Texas Crop Weather: Rice 2-3 Weeks Behind in Some Coastal Bend Areas

    This machine sitting in this rice field near Hankamer may look like something out of a Dr. Suess book, but rice farmers call it a

    This machine sitting in this rice field near Hankamer may look like something out of a Dr. Suess book, but rice farmers call it a “Daizig,” according to Tyler Fitzgerald, AgriLife Extension agent in Chambers County. These tractors are use d for “puddling,” making small channels in paddies to allow water to drain and rice to germinate. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Robert Burns)

    Much of the state received much-needed rain May 12 -13 –torrential in some cases — greatly benefiting all crops, according to the National Weather Service and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

    In the last week, east of Interstate 45, the state received from 3 to 6 inches of rain, according to the service. West of I-45, many areas received substantial rain too, more than 2 inches, but the Panhandle, parts of the South Plains and Far West regions remained largely dry.

    Rice, as it’s an irrigated crop, is not as dependent upon rain as other crops, but rain was still welcomed because it helps recharge the lakes and irrigation sources, said Tyler Fitzgerald, AgriLife Extension agent in Chambers County, east of Houston on the Coastal Bend.

    Chambers County remains one of the major rice producing counties in Texas. This year, as last year, an unseasonably cool spring and late freezes delayed planting and slowed growth, according to Fitzgerald.

    “Rice is estimated right now to be in the neighborhood of 85 to 95 percent planted in the Chambers County area,” he said. “I would estimate it’s about the same for rice in Jefferson County, as our counties have similar growing conditions.”

    Though late freezes were a factor in delayed planting this year, a wet spring was the biggest hindrance, he said. Currently, the crop is about two to three weeks behind. This shouldn’t affect yields, but it may limit taking a post-harvest regrowth crop, called a ratoon crop.

    “Though rain typically does not affect the growth of rice, it does affect guys being able to get in the fields and work,” Fitzgerald said. “When it gets really dry, as it has been, rain helps dissolve clods and make it easier to plant. And we have hay producers who are certainly welcoming it as well.”

    AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

    Central: Soil moisture was fair, as was the condition of rangeland and pastures. Livestock were in good condition. However, only irrigated small grains showed much promise. Most dryland small grains had been abandoned except for those that had enough growth to bale for hay. Bermuda grass that was not irrigated did not have enough moisture to recover from the April 15 frost, and many fields were still brown . Wheat crops were severely damaged by the freeze and lack of rain in many areas. Heavy rains midweek caused some mature wheat fields to lay over. The rain did help fill ponds and stock tanks and benefited corn, cotton, sorghum and forages.

    Coastal Bend: In most counties, the wheat harvest was well under way, and corn was tasseling. Grain sorghum and cotton looked good following much-needed rain late last week. Throughout the district, rainfall amounts ranged from 0.18 inch to 4 inches. The moisture was critical to crops due to the scarcity of rain during mid- to late-April, with virtually none during the first of May. Forecasts were calling for more rain the next few days, followed by another cool front and drying trend. Ponds were restored to capacity, and the last cutting of cool-season grasses for hay was nearly completed. Forage producers were applying herbicides and fertilizer to fields of warm-season grasses.

    East: Most counties received as much as 4 inches of much-needed rain. Producers were preparing for hay season; many were applying fertilizer while others were cleaning up fields, cutting ryegrass hay and applying weed controls. Winter forages such as ryegrass and clovers were in seed stage as warm-season forages finally came on strong. However, producers continued to bale winter forages due to hay shortages the past couple of years. Commercial onion, vegetable, corn and watermelon crops all looked good. Area row-crop farmers were seeing great growth in cultivated vegetables. Many of the crops were already starting to flower and produce. Henderson County producers continued evaluating the impact of the late frost in April. Cattle were in good condition. Wood County livestock producers continued to provide some supplemental feed. Spring calving was mostly completed except for late calves. Feral hogs were active.

    Far West: Winds above 50 mph coupled with dry conditions made for extremely high wildfire danger. Cooler temperatures earlier in the week gave way to highs topping 100 degrees. Some light and spotty precipitation was quickly dried out by the high winds. Farmers continued to prepare to plant cotton. Sunflower planting was expected to be completed soon. Landowners continued to provide supplemental feed for livestock and wildlife. They were also finishing shearing and expected to begin shipping animals soon.

    North: Topsoil moisture ranged from short to adequate after the region received 2 or more inches of rain. Highs were in the upper 80s, with wind speeds 20-25 mph. Windy weather during much of the month dried out soil moisture, so the rain was much needed. The higher day and night temperatures also caused winter pastures to decline. Producers were harvesting excess ryegrass for hay. Pastures were in fair condition. In Kaufman County, winter ryegrass and wheat headed out. Collin County reported that their wheat is about 75 to 80 percent headed out. Corn and sunflowers were in good condition throughout the region. Bermuda grass and bahia grass was actively growing. Livestock were in good condition. Camp and Kaufman counties reported feral hog damage. Titus County reported increased fly populations and lots of buttercup weeds.

