Texas Field Reports: Dryland Crops in South District Show Signs of Stress

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    Crop condition reports from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s District 12, which includes the southernmost area of the state, varied and were relative to rain received by individual producers or their ability to irrigate, according to AgriLife Extension agents.

    District 12 includes 20 counties and 19 county offices supported by the district’s headquarters, the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Weslaco. The district ranges from Maverick County in the northwest to Atascosa County in the northeast down to Cameron County. Crops in this district get underway earlier than most around the state because of the typically warmer climate in the state’s southern reaches.

    State climatologist Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, College Station, said the district did not look especially dry and received rain over the weekend,  but AgriLife Extension agents in the area reported seeing signs of crop, forage and animal stress with summer ahead.

    Omar Montemayor, AgriLife Extension agent in Starr County, said most row crops there are not irrigated and need moisture. He said grain sorghum, sunflower and corn crops were stressed from the lack of rain.

    All the spring storm systems that brought rain to most of the state skirted around Starr and surrounding counties, he said, although Starr County did report 1-3 inches of rain over the weekend.

    Most crops were planted by mid-February and no significant rain had fallen until the weekend, he said. It had been hot and sunny for weeks, and producers worried the same pattern might persist into the heart of summer.

    “Most of our crops are dryland crops, so there’s not much we can do but hope for rain,” Montemayor said. “Talk to me in a month and a half. If we don’t get more rain by then it’s going to be a bad situation.”

    Trouble from the lack of rainfall could go beyond crops.

    Montemayor said forages and tanks are also showing signs of stress and that beef producers are starting to move cattle to market in case conditions continue to worsen. The cattle market is down and buyers are becoming picky, and there are concerns the lack of water could stress herds and hurt body condition scores, he said.

    Some producers in other portions of the South District don’t rely solely on weather.

    Jaime Lopez, AgriLife Extension agent in Frio County, said producers in Frio County irrigate with pivots and have bridged the gaps between rains. About 95 percent of cropland in the county is irrigated.

    Frio County has received 9.5 inches of rain so far this year and remained 3 inches above this time last year. The storm system that brought rain to Starr County did bring 2-3 inches of rain to some parts of the county but only 0.06 inch to others, he said.

    Lopez said there was good moisture for peanut planting, which will begin soon, and that wheat and potatoes were being harvested and looked good. Corn was silking well under irrigation.

    “It’s not too bad here,” he said. “More rain is in the forecast so we’ll see if we get any of it. But most of the crops here are irrigated. That’s the insurance.”

    AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

    CENTRAL: There were a few days of sun and some showers. Some producers tried to harvest small grains for silage. Corn and grain sorghum continued to improve. Cool nights and cool soil temperatures slowed Bermuda grass growth but ryegrass reacted well and was abundant. Producers stockpiled a good reserve of hay. Livestock and cattle were in great condition. Cattle had plenty to graze with full tanks and available creek water. Gardens looked wonderful but weeds also flourished. Gardeners have been hitting weeds hard with tillers and hoes. Tomato plants bloomed with some small tomatoes on the vine. Fruit trees were bearing fruit but producers were battling birds. Producers expect a good pecan crop this year. All counties reported good soil moisture and overall range and pasture conditions. Overall, 95 percent of crops were in good condition.

    ROLLING PLAINS: Conditions remained favorable for most of the district. Soil moisture levels were adequate and pastures and rangeland produced plenty of grazing for cattle. Pastures were in good to excellent condition after recent rains and grasses took advantage of the warmer weather. Livestock were also in healthy condition with plenty of grazing, but flies and mosquitos were a problem for livestock. Producers moved livestock off winter wheat onto pastures as wheat ran its course. Farmers continued to prepare fields for planting. Several began spraying in hopes to get a jump on weeds before planting. Several producers expected to start planting as soon as soil temperatures were right. Wheat harvest should begin in the next couple of weeks. Sorghum planting continued. Some cotton producers were weighing cost versus potential revenue expectations and looking for other crop options because of low cotton prices. Tanks and lakes were full.

    COASTAL BEND: Weather conditions remained the same with highs in the upper 80s. River flooding in Colorado County created very poor corn and cotton conditions. Some farmers were trying to decide if they should replant with early maturing cotton or soybeans or not plant at all. Winter wheat was drying up near harvest as corn started to square and sorghum started to head out. Hay cutting began in some areas amid a surplus of hay from last year’s bumper crop. Herbicide and fertilizer applications continued on pastures and hay fields. Weed control was being applied to a good portion of rice crops. Some sugarcane aphid populations were reported. Range conditions were above average overall. Livestock were doing well, and cattle remained in good to excellent condition.

