Texas Crop Weather: Cotton a Mixed Bag, but Better Than Last Year

    Though recent rains improved the cotton outlook for some regions, it’s still a “mixed bag” for the state overall, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

    The March predictions by the National Cotton Council were of a double-digit percentage increase in plantings over 2013, and those still hold water, said Dr. Gaylon Morgan, AgriLife Extension statewide cotton specialist, College Station.

    However, Morgan noted that planted acres do not always equate to harvestable acres during prolonged drought.

    “We still have some of the major cotton producing areas of the state – Rolling Plains, South Plains and the Panhandle – in either extreme or exceptional drought,” he said.

    There has been a number of challenges to all cotton growing areas throughout the state, Morgan noted. There was a late spring cold front in April that hurt emerged cotton and delayed planting in South and East Texas, for example. This problem, along with worsening of drought in practically all the state in the past few months, has raised the stress level for cotton growers.

    “It’s been a frustrating year for many, to say the least,” he said.

    But rains have greatly improved things for the time being in South Texas, Central Texas, east of Interstate 35, and the Blacklands, Morgan noted.

    Although time is limited, there’s still some hope for other parts of the state to catch up. In the Rolling Plains, those with irrigation have pre-watered and were already planting, he said. As for Rolling Plains dryland producers, they will need a rain before they can hope to establish a crop. They have until mid-June as a final planting window.

    “And there’s a good chance of rain (for the Rolling Plains) later this week,” Morgan said. “The dryland guys are definitely going to wait and see what happens before they start planting.”

    As for the South Plains, the region remains in an extreme to exceptional drought, he said. Some planting in irrigated fields began in early May, but record cold temperatures added to the biggest challenges, high winds and the lack of water.

    AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries for May 12- 19:

    Central: Soil moisture, rangeland, pasture and livestock were all generally rated as being in good condition. All dryland crops were suffering. First reports show that coastal Bermuda grass root systems were not where they need to be. However, good widespread rains of 4 to 7 inches for the week replenished most stock ponds and raised soil moisture. Summer crops were showing quick response to moisture. Most fields remained too wet for fieldwork. Oats and wheat headed out; most will be used for grazing. Corn also really took off since the rain, and sorghum continued to make progress as well. The wheat and oat harvests were expected to start soon.

    Coastal Bend: The region had two exceptional rains, with most areas reporting between 2 to 4 inches. One county got 6 inches, and another reported 7.5 inches. The rain greatly improved crop and pasture conditions. Along with the rain came some high winds that damaged corn and grain sorghum in some areas. Wheat was harvested in almost all counties; corn is beginning to silk. Sorghum has started flowering. All crops were responding well to recent moisture. High winds also hindered herbicide spraying activities. Timely applications of insecticides and herbicides to moist fields will be critical, especially in young, growing cotton. More rain will be crucial as grain crops enter reproductive stages. Sugarcane aphids were spotted in a few grain sorghum fields, with a wide range in the percentage of plants affected in those fields, from 1 to 49 percent. However, affected plants typically had only had five or less aphids. Growers were encouraged to monitor build up.

    East: The region received from 2 to 6 inches of rain. Many counties reported flooding of rivers and creeks. Ponds and small lakes were full. The water levels of large lakes were rising. Some counties reported damage from high winds. In Anderson County, grain sorghum will have to be replanted due to the heavy rains. Only 50 percent of the cotton was planted in that county due to wet field conditions. Cool-season vegetables were being harvested. Blueberry producers were preparing for harvest. Pastures were in good condition. Producers continued to harvest cool-season forages as hay. They were also applying herbicide to pastures to control flushes of weeds due to higher soil moisture. Beef cattle were in good to excellent condition. Some producers were beginning to either keep or buy new replacement females to rebuild herds. Working of new crop calves continued along with weaning and selling of market ready calves and cull cows. Feral hogs were active and moving.

    Far West: The area had hot, very windy and dry conditions all week, except for midweek when cooler temperatures halted cotton planting. But cotton planting was expected to be back in full swing soon, depending upon the weather. Pecan trees passed the pollination stage and started nut growth. Some growers were spraying for pecan nut casebearer. Fall-planted onions were at the three-quarters bulb stage. Cotton emergence was good with 70 percent of the acreage already up. Alfalfa growers were nearly ready to take a second cutting. Most sunflowers and early grain sorghum were planted. Pastures needed rain, and livestock producers continued supplemental feeding of cattle.

