Only about 5 percent of Texas cotton is planted, down from the five-year average of 12 percent for this time of year, according to the latest weekly reports from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service personnel across the state.
But numbers can be misleading, according to Dr. Gaylon Morgan, AgriLife Extension state cotton specialist, College Station.
True, wet conditions and uncertainty about cotton prices have held back plantings in many areas, but the usual planting date for the Rolling Plains, South Plains and Panhandle, where the bulk of Texas cotton is grown, is still about a month away, Morgan said.
“We’re behind, but we’re really not that much behind,” he said. “We still have plenty of time to get cotton in the ground. We’re not a month behind; maybe a week to 14 days behind, at least in the Upper Gulf Coast and the Blacklands. The Coastal Bend is definitely behind, with the final plant date being mid-April and the expected planted acres will definitely be down. The Rio Grande Valley faced a similar challenge with its April 1 final plant date.”
Morgan said he visited the Upper Gulf Coast last week, and cotton growers there were running planters to catch up. A forecast of heavy rains, held some back.
“Four to 6 inches were forecast for this past weekend, but it didn’t happen in most places. Cotton seedlings are not as vigorous as grain crops. If you get too much rain on a recent planting, it can cool soil temperatures off, which makes the seedling that much weaker. And you can get a lot of compaction, which makes it harder for the seedling to push through the crust.”
Overall, the outlook for a Texas cotton crop is good, Morgan said. In most cotton growing areas, the soil moisture profile is better than it has been for some years.
“If they start with a good profile and get a good stand, and have somewhat of a normal year in moisture, they can do decently well in cotton, for sure,” he said.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Central: Parts of the region received rain. Crops were generally off to a good start. Oats and wheat began to head out. Rust has been reported in many pastures in wheat and oats across the area. Pastures greened up, along with lots of weeds. Producers were treating for weeds and applying fertilizer. A few sunny days dried fields out enough for some to continue planting corn. Livestock were in good condition, though some areas need ed more moisture and runoff to fill stock-water tanks.
Coastal Bend: Row crop farmers got a break in the weather and were able to catch up on planting. Growers still had to pick and choose which fields could be worked and planted due to the excessive moisture and some standing water. Already planted corn was emerging thanks to warmer temperatures and good moisture. Most farmers completed planting grain sorghum, and some planted cotton. Stinkbug pressure was observed in wheat fields. Rangeland and pastures were in better condition than they had been in years. Weeds were plentiful as well. Livestock looked good, and calves were rapidly gaining with the spring green up.
East: Jasper County had 13 inches of rain. Smith County had thunderstorms with high winds and some hail. Fields and pastures throughout the region were saturated, and the forecast was for several days of more rain. All counties had adequate or surplus subsoil and topsoil moisture. Ponds were full. Vegetable growers couldn’t get into fields to work. The warmer weather and plentiful moisture was good for warm-season grasses. Ryegrass was growing, and Bermuda grass was breaking dormancy. Harrison and Upshur county producers were able to apply pasture fertilization and herbicides as fields became drier. Cattle were in good to excellent condition, with the grazing so good that some were completely ignoring hay. Spring calving continued along with cattle working. Selling of cull cows and market-ready calves continued. Cattle prices remained high. Some producers began selling calves they had carried over from last year. Feral hogs continued to be a problem.
Far West: Windy and warm conditions resulted in high wildfire danger in some of the drier parts of the region. In others, rainfall totaled 1 inch to 2 inches. Mesquite trees were budding out, and pecan trees were at 50 percent bud-break. The first cutting of alfalfa was completed. Wheat was in good condition and began to head out in many areas. Cattle were doing well, with most herds nearing the end of calving. Producers were about to start shearing. Grain sorghum was planted. Oats were in good to poor condition. Pastures and rangeland were in fair condition. Subsoil and topsoil moisture were adequate.
North: Topsoil moisture was mostly adequate to surplus after 0.5 inch to 1.5 inches of rain. There was some flooding after heavy thunderstorms rolled in the night of April 12. Before the rains, some areas dried out enough to allow the planting of grain sorghum and corn. However, many farmers may have to claim prevented planting for corn on crop insurance because of delays due to wet conditions. Wheat was doing well with good soil moisture levels. Winter annual pastures were also doing well. Stock-water tanks and ponds were full in many areas. Livestock were doing well. Wild hogs continued to cause damage. The mosquito population was exploding.
Panhandle: For most of the week, the region had above-average temperatures and windy weather. Some areas received as much as 2 inches of rain. Soil moisture was rated mostly adequate to short. Wheat was generally in good condition, though the winds took a toll on the crop in some areas. Dallam and Hartley counties had a freeze April 10, with lows from 27 to 29 degrees. No damage to wheat was expected due to the short duration of the freezing temperatures and maturity stage of the wheat. Where there was little or no rain, irrigators were actively watering wheat and pre-watering in anticipation of corn planting. Dryland wheat in some areas was very moisture stressed. Corn planting was expected to be very active in the next couple of weeks. Corn planting already began in Hansford and Randall counties, but will need to be watered to emerge without rain. Some producers were just starting to strip till to prepare for corn planting. This operation is usually done in the fall, but many waited to see what crop prices did. If high winds continue, watering the crop in may be futile as the moisture is likely to be blown away. Rangeland and pastures continue to vary in ratings from poor to fair with most reporting good to fair.
