Texas Crop, Weather: 1st Freeze Comes at Good Time for Cotton

    The first hard freeze for the South Plains and Lubbock area came on Nov. 13-14, about 10 days later than average, which was timely for finishing up the area’s cotton, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomist.

    The average time for the first hard freeze in the area is around the end of October or the first of November, said Mark Kelley, AgriLife Extension cotton specialist, Lubbock. This year, the cotton was running about 10 days to two weeks behind because of cooler than normal days, late plantings and a wet early fall.

    Moreover, because of premature freezes last year and the year before, producers were worried they would have another early October freeze, Kelley said.

    “It was time for it,” he said. “We had a lot of crops that we were having a difficult time getting killed because the moisture we received earlier in the fall. This freeze shut everything down, terminated the crop, and hopefully opened up some bolls that weren’t open yet.”

    Kelley said from field examinations he did after the freeze, he found bolls cracking and he expected by the time conditions dried down after the light snow the area received along with the freeze, harvesting was likely to start “hot and heavy.”

    The bit of moisture from the snow shouldn’t affect quality either, he said. Approximately 5 to 10 percent of the region’s crop was harvested before the freeze.

    “Micronaires were showing the crop was pretty mature at the time of the freeze, and around that 4.2 mark, which is still in the premium range,” he said. “Color grade was running about 21. That’s one thing we watch when we get these late precipitation events, and unless we get a lot of rain or snow between now and harvest, we should be good.”

    Micronaire is a measure of both maturity and fineness of cotton fibers, Kelley explained. If fibers are too fine and not fully mature, they slow down post harvest processing times. Too thick or too mature fibers may produce weaker yarns.

    Early yields on irrigated acres have been about two bales per acre, he said.

    AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

    The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service DistrictsThe 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Districts

    Central: Most counties reported soil moisture, rangeland and pastures, and crop conditions as good. Overall, livestock were also in good condition. A hard frost, with lows in the mid-to-low 20s, killed off summer grasses. The pecan harvest was going well, with nuts small but of very good quality. Most oats for grazing were planted. Producers were grazing stocker cattle and cow/calf units on earlier planted oats. Cattle remained in good co ndition, though the cold weather made outside cattle work unfavorable. Rains during the previous week recharged soil moisture. There were several hard freezes during the week, with lows in the mid to lower 20s. Livestock producers were putting out hay and supplemental feeds for cattle.

    Coastal Bend: Slow, soaking rains steadily increased soil moisture levels. Cold temperatures and damp conditions limited field activities. Some producers were waiting to cut and bale late hay. Winter pastures benefited from the previous week’s rains, but the following two strong cold fronts slowed growth. Some producers took the opportunity to top dress winter pastures with fertilizer. Colder temperatures prompted producers to increase cattle feeding. Livestock remained in average to fair condition. Sale barn prices continue to be at historic highs.

    East: A cold front brought frigid and windy conditions to many counties along with the first real frost of the season. Henderson County reported the first freeze on Nov. 17. Polk and Trinity counties reported a trace of rain. Growth of winter pastures grasses was good. Most counties reported subsoil and topsoil moisture as adequate. The exception of the 22 counties of the district was Angelina, which reported both moisture levels as short. Angelina County winter wheat was 90 percent emerged. Warm-season forages went into dormancy. The hay harvest was complete. Some producers began to feed hay and supplements with the early onset of cold weather. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Livestock producers were taking large numbers of cattle to sale barns. Prices of cow/calf pairs and bred heifers increased. Fall calving was well underway. Henderson County reported increased feral hog activity.

    Far West: Cold, dry temperatures have prevailed, and the first freeze was accompanied with snow in some areas. Ward County received about 1 inch over the weekend. Pasture and rangeland were in fair to poor condition. Subsoil moisture ranged from adequate to short across the region. Topsoil moisture ranged from adequate to short. Upland Cotton was in fair to good condition. Harvesting was only about 20 percent finished in some counties, but from 75 to 100 percent completed in others. Winter wheat was in poor to very poor condition across the region, with from 50 to 60 percent of the already planted crop emerged. Sorghum was about 80 percent harvested. Only El Paso County reported a corn crop, and it was 80 percent harvested. The cotton harvest was in full swing.

    North: Topsoil moisture was mostly adequate, with unseasonably cold weather. Daytime highs hovered in the 30s and 40s. Growers were wrapping up planting wheat, but the cold weather delayed their finishing. Winter wheat that was already planted was generally in good condition. Early planted stands had already emerged. Most producers were feeding hay, and despite being stressed by the wide dip in temperatures and damp weather, livestock looked good going into the winter. The feral hog population was on the rise and continued to cause damage.

    Panhandle: The region had extremely cold and windy weather, with temperatures dipping into the lower teens during the week. With the weekend, colder temperatures prevailed and there was snow, from a light dusting to as much as 3.5 inches in some areas. Ranchers were feeding hay and supplements to cattle, and breaking ice. Soil moisture was from very short to adequate, with most counties reporting short to adequate. The freeze aided in killing cotton and facilitating harvest. On already harvested cotton in Collingsworth County, yields were average to above average on irrigated and dryland fields. The Deaf Smith County corn harvest was mostly finished, with average to above-average yields. The dryland grain sorghum crop in that county was making above-average yields. However, the Deaf Smith County cotton harvest was yet to begin in earnest; low quality and poor yields were expected. In Hansford County, ranchers were mo ving cat tle on to wheat pasture. They were also grazing some cattle grain on sorghum stalks. The Hansford County corn and grain sorghum harvests were expected to be finished in a few days to a week. In Ochiltree County, the cotton harvest neared completion. The Wheeler County cotton harvest was underway with average yields reported. In Dallam and Hartley counties, the corn harvest was mostly completed and the grain sorghum harvest began.

