The buds of many peach and other fruit trees were not open enough to be damaged by the latest cold front that stormed through Texas, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.
Though he doesn’t expect wholesale damage, it’s still too early after the last bout of freezing weather to say for certain what the damage was, if any, said Dr. Larry Stein, AgriLife Extension horticulturist, Uvalde.
“It got a lot colder than most people thought it was going to get,” Stein said. “Unfortunately, we did have trees starting to bloom. We had some peaches that were bloomed out, but most things were just starting to bloom, so we’re optimistic that we had enough buds that were tight enough that they will still develop and set a crop. Also, the bud set on most trees was excessive due to the low or no crop the year before, so some thinning was indeed needed.”
The problem is not the cold weather per se, but the warm periods in between, he said. If the weather stays cool, even though fruit trees like peaches, apricots, pears and plums have enough cold hours to bloom, they won’t — unless there are at least three to five days of spring-like warm weather.
What was interesting about this cold spell was that it seemed to travel more easterly through Texas, sparing some of the more southern fruit-growing areas like the strawberries around Poteet, Stein said.
“We kind of dodged the bullet in that regards,” he said.
Also, it’s good news that a lot of fruit and nut crops still have tight buds, such as blackberries, pecans and apples, so they were not likely to be damaged by the cold spell, Stein said.
“If we get another one of these in seven to 10 days, it’s not going to be good,” he said. “But by the same token, if it stays cool from now to another freeze, then it’s going to slow down the development of buds and shoots, lessening the chance of damage.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Central:The region received a few scattered showers, but they were not enough to relieve moisture stress. Many fruit trees in the area were budding out before the last freeze and may not produce fruit this year. Our livestock are being supplemented with cubes and hay. Warm days and plenty of sunlight last week really greened up wheat and made it grow. It was time to plant corn and grain sorghu m, but soils were very dry. Many producers planted anyway, hoping for rain to bring crops up.
Coastal Bend: Farmers were planting corn and grain sorghum despite highly variable temperatures. Temperatures fell about 30 degrees in 15 minutes when the latest winter storm pushed through the area. High winds accompanying the storm depleted topsoil moisture needed for germination. Pastures were greening up, but there was no substantial amount of forage available. Livestock producers continued to feed cattle heavily with hay and protein supplements.
East: Cold fronts continued to push across the region. Counties reported some warm sunny days followed by colder temperatures, accompanied by rain and snow. The warmer days helped winter pastures grow. Livestock producers were still feeding hay and supplements, but hay supplies were becoming low. Cattle were in fair to good condition. Area cattle markets remained active and favorable. Calving continued. Farmers were preparing land for corn planting and Bermuda grass sprigging. 72 tree species including fruit trees were being pruned. Trinity County reported that with all the moisture received during the past few months, even a small rain caused problems driving over pastures and many county roads. Feral hogs were active.
Far West: The region’s daytime temperatures topped out in the high 80s, with nighttime temperatures in the low 30s. Generally, the region remained very windy and dry. Cotton growers were already preparing land for planting and irrigation. Pecan growers were cleaning up orchards. Alfalfa came out of dormancy, and growers were irrigating. Fall-planted onions also came out of dormancy and were growing. Winter wheat was not doing well from lack of moisture. Pastures were deteriorating, with cattle on feed consuming large amounts of minerals. Bulls were being put in with cows.
North: Soil moisture remained low in nearly all counties. Temperatures swung widely: a high of 80 degrees on March 1, then bottoming out at 17 degrees on March 2. Wheat and winter pastures greened up when days were warm, but were in need of rain. Many producers were fertilizing wheat and winter pastures. Most counties have reported that livestock were doing well. Cow/calf herds were calving. Stocker cattle producers were able to leave cattle on winter pastures in some areas. Only Titus County reported freeze damage to plants. Feral hog damage was reported in Camp and Titus Counties.
Panhandle: Temperatures were average, with dry and windy conditions most of the week. However, the weekend brought bitter cold and some moisture, which had ranchers busting ice, hauling hay and checking for newborn calves. In Deaf Smith County, producers were actively plowing and preparing ground for spring planting. The main field activity was fertilizing, with a larger proportion of the fertilizer being composed of manure and compost this year. Temperatures were in the 60s one day and freezing the next, causing some damage to center pivots. Hansford County reported irrigated wheat pasture was very good this winter, resulting in “super” cattle gains. Generally, however, rangeland and pastures continued to be rated mostly very poor to poor.