    North: The region received from 3 to 8 inches of rain, which greatly improved the outlook for all crops, including wheat, grain sorghum, soybeans and forages. Runoff water helped replenish stock tanks, ponds and lakes. Camp County producers were bailing ryegrass hay. Winter wheat was in good condition. Rockwall County reported the cooler weather stalled some warm-season grass development. Livestock were in good condition. Camp County was still reporting issues with hogs. Kaufman County reported a bumper crop of grasshoppers. In Titus County, the fly population was increasing, as were plant disease and fungal problems.

    Panhandle: Dry, windy conditions continued. The week began with cooler temperatures then rose to above-average levels by the weekend. No rain was received. Farmers were actively planting crops, including corn, soybean, peanuts and cotton. Irrigation demands increased as producers were trying to stretch their available water between wheat acres and emerging corn. Rangeland was in very poor shape. Livestock producers continued supplemental feeding of cattle. Wildfire danger remained high.

    Rolling Plains: The region remained dry and windy. The winds dried topsoils to powder and turned pastures from green back to brown. Cattle were in good condition, and some producers were shipping stockers. Water levels were critical. The need for runoff to replenish lakes, tanks, and ponds was critical. Some cotton producers were beginning to plant, but most will have to irrigate to get a stand. Others are waiting to plant due to low soil moisture. Although some wheat fields were ready for harvest, most winter wheat was being baled for hay or grazed out. Sorghum was being planted in some areas. Parker County reported that peaches and pecans looked good.

    South: Temperatures continued to rise throughout the region, but rain brought relief to the entire area. All counties received some rain, from light to heavy. In the northern part of the region, the potato, wheat and oat harvests were in full swing, as well as some peanut planting. Rain helped improve dry pastures and rangeland. Soil moisture was 60 to 70 percent adequate in Atascosa and Maverick counties, but remained very short in Frio County. Supplemental feeding of cattle continued at a steady pace, and cattle body conditions remained fair. In the eastern part of the region, cooler-than-usual temperatures retarded the growth of crops. Cotton was expected to start performing better because of the rains as soon as days warm back up. Soil moisture was 100 percent adequate in Jim Wells County and 60 percent short in Kleberg and Kenedy counties. Rangeland and pastures were in good to fair condition. In the western p art of t he region, all counties except for Webb received rain. Sorghum, onions, watermelons and cantaloupes were all being planted. Hay producers were harvesting Bermuda grass throughout the week. Corn and cotton made good progress. Onion harvesting continued in Zavala County. Cabbage harvesting in that county was expected to resume next week. Soil moisture was a mix of short and adequate, but most of the counties had 40 to 70 percent adequate soil moisture. Supplemental feeding of cattle remained mostly light due to rangeland and pasture improvement. In the southern part of the region, some sorghum insect problems were reported, and spraying to control sugarcane aphids and midges was ongoing. Onion harvesting continued in Starr County. In Willacy County, sorghum looked good, with average yields expected. Soil moisture conditions were mostly 60 to 70 percent short in Cameron and Starr counties, and 60 to 70 percent adequate in Willacy County. Supplemental feeding of cattle continued at a steady pace.

    South Plains: Planting was slow to start due to the ongoing drought. Many producers were only planting in irrigated fields. Temperatures were a little cooler at the beginning of the week with lows in the upper 20s in Bailey County and upper 30s in Lubbock County. A lot of producers were holding back on cropping decisions to see what the weather held as there was rain predicted for the upcoming week. Some warm-season grasses responded to the light moisture received a few weeks ago, as well as earlier snowfall, but with gusty winds, rising temperatures and no significant rain, those plants are drying out. Cattle were in mostly fair to good condition with supplemental feeding necessary in some pastures. Producers were also rotating cattle off pastures without enough forage to carry the grazing pressure. The drought has significantly impacted all agricultural operations.

    Southwest: Much of the district received between 1 inch to 4 inches of rain, while a few areas received relatively little. Field crops were looking better from recent rains. However, hot, dry winds continued to dry out soils, and without continued precipitation, pastures and cropland were expected to soon be as dry as they were before the rains. Pastures and hayfields were slow to green up because of cooler temperatures. The wheat harvest should resume this week. Overall, livestock under continued supplemental feeding were in good condition.

    West Central: Weather was warm and windy. Conditions remained extremely dry. Wildfire danger on rangeland continued to be a concern in all areas. Counties that were lucky enough to receive rain this month were showing some greening of pastures. Some planting of warm-season forages was underway. Land preparations for grain sorghum and cotton planting continued. Cotton planting was expected to begin next week. The wheat harvest was also expected to begin soon. Harvestable wheat acres were expected to be very low with below-average yields. Irrigated grain sorghum looked fair. Rangeland and pastures continued to decline in most areas due to drought and lack of soil moisture. Spring cattle work was ongoing. Livestock producers without wheat pastures continued supplemental feeding.

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