Texas Crop Weather: Emerged Wheat Unlikely to Be Hurt by Arctic Blast

    It’s highly unlikely the sub-freezing weather will damage any of the state’s winter wheat crop, even newly emerged plants, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

    “It would have to get pretty darn cold for it to do any damage to the wheat,” said Dr. Clark Neely, AgriLife Extension small grains and oilseed specialist, College Station. “If you have a healthy crop, winter wheat can handle temperatures below zero Fahrenheit prior to vernalization.”

    Vernalization refers to a certain number of chilling hours a plant must experience before it switches from vegetative to reproductive growth, he said.

    Winter wheat can be damaged in certain instances, such as when a cold front comes through and there’s a sudden 50-degree temperature swing, but even then it is rare, Neely said.

    “Soil temperatures are also still relatively warm, which will help protect plants,” he said.

    From reports Neely received from area specialists, temperatures got down to freezing in the more northern parts of the state on the morning of Nov. 10, and may be in the mid-20s on Nov. 11, he said.

    Recently planted wheat in Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service trials near College Station showed good emergence and stands. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Dr. Clark Neely)

    Recently planted wheat in Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service trials near College Station showed good emergence and stands. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Dr. Clark Neely)

    “I don’t expect to see damage, though,” Neely said. “I don’t think it got cold enough quick enough for us to see any damage.”

    In fact, the early cold weather may be good for winter wheat, but may reduce fall growth for grazing.

    “This cold snap we had should go a long way to hardening the crop off,” he said.

    Neely explained that “hardening off” refers to wheat acclimating to colder temperatures.

    “Overall, we’re sitting pretty good for both canola and wheat crops across the state,” he said. “Most of the Blacklands has recharged soil moisture profiles at the moment. This past week we got 1 to 3 inches across a wide swathe of the state, from South Texas all the way up to north East Texas. The Rolling Plains and the High Plains could always use a bit more moisture, but they’re in a lot better shape than they were last year. So I think the crop is off to a good start up there too.”

    Neely added that forecast of a “moderately wet” winter because of a weak El Nino would be “ideal” for the state’s wheat and canola crops.

    AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

    Central: Most counties reported soil moisture, rangeland and pastures and crop conditions as good. Overall, livestock were also in good condition. The region received good rains, and small grains were looking good. Bermuda grass pastures were recovering, but a predicted frost will likely bring an end to growth. Wheat and oats emerged. Rangeland was in fair to good condition. The pecan crop looked promising. Livestock were in good condition. Stock-tank water levels were good, and creeks and rivers were up, all of which provided ample drinking water for livestock. The rains also provided excellent forage production. Livestock numbers were strong.

    Coastal Bend: The counties received steady, soaking rains as a front moved slowly through the area. Most counties received from 1.5 to 3.5 inches of rain. Winter pastures got a boost from the rains, as did wheat and oats. The pecan harvest was delayed by the rains. Most field activities were on hold due to sloppy conditions.

    East: Subsoil moisture varied widely throughout the counties, from 90 percent surplus in Henderson County to 75 percent short in Angelina County. In many counties, a common report was a fairly even split between adequate and short moisture levels. Pasture and rangeland ratings varied widely as well, from 100 percent poor to mostly good, with good being the most common rating. From 1 inch to 4 inches of rain fell in some areas, which when coupled with cooler weather gave cool-season forages a boost. Producers were beginning to supply supplemental feed for the winter. Fall vegetables were doing well. Lake and pond levels improved. Calf weaning and cow culling neared completion. Livestock were in good condition due to great summer conditions that supplied sufficient summer grazing. Producers finished harvesting warm-season forages, and the majority of cool season forages were planted and emerging. Fall calving was in progress. Feral hogs damaged pastures.

    Far West: Warm days and cool nights were the norm, with much of the area receiving from 0.3 inch to 1.5 inches of rain. Glasscock, Upton, and Presidio counties received from 2 to 4 inches of rain. Subsoil moisture ranged from fair to very poor. Topsoil moisture was from adequate to short. Upland cotton was in fair to poor condition, with the harvest in various stages of progress from county to county. Most corn and grain sorghum were harvested. The sunflower harvest was completed. Most winter wheat had emerged and was in fair to poor condition. The El Paso County cotton harvest was on hold because of wet conditions. Pecan shuck separation was in progress, with some pecan nuts falling. Alfalfa was slowly growing after recent rains. Another light cutting might be possible when fields dry out.

    North: Topsoil moisture was mostly adequate, with a few counties reporting surplus. About 2 inches of rain fell across the region. The rains came very slowly, which greatly benefited newly planted wheat and winter annual pastures. Warm-season forage growth was minimal as temperatures cooled. Winter pastures were starting to grow in most areas. Acorns, persimmons and pecans were bountiful. Livestock were in good condition. The feral hog population was on the rise, and the invasive species continued to cause damage.

