Texas: Wet Weather Could Mean More Sorghum, Cotton

    By delaying corn planting, wet weather could mean more grain sorghum and cotton will be planted than earlier predicted, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.

    In early February, the National Cotton Council was predicting a large reduction in Texas cotton acreages planted – nearly 14 percent, according to Dr. Gaylon Morgan, AgriLife Extension state cotton specialist.

    In mid-December the producers across the 17-state Cotton Belt were surveyed to determine their cotton planting intentions for the 2015 crop, he said. The reduction in intended plantings was thought to be largely due to several factors, including projected cotton prices and changes in the recent U.S. farm bill.

    “But based on current conditions, neither I nor Dr. John Robinson think we’ll lose 14 percent of the cotton acres; more like 10 percent maybe,” Morgan said.

    Robinson is the AgriLife Extension cotton state marketing specialist, College Station.

    The main reason for the more stable cotton acreage is how wet weather has delayed planting of corn and may delay the planting of grain sorghum in South Texas, Morgan said. Both crops need to go in earlier than cotton.

    “It is not too late to plant sorghum,” he said. “Probably if corn is not planted in the next two weeks, then producers will switch to sorghum or cotton in the upper Gulf Coast and Blacklands. Now if it stays really wet, and it gets too late to plant sorghum, then cotton acres more than likely will be increased.”

    Wet field conditions have delayed planting of corn and grain sorghum in many parts of the state, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomist. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Dr. Gaylon Morgan)

    Photo: Gaylon Morgan, Texas AgriLife Extension Wet field conditions have delayed planting of corn and grain sorghum in many parts of the state, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomist. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Dr. Gaylon Morgan)

    The primary factor affecting the planting decisions is the price of corn and sorghum, which isn’t attractive for growing either crop, he said.

    “Prices aren’t that good for any of the crops right now, so many producers are just waiting to see if something is showing a little economic potential over others,” he said.

    Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is extending the deadline for producers to update their base yields or reallocate their base acres from Feb. 27 to March 31, Morgan said.

    “This should be a good thing to give producers some time to try to understand the farm bill and to see if commodity prices will shift in favor of one crop over another,” he said.

    The USDA won’t release its planting intentions report for spring crops until March 31, Morgan noted.

    AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

    Central: All counties reported soil moisture on rangeland and pastures, and overall livestock conditions as good. Crops were in fair condition. The weather was cold and icy. More precipitation brought fieldwork to a standstill. Fields were expected to be too wet to work for another week at least. Corn and silage planting were expected to be very late. Small grains looked good, but they needed sunshine to go with the moisture. The cold, wet weather was extra hard on cattle. Producers had to feed extra hay and protein.

    Coastal Bend: The region had persistent cool, damp and rainy weather. Due to the heavily saturated soils, some corn planting was delayed. Weather conditions limited field activities, but some areas received enough sunshine to germinate field sandbur, which was more than an inch tall in some places. Windy and sunny days were needed to dry out fields. Livestock producers continued to feed hay and protein. Some winter forages were providing grazing for livestock. Wheat was in good condition, but little to no sorghum had been planted due to the cool wet conditions.

    East: A cold front moved through the region bringing ice, snow and rain. Cooler temperatures followed. Farm ponds were full. All counties reported adequate or surplus subsoil and topsoil moisture. Pastures were extremely wet, making it difficult for both cattle producers and row-crop farmers. Field preparations were on hold. Timber harvesting slowed due to the wet conditions. Winter forage growth was also slowed by the cold weather. Livestock producers increased feeding hay and supplementation. Hay supplies were good, with sales beginning to increase. Cattle were beginning to lose some body condition, but were still in fair to good shape. Spring calving continued. Many producers were turning out bulls for rebreeding. Demand and supply at cattle sale barns were strong. Prices were up from the previous week.

    Far West: The first half of the week saw winter weather and cooler temperatures, followed by a warming spell. Some precipitation accompanied the winter weather. Winter weeds were growing, which gave cattle something to graze. Supplemental feeding of livestock was ongoing. Topsoil moisture was adequate, while subsoil moisture was described as short to adequate. Pastures and rangeland were mostly in fair condition. Pecans were 100 percent harvested. Winter wheat was mostly in poor to fair condition. Preparation for cotton planting began, and grain sorghum was 30 percent planted.

    North: The earlier part of the week had temperatures in the upper 40s one day and 60s the next. On March 4, an arctic blast brought freezing rain and sleet, which changed to snow the next night. Part of the region received from 4-6 inches of snow. Winter wheat was all right, despite the freezing precipitation, but winter pastures were in desperate need of warmer temperatures and sunshine, and growth has been stagnant the last few weeks. Because of the frequent precipitation, there has been a lot of runoff water. Livestock were challenged by the wet and cold conditions, particularly herds that were calving. Producers were consistently having to feed supplements and hay. Wild hogs continued to cause damage. Topsoil moisture was mostly adequate to surplus.