Rolling Plains: The weather was mild and pleasant at the beginning of the week, with high temperatures in the 70s and 80s. A cold front late in the week dropped temperatures into the single digits and covered the ground with a mix of sleet and snow. The freezing mix halted fieldwork. The little moisture from the sleet and snow was welcomed. A few weeks ago, producers found soil moisture to be higher than expected, but those levels have since dropped. Falling moisture levels were making it hard to plow fields. Lack of subsurface moisture was evident by the number of clods being turned up. Pastures and rangeland were in dire need of moisture. Ranchers continued to provide supplemental feed on a daily basis. Hay supplies were beginning to run low, and with the winter wheat crop in poor condition, livestock producers were forced to continue to provide supplemental nutrition. Livestock were in fair to good condition, but w ithout being able to graze them, ranchers didn’t know how long they would be able to hold on. Prospects for summer stockers were starting to look really slim. There were lots of calves being born. Runoff water was still needed to replenish area lakes and ponds.
South: The weather remained cool and mostly dry throughout the region. There were light scattered showers in some areas but none were significant. In the northern part of the region, temperatures were mostly mild. Soil moisture was short to very short. Producers continued planting corn and wheat. In Frio County, oats and potatoes under irrigation progressed well. In Live Oak County, light showers helped winter wheat and oats. In McMullen County, livestock producers were providing supplemental feed at a steady pace, and cattle body condition scores remained fair. In the eastern part of the district, a cold front passed through some areas but brought very little moisture with it. However, in Kleberg and Kenedy counties, the cold front brought about a quarter of an inch of rain. Cotton and grain sorghum producers in those counties continued to hold off planting until more rain comes. Rangeland and pastures remained fa ir in Jim Wells County and poor in Kleberg and Kenedy counties. The western part of the region had cold weather with very light drizzling rain. The moisture gave some relief to dryland wheat and oats in Zavala County. Also in that area, cabbage and spinach harvesting was active late in the week, and some producers were preparing corn and cotton fields for planting. Supplemental feeding continued. Rangeland and pastures were in fair to poor condition. The southern part of the region also received some moisture, though it was mostly very light. Cameron County received about 1.5 inches of rain; Willacy County reported 0.25 to 0.5 inch. Soil moisture was 80 percent short in Starr County, 60 percent adequate in Cameron County and 85 percent adequate in Willacy County. Some Cameron County grain sorghum producers were planting early in the week, but were halted by mid-week due to wet field conditions. In Starr County, spring row-crop planting was in full swing, vegetable transplant ing continued and onion harvest preparations began. In Willacy County, sorghum planting was in full swing.
South Plains: The region had wild temperature swings, but precipitation was tame. Swisher County reported 0.25 inch to 2 inches of a sleet/snow mix, but most other counties either received none or very light precipitation. Lubbock County reported only 0.16 inches for February. High temperatures ranged from the 80s to below freezing during the week. High winds, with gusts up to 39 mph, were blowing dirt. The temperature fluctuations were stressing livestock. Area crops needed rain. Winter wheat, pasture and rangeland were all dry. Even irrigated winter wheat was suffering from the dry conditions. Producers were preparing fields for spring crops, applying herbicides and doing primary tillage.
Southwest: The region received from 0.25 inch to 2.5 inches of rain. Temperatures were relatively mild during most of the week, with windy and freezing temperatures returning on Sunday. Winter wheat and oats continue to be in fair to good condition. Corn and grain sorghum planting was underway. Livestock remained in good condition, with rangeland and pastures in fair condition. Lambing was underway.
West Central: Throughout the week, temperatures went from warm to extremely cold, with continued dry, windy conditions. A few areas reported precipitation, but not enough to be significant. Field activity was underway as farmers prepared for spring planting. Some producers were applying yellow herbicides – those formulated for winter weeds. A few producers began to plant grain sorghum. Some winter wheat started to break dormancy and show some growth. Rangeland and pastures remained in fair to poor condition. All forages and crops needed moisture. Livestock remained in fair condition with continued supplemental feeding of hay and protein. Stock tank water levels dropped further.