    Panhandle: Temperatures were up and down for the week — cool at first, then warming to slightly above average by the weekend. Soil moisture varied from very short to adequate, with most counties reporting short to adequate. From a trace to 2 inches of rain fell in isolated areas. Most of the region experienced the first freeze of the season about midweek. The Collingsworth County cotton harvest was stalled by wet conditions until late in the week. However, the rain significantly improved the wheat crop. Deaf Smith County producers had a good week with most corn harvested before the forecast arctic blast that came Nov. 11. Grain sorghum was doing well with many acres getting harvested, and about average yields so far. Earlier plantings of winter wheat were progressing well, though many acres had yet to be planted. Producers were turning stockers into graze on the earliest plantings of wheat — if they could procure the cattle. Hansford County remained very dry and cool. The cotton harvest there was in full swing, except for a couple of days when it was too windy to strip. In Dallam and Hartley counties, the corn harvest wound down as the sorghum and cotton harvests got started in earnest. Most cow/calf producers had already weaned spring calves. Most cattle were in good condition, but livestock producers were still doctoring calves for respiratory and shipping fever, which was typical for this time of year as temperatures fluctuated widely. Rangeland and pastures were rated mostly fair to good.

    Rolling Plains: Parts of the region got up to 1.25 inches of rain, while others remained dry. Winter wheat used for grazing that received rain was responding well. Some wheat looked especially good, but other fields had bit knocked back by infestations of armyworms and grubs. With the much colder temperatures, native and improved warm-season pastures showed little to no growth. Producers continued to over-seed small grains onto summer pastures. Cotton gins were running consistently in some counties. Yields from irrigated cotton acres were good. Livestock remained in good to fair condition. A large portion of the spring calf crop was sold during the past few weeks with excellent prices received. Stock-water tanks and lakes remained in great need of runoff water. The pecan harvest continued with good yields reported.

    South: A cold front brought moderate to heavy rainfall and cooler temperatures, halting field activities but benefiting rangeland and pastures. In the northern part of the region, from 2 to 4.5 inches of rain boosted soil moisture to 60 to 100 percent adequate in all counties. The rain slowed peanut harvesting in Atascosa and Frio counties. McMullen County rangeland and pastures showed great response to the rain, but the cooler weather slowed growth. Livestock producers were able to reduce supplemental feeding. Cattle body conditions scores continued to improve as most cowherds completed calf weaning. In the eastern part of the region, 2 to 3 inches of rain was common, with some areas getting 5 inches. The rain came slowly, with minimal runoff. Soil moisture was 50 to 100 percent adequate through the area. Producers were making plans to start planting wheat as a result of the added moisture. Livestock remained in good condition with prices remaining high for both feeder and replacement cattle. The western part of the region, also received quite a lot of rain, which supplied moisture to recently planted wheat. Where field conditions were dry enough, producers were preparing fields for crops such as winter oats. In Zavala County, the rains delayed cabbage harvesting, but otherwise benefited the crop, as well as spinach and onions. Native forages on local ranches were improved by the rain. Stock-tank water levels were improved by runoff in areas that received harder and faster rains. Soil moisture was 40 to 100 percent adequate throughout the area. In the southern part of the region, the rains halted harvesting, though all fall vegetable crops were progressing well. Soil moisture was 100 percent adequate in Cameron and Hidalgo counties, 80 percent short in Starr County and 45 percent adequate in Willacy County. Rangeland and pasture conditions were fair to good.

    South Plains: Parts of the region received from 1 inch to nearly 3 inches of rain, which brought the cotton harvest to a standstill in some counties. But strippers were expected to be back out in fields in full force soon. Where bolls were open, the rains may have caused a slight discoloration in cotton lint. Many producers were applying defoliants and desiccants. So far, cotton yields were are mostly good but were expected to vary widely before the harvest is completed. Rangeland and pastures were in good to excellent condition, as were livestock. Area wheat fields were in very good condition. Hockley County grain sorghum producers had all but completed this year’s harvest. In Mitchell County, the cotton harvest was in full swing, but many of acres had to be shredded. Total ginned bales were expected to be down from last year.

    Southeast: Soil-moisture was mostly in the adequate to surplus range, with Hardin County reporting 100 percent adequate. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely, but were mostly fair to poor, with fair ratings being the most common. Rain was greatly welcomed by hay producers who fertilized pastures in recent weeks. However, the forecasted additional rain and cool weather would slow grass growth. Livestock were in good condition. Cool-season forages were doing well, and clover emerged.

    Southwest: From 1 inch to 4 inches of rain fell, benefiting rangeland, oats and wheat. However, there was not much runoff, and stock tanks remained low. The pecan harvest continued with decent yields so far. Livestock and wildlife were in extremely good condition. The hunting season was much more active than previous years, and the rut was still in full swing. Kinney County reported a 250-pound white-tailed buck having been taken, which would make it a ranch-weight record.

    West Central: The region had mild days with cool nights. Most areas reported a good soaking rain from 1 inch to 3 inches. The rain helped replenish soil moisture and allowed fall planting to continue. Producers continued to plant small grains as fields dried out. A forecast cold front was expected to drop temperatures to freezing and below for several days. Wheat was responding well to rain and warm temperatures, but the wet weather halted cotton harvesting and wheat planting. Rangeland and pastures were in good condition going into the winter. The recent moisture also promoted cool-season grass growth and green-up. Fall cattle work continued. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. The pecan harvest was well underway with good yields so far. Hunting season began, and deer were in good condition.

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