Frequent rains and the resultant soggy field conditions continued to keep producers from planting corn and other crops in some parts of the state, according to Texas A&M Extension Service personnel.
“We just had cold weather that kept people from getting started early, and then the last several weeks we just had a lot of rain that kept people out of fields,” said Dr. Ronnie Schnell, AgriLife Extension state cropping systems specialist, College Station.
On the morning of March 17, Schnell was having the same problem as many corn growers. He was trying to get his corn test field plots planted before afternoon forecasted rains came.
“We want to get corn in by early March if possible,” he said. “Mid-March is still okay, but if we start getting into late March, then we start losing yield potential. That’s why we’re trying to get our corn in now, because it’s going to be at least a week until we can get into the fields again.”
An early March planting date is important because hot mid-summer temperatures interfere with corn flowering and pollination, Schnell said. The ideal flowering temperature for corn is less than 90 degrees. As temperatures reach 95 degrees and higher, pollination problems begin to occur and yields drop off.
There’s always alternatives to corn, such as grain sorghum and cotton, he said. But he believes a lot of producers will continue to plant corn, even if they have to plant a little late.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Central: All counties reported soil moisture as good, and rangeland and pastures conditions good as well. Overall, crops were in fair condition, and livestock were in good condition. Many farmers were still waiting on drying conditions to begin planting crops. There was still no corn or sorghum being planted. Ornamental trees and shrubs began to bloom with the warmer weather.
Coastal Bend: Widespread rains of 1 inch to 7 inches created the best subsoil moisture levels in four to five years. However, planting was two weeks behind schedule due to the wet conditions. Producers were concerned that planting could be delayed even further due to forecasts of additional rainfall. Corn that was earlier planted had emerged. What little grain sorghum that had already been planted was in the beginning stages of development. Wheat continued to make progress and was in good condition. Winter pasture grains such as oats, wheat, ryegrass and clover responded well to recent rains. Warm-season grasses were starting to show a little green, and there were plenty of weeds in most pastures. Cattle remained in good condition, finding plenty of green forage to graze. Some ponds were full, while others remained low. The drought caused some pond bottoms to dry and crack open, and it will take sustained runoff to seal them enough to hold water.
East: Rains continued to cause major problems across the region. San Augustine County reported more than 2 inches and Trinity County, 8 inches. Rivers, creeks, ponds and lakes were full to overflowing. Soil moisture levels were high. Most counties reported subsoil and topsoil as surplus. Ryegrass and clover needed sunshine for growth. Low-lying areas were flooded. Producers were unable to work fields. Wet weather delayed corn planting in Houston County, and many farmers indicated they will not plant corn past April 15. The Houston County livestock market was cancelled due to buyers and shippers not being able to get to cattle or get the cattle picked up because of wet conditions. Some producers were having difficulty getting into muddy pastures to feed livestock. Cattle, however, remained in fair to good condition. Hay supplies were still sufficient. Some cattle were backing away from hay for ryegrass and clover that were bec oming available. Feral hogs were very active.
Far West: The region had winter weather, with cooler temperatures for the first half of the week, then days warmed up. Some areas received rain showers. Subsoil moisture was mostly short to adequate, while topsoil moisture was adequate in most areas. Pastures and rangeland were mostly in poor condition. Winter wheat was in poor condition. Grain sorghum was 40 percent planted.
North: Topsoil moisture was mostly adequate to surplus. Parts of the region had rain six days out of seven, with accumulations of 2.5 to 3.5 inches. Daytime highs increased to the upper 50s. Fields were saturated by extended winter conditions and long periods of rain. Winter wheat looked good. With the wet weather, corn planting came to a standstill. Because of the lack of sunny days, winter pastures were still short for this time of year. Ponds were full to overflowing in some areas and creeks were full. Livestock were in good condition, but because of the damp, cool weather, producers had to consistently supplement cattle with feed and hay. Cattle had a tough time dealing with the mud in feeding areas. Wild hogs were causing damage.
Panhandle: The region had warmer weather with light or very little wind. No moisture was received. The wind dried out some fields, and where possible, farmers were cultivating fields, applying fertilizer and beginning to apply preplant herbicides. Some early spring warm-season grasses were coming out of dormancy with the 70-degree daytime highs. Wheat progressed well, and some stocker cattle were being moved off wheat so the crop has time to produce grain. Many producers with stocker cattle were opting for graze-out versus harvesting wheat for grain. In some areas, producers started their center pivots as the wheat temperatures warmed to the mid 60s to low 70s. Aerial applicators were in the air applying insecticides for greenbugs in wheat. Alfalfa began to green up in response to the warmer weather. Producers were still trying to decide what to plant this spring. Corn was often locked into farm program base acreages, but th ere remained the choices of cotton, sorghum or layout. Ranchers were gearing up for spring roundup and weaning. Cattle were doing well on wheat. Spring calving was well underway. Army cutworms were showing up in some wheat fields. Rangeland and pastures continued to be in poor to fair condition, with most reporting good to fair. Cattle were still being supplemented.