    Panhandle: The region’s weather began with near-average temperatures, but mid-week brought another cold front accompanied by snow, ice and rain. Precipitation amounts ranged from a trace to as much as 6 inches. Many fields were too wet for fieldwork for two to three days following the midweek storm. Where conditions allowed, farmers began to prepare fields and make planting decisions. Winter wheat was coming along well with ample moisture going into spring. Stocker cattle were becoming a more common sight, and some producers were considering grazing out wheat if they can get enough cattle. Spring planting plans were changing daily with cotton/sorghum one day and sorghum/corn the next. Some irrigated wheat was being treated for rising aphid infestations. Severely cold weather was tough on livestock and wildlife for several days. Cattle were being given supplemental feed. Cow/calf herds were calving heavily, and the newborn calves were exposed to some stressful weather. Rangeland and pastures continued to vary in ratings, from poor to fair, with most reporting good to fair.

    Rolling Plains: Conditions became spring-like, with temperatures bouncing from the 50s to 70s and rain in the forecast instead of snow. With previous snow and ice, soil moisture was adequate, and producers were hopeful these levels were enough for pastures and rangeland to recover this spring. Farmers began preparing fields for the upcoming crop year. Some found there was enough moisture to start, while others reported soils were too wet in some fields to plow. Cattle were in good condition, with supplemental feeding beginning to slow as winter forbs and some grasses were producing enough to hold cattle. One county reported that some new calves were lost due to the extreme cold. Winter wheat continued to be in good to excellent condition, and producers were grazing cattle on the crop. Runoff was still needed for area lakes and stock tanks.

    South: Cold and wet conditions continued throughout the region. Light frost was reported in the northern, eastern and western parts of the region. Planting remained stalled in most areas due to wet conditions. The northern part of the region had persistent rain throughout the week. Temperatures were mild in the beginning of the week with very cold temperatures and drizzle by the weekend. Light frost damaged recently planted sweet corn, but field work and planting preparations increased despite the wet conditions. Low temperatures kept summer perennial grasses dormant. Soil moisture was 100 percent adequate in McMullen County. Atascosa County had 50 percent adequate subsoil and 100 percent surplus topsoil moisture. Frio County had 100 percent short soil moisture, and La Salle County was 50 to 60 percent short on soil moisture. In the eastern part of the region, landowners and ranchers continued supplemental feeding of protein and hay. In Jim Wells County, cold weather kept most producers from moving forward with grain sorghum and cotton planting. Soil moisture was 50 to 90 percent surplus in Duval County, 50 to 75 percent adequate in Jim Hogg County, 100 percent adequate in Jim Wells County, and 60 percent adequate in Kleberg and Kenedy counties. In the western part of the region, coastal Bermuda grasses were greening up. Stock tank water supplies remained low. Temperatures fell into the upper 20s early the morning of March 6. Fortunately, the cold temperatures did not affect crops throughout the area. Spinach harvesting continued late in the week as fields dried out. Cabbage, carrots and onions progressed well. Wheat and oats were in good to excellent condition. Soil moisture was 80 to 90 percent adequate in Duvall County, 50 percent adequate in Maverick County, 50 to 60 percent adequate in Webb County and 100 percent adequate in Zavala County. Zapata County soil moisture remained 75 to 80 percent short. In the southern part of the region, the harvesting of cabbage and lettuce continued in Cameron County. In Hidalgo County, citrus, sugarcane and vegetable harvesting was ongoing. In Starr County, spring row crops continued to progress well. Rangeland and pastures remained in good to fair condition. Supplemental feeding continued throughout the area. Soil moisture conditions were 100 percent adequate in Cameron and Hildalgo counties, 60 to 80 percent short in Starr County and 85 percent surplus in Willacy County.

    South Plains: Many counties reported more snow and other forms of precipitation this week. Subsoil and topsoil moisture were improved, and winter wheat benefited from the moisture. Hale County wheat had some disease problems. Lubbock County wheat had some leaf tip burn due to the cold temperatures. Cattle prices remained steady to high in local markets on 400- to 700-pound steers. Garza County producers were limited to the fieldwork they could do by wet weather. Rangeland and pastures were in fair to good condition, and cattle were in mostly good condition with supplemental feeding on cold and wet days.

    Southeast: Soil moisture varied widely but was mostly in the adequate to surplus range. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely as well, but were mostly fair to good, with good ratings being the most common. Thanks to abundant rainfall, Walker County cool-season forages were looking good. More warm weather was needed to spur the spring growth phase. In Montgomery County, wet and cold conditions persisted, which were stressing livestock and requiring more hay to be fed. Waller County had light rain, low temperatures and high winds. In Chambers County, little to no groundwork was being done due to wet and cold weather. In Fort Bend County, the cold weather delayed planting of corn and sorghum. Livestock were in fair condition.

    Southwest: The region had freezing temperatures and slight showers. The wet weather kept farmers from planting but improved rangeland conditions. Lambing and kidding continued. Livestock were in fair condition under supplementation. The cold weather stressed wildlife.

    West Central: The region had below-average temperatures. Most areas received freezing rain, sleet, ice and snow. Soil moisture conditions improved, but there was little to no field activity due to bad weather and wet fields. Small grains continued to show progress. Rangeland and pastures further improved thanks to moisture from the recent rains and snow. All forages needed some warm weather and sunshine. The two ice storms this week were hard on livestock as well as producers. Supplemental feeding of livestock, already heavy, increased. Stock tank water levels continued to drop, and water had to be hauled. Cattle prices remained steady. Some fruit trees were trying to bud out.

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