    EAST: Rainfall decreased in most areas of the region. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were mostly adequate with only Upshur, Marion, Newton and Smith counties reporting surplus. Gregg County reported short topsoil conditions. Pasture and hay meadow conditions were good in Cherokee County. A few counties received heavy rains, which caused flash flooding, but most counties reported good days of sun and heat, which helped dry some wet pastures and crops. Warm season forages looked good in Gregg County as soil dried. Producers were hoping for warmer nights so summer grass would start to grow while they have rain. Applications of fertilizer and herbicides continued. Ryegrass and clover were being baled. In Trinity County, grass was plentiful. Some producers were trying to bale hay even though many pastures were too wet for hay production.

    One producer said he needed at least a week of no rain before he could begin cutting. Corn improved in Houston County since flood waters receded. Gardens in Marion County were producing vegetables. Smith County reported some squash and onions were being harvested. Other vegetable crops were growing well and looked good. Jasper County had some replanting of tomatoes due to earlier rains. Upshur County reported planting of fruit trees and crops.

    Cattle remained in good condition. Cows were calving and gaining weight. Fly control and vaccination programs were underway in Smith County. Feeder steers and heifers were up $5-$7 in Houston County while slaughter cattle were down some. Bred heifers and cow-calf pairs still showed lower prices. Shelby County also reported cattle prices were down. Gregg County cattle prices were up a little. Feral hogs were active and damage was reported.

    SOUTH PLAINS: Cochran County producers planted crops. Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels continued to dry out with high winds. Winter wheat was progressing while pasture and rangeland were in need of moisture. Cattle were in good condition. Producers in Floyd County received some light rain over the weekend, but temperatures were expected to be warm and dry most fields out.

    Quite a bit of cotton has been planted already but the majority will be planted soon. Cotton planting in Garza County continued although some producers were trying to wait until additional rainfall arrived. Producers said planting would continue through early June if necessary. Some early planted, irrigated cotton emerged. Rainfall was needed for topsoil moisture.

    Range and pastures were in mostly good condition, but additional rainfall was needed for warm-season grass growth. Early spring rainfall gave rangelands a good start but some early season grasses started to slow down and dry out. Cattle were in mostly good condition.

    Recent rains in Hale County have been beneficial. Topsoil moisture increased and conditions were timely for planting. Hockley County producers experienced high winds and blowing dust, which slowed planting. Lubbock County received much needed rainfall during the week in amounts ranging from 0.5 to more than 2 inches. Lubbock County received 1.8 inches in one day. Corn and sorghum fields emerged and were up to a good stand. Cotton planting began but at a slow pace. Wheat was maturing.

    Forecasts called for more moisture and cooler temperatures. In Scurry County, producers received 0.75-1.5 inches of rain with more in the forecast. Wet, foggy conditions kept Swisher County farmers out of fields. Some farmers were able to do a lot of planting during the week, and others were preparing by putting down pre-emergent herbicides. Conditions in Yoakum County were getting dry again. Winter wheat was cut, and oats were starting to head. Some peanuts were planted.

    PANHANDLE: Temperatures were mostly near normal with some cooler temperatures and some moisture. Amounts ranged from a trace to 1.5 inches. More rain was still needed throughout the region. Warmer temperatures and adequate moisture created prime planting conditions in Collingsworth County.

    A cool front moved in with drastic drops in temperature and approximately 1 inch of rain throughout the county. Areas of the county received hail that damaged some wheat acreage. Dallam and Hartley counties had seasonal temperatures that turned cooler. Mid-week rains brought from 0.1 to 1 inch there.

    Wheat looked good but needed rain, and some producers sprayed for rust and cutworms. Wheat silage and wheat hay not going to grain were harvested. The first cutting of alfalfa was underway. Corn, potato and cotton planting was still very active. Irrigation on wheat and corn was more active. Rangeland made good progress, especially cool-season grasses, which greened but will need rain soon.

    Deaf Smith County producers were very busy planting. Corn planters were almost finished with some late silage corn left to be planted. A few semi-irrigated corn acres were close to completely planted. Cotton plantings were up significantly with over half of the total cotton acres complete. More dryland crops will be planted soon if significant rainfall arrives. W

    heat acres progressed well as some dryland acres started drying down early. Most wheat streak and rust issues were diminishing. Hall County planting began and was going well. Soil temperatures were good but topsoil moisture was a problem for planting and pasture conditions. Rain will be needed for cotton crops to get a good start. Ochiltree County wheat producers treated for stripe rust in many fields, but wheat still looked very good due to recent showers and cooler temperatures. Corn, cotton and soybean planting were in full swing. Wheeler County wheat harvest looked limited due to moisture. Cattle were in good shape there.

    NORTH: Topsoil moisture was adequate to surplus. Sporadic rains were received and morning temperatures dropped to the mid-50s. Fields were still wet, especially in low areas. Cotton planting was on hold with more rain in the forecast. Some hay was cut and baled, while ryegrass fields had fallen over.

