were selling calves that were not yet market ready due to the lack of grass and/or water. Producers continued to watch for armyworms and grasshoppers.
SOUTH PLAINS: Scattered showers were received in Bailey County last week, but rainfall amounts were not significant. Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels were very dry. Producers continued to supplement with irrigation. Irrigated cotton remained in fair to good condition as water demand was not being met in some fields. Dryland cotton needed rain. Many dryland fields have reached physiological cutout. Peanut crops were in the best condition overall. Corn was drying out while sorghum continued to mature. Several corn fields were in the early dent stage. Sorghum fields needed rain. Some grain sorghum was treated for sugarcane aphids. In addition, fall armyworm moth activity increased. Pasture and rangeland were very dry, but cattle were in good condition.
PANHANDLE: Hot, above-normal temperatures were reported throughout the district. Some areas in the district received moisture. Amounts ranged from a trace up to 2 inches in some isolated areas. Soil moisture continued to be rated mostly short. Producers were irrigating as fast as they could to keep the water spread over as many acres as possible. Collingsworth County reported dry conditions were stressing cotton. The heat units were allowing later-planted cotton to mature faster and catch up, but more mature cotton was suffering. Peanut acres looked good. Corn continued to take the biggest hit on water needs and demands. Fields were suffering to the point some producers were trying to decide which fields to cut off in order to concentrate water on fewer acres. Insect activity in the corn acreage was increasing, with moth numbers going up dramatically. Grain sorghum was waiting on irrigation or rainfall to help out its progress. Some fields were treated for sugarcane aphids. Cotton looked fair. Cattle and pasture conditions were stable but could deteriorate unless rains arrive soon. Range and pastures were poor to excellent with most reporting good to fair. Producers plowed and sprayed fallow fields and fields to be planted with wheat.
NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture was mostly short. Very hot and windy conditions were starting to take a toll on both pastures and crops. Soybeans, sorghum and corn looked stressed. Corn was being harvested. Cotton was looking nice. Hay harvest continued. There was a little pressure from sugarcane aphids in some parts. Pastures were getting short and looking brown.
Bermudagrass pastures were holding their own but needed a good rain to help with growth and to green up. Grasshoppers and fall armyworms were reported in some areas. Livestock were in good condition. Spring calves were doing well, but heat has stressed cattle and other livestock. Pond levels were dropping.
FAR WEST: Temperatures continued in the 100s. Sporadic thunderstorms and heavy winds were reported in Presidio, Hudspeth and Culberson counties. Rain totals ranged from zero to 1.25 inches. Rangeland fires were reported in Reagan County. Heat advisories and burn bans remained in effect for most counties. Rangeland and pasture were yellowing from drought stress. Cotton was in fair condition despite the lack of moisture. Sorghum harvest began and corn harvesting will begin soon. Shipping of all kids and lambs was completed. Producers sold wool sheep and purchased hair sheep. Supplemental feeding of livestock and wildlife was necessary. Dove, quail and rabbit populations increased. Pecan trees showed stress due to lack of rain.
WEST CENTRAL: Conditions were hot, dry and windy. All areas needed rain. Soil moisture levels and grasses were showing signs of heat stress. Triple digit temperatures increased fire danger concerns. Cutting and baling hay continued in some areas. First hay cuttings were good, but fields will need rain for the next cutting. Grain sorghum was mature or near mature with light to medium yields. Harvest will be underway soon. Cotton continued to look good for now. Early planted cotton was doing very well, but late-planted cotton was hurting. Rangeland and pastures were in fair to good condition, but were drying up and declining rapidly. Pastures were short due to weather conditions and grazing. Most livestock were in fair to good condition.
SOUTHEAST: The rice harvest was progressing. No rain was received. Pastures were drying out. Waller County implemented a burn ban. Armyworm populations were damaging many fields. Hay fields were harvested. Soil moisture levels throughout the region ranged widely from adequate to surplus, with most reporting short. There was still enough deep moisture to keep forages growing in most areas. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely too, from excellent to poor, with fair ratings most common. Livestock appear to be doing well.
SOUTHWEST: Dry weather decreased topsoil moisture levels. No rain was forecast. Available forages were beginning to decline. Grass was turning brown and growth stopped. Stream flows were really slow. Producers in some areas were finished harvesting corn and sorghum. Livestock conditions remained good.
SOUTH: Extremely hot, windy conditions continued with no rain throughout the district. Temperatures above 100 degrees were reported in some areas. Corn and sorghum harvests continued, and irrigation pivots were running. Peanut crops were under constant irrigation. Range and pastures were fair to poor. Some areas improved from recent rains while other areas continued to decline. Cattle body condition scores remained good. Most cattle have not been fed hay or other supplemental forages yet. Overall, soil moisture conditions were short to very short. Wildlife populations of white-tailed deer, quail, dove, and turkey were abundant. Ranchers who operate hunting leases were expecting a great fall season. Most corn and grain sorghum harvest was complete. Cotton was maturing rapidly, and bolls were opening at a steady rate. Irrigation on cotton was very active. Cotton harvest should be in full swing soon. Livestock conditions were good. Offerings at local beef cattle markets were up with a slight increase in prices for feeder cattle. Replacement cattle were reported slightly lower.
Source: AgriLife Today