Rolling Plains: Parts of the region received more rain, as much as 3 inches in some areas. Pastures and rangeland were definitely looking better each day as grasses came on. They were producing more grazing than cattle could keep up with. Livestock were in good condition, and expected to get better as spring continues. The recent rains should give this year’s cotton crop the soil moisture it needs to get started. Farmers were preparing fields by applying pre-emergence herbicides and preparing seedbeds. Cotton prices recently increased, which gave farmers hope that this year’s crop just might be worth planting. Even so, a decrease in planted cotton was expected as producers looked for alternatives such as planting fields in grass and running cattle. Leaf stripe rust was occurring in wheat fields. Some fields have very heavy infestations. There was also evidence of aphid and mite infestations. The peach crop was looking good. Many stock-water tanks and lakes were still in need of runoff water.
South: The region had overcast skies and scattered showers through most of the week. In some areas, the sun broke through the clouds, somewhat drying out things, and allowing producers to do some fieldwork. In the northern part of the region, conditions were generally wet from scattered showers. Frio County remained dry, which allowed corn and sorghum planting to be completed. Potatoes were flowering, and wheat was in good condition, though with a bit of rust reported. Fungicide spraying for rust was done in some areas, and crop irrigation began. Rangeland and pastures were in good condition, though there was heavy weed growth. The weeds were supplying excellent browsing for wildlife. Supplemental feeding of livestock ceased. Soil moisture ranged from 100 percent short to 100 percent surplus. In the eastern part of the region, rangeland and pastures showed dramatic improvement as a result of recent rains. In some areas, producers were still having problems with fields being too wet to plant corn, sorghum, cotton, wheat and oats. Jim Wells County producers, however, made good progress planting grain sorghum for part of the week, then were stymied again by more rain. Hay producers there made their first cutting for the year. Kleberg and Kenedy county producers were planting small grains where they could get into fields. Soil moisture was 50 to 100 percent adequate through the eastern part of the region. In the western part of the region, coastal Bermuda grass hay producers were preparing for the next cutting. Below-normal temperatures extended the spinach season by several weeks, and producers took a second cutting of fresh-market spinach and expected to take a third cutting soon. Cabbages progressed well, and all wheat and oats were headed out. Corn and sorghum emerged. Soil moisture ranged from 100 percent short in Zavala County to 90 percent adequate in Dimmit County. In the southern part of the reg ion, continued rainfall kept fields too saturated to work or plant in many areas. Weeds continued to be a problem in previously planted row crops and pastures. Vegetable crops were progressing well, and Hidalgo County sugarcane growers were able to resume harvesting. Sesame seed planting was active, as was the harvesting of vegetables and citrus. Soil moisture ranged from 100 percent surplus in Cameron County to 100 percent adequate in Hidalgo County in the southern part of the region.
South Plains: The region received from 0.25 inch to 1.5 inches of rain. Producers were starting to plant corn and were preparing to plant cotton and sorghum. The soil moisture profile was in great shape for planting after the recent rains. Aphids, cutworms and grubs were all attacking winter wheat. Pastures, rangeland and winter wheat remained in fair to good condition. Livestock were in mostly good condition. Some wheat crops in Mitchell County were in really good shape, which allowed cattle to graze for extended periods. Some producers were planning to harvest the crop for grain instead of grazing or cutting for hay.
Southeast: Soil moisture throughout the region varied widely but was mostly adequate to surplus. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely too, mostly from excellent to good, with excellent ratings being the most common. Walker County pastures were doing extremely well. Clover production and ryegrass growth were looking good. In Brazos County, the fields were dry enough for producers to catch up on planting corn and sorghum. Both crops were germinating quickly and making excellent stands. Brazoria County rice was coming up. Rice planting began in Chambers County, but it was likely to be delayed again by forecast rains. Fort Bend County producers were able to plant sorghum and cotton. Some of the cotton had already emerged. Livestock were in good condition.
Southwest: The area experienced the best spring it has had for six or more years. Winter cereal crops looked good after the rains, but they really needed rain two weeks ago to make a good crop. Some areas received several rains during the past week with as much as 2 to 3 inches of total accumulation. Spring was in full swing, and grasses and forbs were flourishing. April showers were bringing up some early flowers. Producers were shearing sheep and goats. All livestock were in fair condition. There are no row crops growing yet as farmers were delayed in preparing fields for spring planting.
West Central: Days were warm with mild evenings and cool nights. Many counties received scattered showers. Soil moisture remained adequate in most areas. Heavy rains were still needed to replenish lakes, ponds and stock-water tanks. Farmers began preparations for spring planting of crops, including warm-season forages. Winter wheat was growing rapidly, thriving on the warmer weather and good moisture. Producers continued to treat for wheat rust in isolated areas as needed. Rangeland and pasture conditions continued to improve as forages and warm-season grasses greened up. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Cattle prices were holding steady. Deer appeared to be in good condition.