    Rolling Plains: The growing season effectively ended as hard freezes set in across the region. Much colder temperatures began on Veteran’s Day and continued through the week. Temperatures in the low to mid 20s halted growth of warm-season pasture grasses and forages. There was some producer concern about prussic acid poisoning on johnsongrass. Cotton growers attempted to push cotton to open with accelerating agents before the freeze. Already harvested irrigated cotton looked good as did some dryland cotton. Most cattle remained in good to fair condition. Ranchers were beginning to restock herds. Some early planted winter pastures were ready to furnish limited grazing. The pecan harvest continued to show good yields. Stock tanks and lakes needed more runoff water.

    South: The region had cold weather with scattered rains. In the northern part of the region, some counties had moist and damp conditions, making it difficult for harvesting peanuts and hay. In other areas, such as Frio County, conditions were a bit better and the peanut harvest continued, albeit at a slow pace. McMullen County had one night of temperatures close to freezing. Soil moisture was generally adequate throughout the area. Rangeland and pastures remained in fair condition. Forage growth halted due to shorter and cooler days. Supplemental feeding of livestock was cut back due to good grazing. The eastern part of the region also had cooler temperatures with a trace to 1 inch of rain. Livestock producers continued to provide supplemental feed and protein to cattle to allow rangeland and pastures to recover. Overall, soil moisture remained 80 to 100 percent adequate in Jim Hogg, Jim Wells and Kleberg/Kenedy co unties. In the western part of the region, conditions were quite favorable for winter forage production. Ranchers continued supplemental feeding, but with better grazing, the need for supplemental feeding of livestock decreased significantly for this time of the year. The harvesting of fresh market spinach sped up late in the week as fields began to dry out, but cabbage harvesting continued to be delayed due to wet fields. Onions, spinach, carrots and cabbage crops were progressing very well. The pecan harvest was completed. Overall, soil moisture throughout the area ranged from 20 to 100 percent adequate. In the southern part of the region, many fields were saturated as more rain moved through the area. Fall vegetable crops progressed well throughout the area. Willacy County received 1 inch to 3 inches of rain, which greatly benefited rangeland. Topsoil moisture was 100 percent surplus in Cameron County and 80 percent short in Starr County.

    South Plains: The region had two strong cold fronts during the reporting period, with a first bringing a killing freeze of 25 degrees on Nov. 11. The extreme cold and wind chill stressed livestock. Rangeland and pastures were in good condition, and cattle were in good shape receiving supplemental feeding on cold days. During the week in Lubbock County, temperatures ranged from a high of 81 to a low of 16. Light precipitation during each cold front temporarily halted harvest operations. Some harvesting took place on frozen ground. A forecast of warmer weather meant harvesting should resume soon. Cochran County also reported severe cold and snow that halted cotton harvesting. Yields are good to excellent on irrigated fields and fair to good on dryland. Mitchell County cotton harvesting was ongoing, though there was concern that the long and hard freeze may have damaged unopened bolls. In Swisher County, the grain sorghu m and co tton resumed midweek with warmer, drier temperatures, but 1 to 2 inches of snow on Nov. 16 halted harvesting for one to two weeks.

    Southeast: Soil moisture throughout the region varied widely, with most counties reporting adequate to surplus levels. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied from good to excellent, with good ratings being the most common. Recent rains benefited ryegrass planted for winter forage. Livestock were in good condition. The cool temperatures slowed the growth of warm-season grasses. In Chambers County, the ratoon rice crop was still being harvested. In some areas, dryer-than-normal conditions allowed farmers to prepare the ground for spring plantings. Montgomery County received 1 inch of rain. Winter annuals were planted, and clovers were emerging and showing good growth.

    Southwest: Dry weather persisted throughout the area, with temperatures as much as 20 degrees colder than normal. Some parts of the region got the first freeze. Horn fly populations were reduced. Winter wheat and oats remained in fairly good condition. However, rain delayed planting in some areas. Rangeland and pastures remained in overall good condition, as did livestock and wildlife. Producers were providing supplemental feed to livestock.

    West Central: The region had its first freeze of the season, with temperatures dropping into the 20s at times. Soil moisture was good in most areas due to recent rains. Field activities were slowed by cold weather. Producers were having to winterize everything early. Small-grain planting resumed early in the week. Wheat planting was mostly completed, with only a few fields left to do. Already planted winter wheat was in good condition. Earlier planted wheat was expected to be ready to graze soon. Though slowed by weather, the cotton harvest was about half done, with yields at or below average being reported. There were a few reports of above-average yields. Some dryland cotton fields were zeroed out for crop insurance and were being shredded. Rangeland and pastures were in good condition. Cool-season grasses and forbs responded well to recent rains and weather, and continued to show good growth. Livestock remained i n fair t o good condition. Supplemental feeding of livestock was in progress in some areas. The pecan harvest was well underway.

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