Rolling Plains: As much as 1.5 inches of rain fell across parts of the region. Pastures were steadily improving as more cool-season grasses were coming on. Winter wheat continued to improve. Producers were scouting fields for army cutworms, as the pest was reported in Oklahoma. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Land was being prepared for cotton planting. Runoff water was desperately needed for stock-water tanks and lakes. A few peach varieties with lower chilling requirements started blooming this week, but most trees had not.
South Plains: The region had warmer temperatures, with highs in the 60s and 70s. Subsoil and topsoil moisture were excellent thanks to the previous week’s snowfall and mixed precipitation. Many producers were preparing fields and applying preplant herbicides as fields dried out. Wheat was responding nicely to the moisture. Rangeland and pastures were mostly in fair to good shape, with ranchers supplying supplemental feed to livestock on cold days. Cattle were in good condition. Local forecasts predicted cooler temperatures and more rain next week. Many fruit trees were blooming.
South: The region received good rains. Temperatures remained low with overcast skies. Fields remained too wet for field activities in many areas. In the northern part of the region, a lot of sorghum and hay grazer was being planted. In Frio County, corn planting began, and wheat and potato crops were doing well. Rains improved rangeland and pasture conditions, but did not help stock-tank water levels as there was not much runoff. Supplemental feeding of livestock declined, and cattle body condition scores remained in fair shape. Overall, soil moisture conditions were adequate. The eastern part of the region had heavy rains. Jim Wells County received close to 3 inches – keeping soil moisture levels adequate but further delaying field activities. Kleberg and Kenedy counties received 4 inches. Producers were unable to start planting, but were gearing up for later sorghum and cotton planting. Soil moisture throughout the re gion was mostly adequate. In the western part of the region, Zapata County had heavy rains, which were expected to improve rangeland and pastures, and enable farmers and ranchers to cut back on livestock supplementation. The rest of the area did not receive any rainfall, but soil moisture remained adequate in Dimmit, Webb and Zavala counties. Wheat producers reported early planted wheat was heading out. Spinach harvesting remained active. Cabbage harvesting was at a halt, but expected to resume as the harvest stage approaches. Corn and sorghum planting were active. In Zavala County, corn planting was expected to begin in a week to 10 days — weather permitting. In the southern part of the region, sugarcane, citrus and vegetable harvesting continued. Soil moisture was 100 percent adequate in Hidalgo County. In Starr County, growers received as much as 2 inches of rain, but soil moisture was mostly adequate. Also in Starr County, row crops progressed well, and spring vegetable pl anting continued.
Southeast: Soil moisture varied widely, with most counties reporting it in the adequate to surplus range. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely too, but were mostly fair to good, with good ratings being the most common. Walker County had saturated soils, but cool-season forages were beginning to produce with the warmer temperatures. Vegetable production will start when there are somewhat drier conditions. The wet conditions in Brazos County delayed corn planting. In Montgomery County, fields were so wet they were preventing cattle from being moved. Producers were feeding hay as square bales because they could not get in the fields with the heavier round bales. All pastures and crop fields were saturated or flooded in Waller and Brazoria counties. Corn and grain sorghum planting was expected to be delayed in Chambers and Fort Bend counties due to the continued rain, as well. Even if no more rain is received, it was estimat ed it could be as long as two weeks before row crop producers would be able to get into fields to plant. Livestock were in fair condition.
Southwest: A few counties had scattered showers. Very low temperatures were replaced with more seasonal warmer conditions. Corn growers will start planting as soon as fields dry. Pastures were improving with moisture and sunshine. Some supplemental feeding continued. Livestock were in fair condition. Trees were budding. Rangeland and pastures were greening up.
West Central: The weather was cold early in the week, with scattered showers reported in some areas. Temperatures were much warmer in the latter part of the week with cool nights. Winter wheat began to break dormancy and was showing strong growth. Wheat was in mostly good to excellent condition. Rust was found in some fields and producers were treating as necessary. Rangeland and pastures were in very good condition. All forages continued to improve due to recent moisture and warmer conditions. Pastures were greening up. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued, but was beginning to decrease. Cattle prices were still holding steady.