    Panhandle: The region continued to be hot, dry and windy. Soil moisture was mostly very short. Producers were planting, irrigating and trying to stop soils from blowing. Wheat condition varied by county. In Deaf Smith County, wheat deteriorated further, with many fields being harvested as silage or hay. Other farmers continued to irrigate fields in an effort make a grain crop. Hansford County reported irrigated wheat was fair to good, while Wheeler County reported it as a loss. Farmers were planting corn at a rapid pace. Many producers were turning on center pivots immediately after planting to get the crop established. Growers were just starting to plant cotton as they finished planting corn. Rangeland was in very poor condition, and grazing was not an option for most. Supplemental feeding of cattle was ongoing. The danger of wildfire remained high.

    Rolling Plains: The drought worsened. Thunderstorms built up around the region but moved off quickly, bringing only wind, clouds and a trace of moisture. High temperatures climbed toward the triple digits, and topsoil was blown away and forages desiccated. Much of the winter wheat crop was baled for hay or grazed out. Wheat left to produce grain was in poor to fair condition. Estimated yields ranged from 4 to 20 bushels per acre. Livestock were in fair condition, but with pastures and wheat grazing playing out, producers were facing the inevitable: selling off what cattle they had left. Farmers were readying for planting, but without any soil moisture, they’ll just be wasting seed in the ground. As drought conditions persisted, area towns were facing water restrictions.

    South: The region had warm to hot days and persistently high winds. The region did have some rainfall, from light showers to as much as 4 inches in some areas. In the northern part of the region, oats were 100 percent headed and in excellent condition. Winter wheat, corn and sorghum were in fair condition, with harvesting beginning in some counties. Potato harvesting was in full swing, and peanut growers were preparing fields for planting. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued at a steady pace in McMullen County. Although recent rains helped, without more rain soon to improve grazing, McMullen County ranchers expected to have to liquidate herds. In the eastern part of the region, as much as 3 inches of rain was received in some areas. Rangeland and pasture conditions ranged from fair to poor. Soil moisture varied from 100 percent adequate to 40 percent short. Wheat was 100 percent headed and in fair condition . All co rn had emerged, with 5 percent silking. Sorghum was in fair condition. In Kleberg and Kenedy counties, 15 percent of cotton was squaring. The western part of the region remained mostly dry. Soil moisture was mostly adequate throughout the area except for Dimmit County, where it was rated short. Rangeland and pastures remained in fair to poor condition. Farmers continued planting sorghum for forage and grain and cutting coastal Bermuda grass for hay. Wheat and oat harvesting was active. The spinach season ended. Onion harvesting began in the middle of the week, and corn and cotton under irrigation were progressing well. Pecan trees began setting nuts, and producers were scouting for the first generation of case bearers. In the southern part of the region, warm and windy weather continued, no rainfall was reported, except in Willacy County, which received 1 inch to 1.5 inches. Soil moisture conditions ranged from short to 70 percent adequate. Rangeland and pastures were in fai r condit ion, and supplemental feeding of livestock ceased due to good grazing. Irrigation was ongoing on corn and sorghum. In some areas, grain sorghum was changing color. Cotton and all vegetable crops were progressing well. In Starr County, onion harvesting continued as well as hay baling and buffel grass seed harvesting. In Willacy County, the majority of the sorghum crops had headed and began changing color.

    South Plains: The region had very warm temperatures, with highs in the upper 90s and gusty winds blowing dirt. Parts of Crosby County received isolated showers. A few cotton growers in Crosby County began planting. Cotton planting was expected to shift into high gear within a week. Garza County also received scattered showers midweek, from a trace to 0.2 inch. Wind and high temperatures dried out forages that were trying to grow with the snow moisture received a few months ago. Rangeland and pastures were declining. Some livestock producers were moving cattle to deferred pastures, or increasing supplemental feeding where that option was not available. Hockley County reported soil temperatures were high enough for cotton planting. However, some producers were waiting for more moisture before making cropping decisions. Cochran County producers began planting dryland cotton and peanuts even though subsoil and topsoil moi sture wa s very low. Winter wheat, pasture and range remained extremely dry. Floyd County producers began planting cotton and heavily irrigating. Scurry County received from 0.4 inch to 2 inches of rain, depending on the location. In Swisher County, wheat progressed enough with added irrigation to give some farmers a chance to have a grain crop. Others were cutting triticale for hay. Dryland wheat is considered to be at least a 70 percent loss in most cases.

    Southeast: Soil moisture throughout the region varied widely. In most counties it was adequate, though some counties reported it to be 100 percent very short. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely too, from very poor to excellent, with good to fair ratings being the most common. Much of the area remained dry, and as daytime temperatures increased, grazing and crops were likely to deteriorate. There were exceptions, however. Parts of Montgomery County received from 0.5 to nearly 2 inches of rain. Orange County also received scattered rains, which improved soil moisture and stimulated forage growth. Waller County producers took advantage of the dry conditions to harvest hay. Brazos County farmers started to irrigate corn, cotton, sorghum and soybeans. Small-grain fields there were fully headed and turning color. Cool-season grasses were being baled. Warm-season grasses had yet to come on.

    Southwest: Dry, warm and windy weather was the general rule for the area, with some scattered showers occurring in about 10 percent of the region. In most cases, the showers did not amount to much. Soils and rangeland were very dry, and grasses and field crops were showing signs of drought stress. Cotton and grain sorghum emerged only with the aid of irrigation. Livestock remained in good condition.

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