    Wheat had headed out and was turning color but none had been harvested yet. Harvest could be delayed for a while because of wet field conditions. Corn and grain sorghum showed signs of too much water. Standing water remained in some fields. Livestock pastures were doing very well with all the rain, but conditions made it difficult to harvest early season hay. Winter annual pasture grasses were mature and needed to be harvested, but drier conditions were needed to access fields. Cattle conditions were good. Wild hogs continued to cause damage. Fly numbers were increasing.

    FAR WEST: Culberson County had windy conditions with temperatures reaching the mid-90s. Rainfall measured 0.15 of an inch. Cotton planting was off to a slow start in Glasscock County where moisture levels evaporated quicker than expected due to chiseled or plowed fields. Some producers continued to plant while others were waiting on a rain before planting. Corn and sorghum were coming along after a slow start. Wheat harvest was expected to begin soon. Howard County received surplus rain along with damage from high winds and hail. Presidio County was under high fire danger amid warm temperatures and windy conditions. Pastures were brown. Cattle were on supplemental feed and consuming large amounts of minerals.

    In Reagan County, range and pasture conditions were very good. Crops were being planted while moisture levels remained good. Terrell County rangeland and brush were green and looked good. Deer were beginning to fawn. Producers in Upton County began planting cotton and continued to harvest winter wheat. Sheep were sheared and wool was being taken to market, with lamb shipments expected to begin in late June.

    Val Verde County received rain. Conditions in Ward County were warm, dry and windy. Brewster and Jeff Davis counties had warm days and cools nights with some high winds. Scattered thunderstorms passed through the area with up to 1 inch of rain reported. Cattle were in great condition. Most producers finished with spring branding and late calving herds will be worked soon. Conditions in Winkler and Loving counties were very dry and no rain was reported. Crockett County had high winds throughout the week, which continued to dry out pastures. Pastures needed rain as most rated fair to poor and very poor in a few counties. Topsoil and subsoil moisture was short to very short.

    WEST CENTRAL: Days were warm with mild nights. Rain was reported most days and more was expected. Tanks overflowed in many areas. Soil was saturated in most areas. Field activities slowed or stopped due to wet conditions. Producers expect to plant spring seeded crops when fields dry. Preparation for cotton planting was underway.

    Hay was cut and baled as conditions allowed. Some fields that were cut and drying did not get baled before rains came. Wheat crops were in fair to good condition nearing maturity and harvest, which was expected soon. Above-average yields were expected barring any damaging storms. Oats were used as winter pasture grazing or baled.

    Corn and sorghum were planted and in good to excellent condition. Weeds were in abundance and producers continued control attempts. Range and pastures were in excellent condition. Grasses were lush and green. Warm-season grasses and forages progressed well. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. The cattle market showed a slight improvement. The pecan crop was off to a good start and producers said they expect a good crop year.

    SOUTHEAST: Crops were in fair condition in Fort Bend County. The soil was already saturated and additional forecasted rains were expected to stress crops. Walker County received additional rain. Vegetable gardens were doing well. Excessive moisture from previous rains created problems for root crops. Grazing pastures were experiencing a transition from cool-season forages to warm-season growth.

    Waller County had water standing in most areas of the county. Brazos County experienced some drier conditions. In Grimes County, rains left pastures in great condition. Forage producers began baling hay. Hardin County received rain and most producers could not get into fields to work or cut hay. In Montgomery County, weather conditions allowed some drying to occur before rains returned. Soil erosion occurred due to the intense recent rainfall events. Soil moisture levels throughout the region varied widely, mostly in the adequate-to-surplus range with surplus being the most common. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely, mostly excellent to good.

    SOUTHWEST: The district received 1-3 inches of rain. Dry conditions prior allowed hay producers to start their first cutting and helped Bermuda grass growth in pastures and hay fields. Many landowners applied herbicides and fertilizer for hay production. Range and pasture forages were abundant, and livestock were in good condition.

    SOUTH: Rainfall was received throughout the district, which improved soil moisture in most areas and forage quality on range pastures in others. Much-needed rain received in Atascosa County was beneficial for range and pastures, but both wheat and peanut harvesting was delayed as a result. Potatoes, wheat and processing corn were being harvested throughout the Frio County area. Peanut planting began there, and Bermuda grass hay fields were being cut and baled. Range and pastures remained in good condition but were declining.

    Widespread rainfall, averaging a little over 1 inch, was received in McMullen County and improved topsoil moisture conditions. Range and pasture conditions remained mostly fair but were declining in quality. Some ranchers began supplemental feeding for cattle herds and some were short on forage on the south end of the county. Body condition scores on cattle were declining some but most remained in fair condition.

    Brooks County received approximately 1 inch of rainfall. The rainfall should boost the cattle market, as range and pastures were expected to improve in quality. No significant moisture was received in Jim Wells County. There were a few sprinkles, which brought about a quarter inch of rain to the area. Farmers were busy spraying for weeds in most late-planted fields. Insect pressure was expected to build in the coming weeks, and most grain and cotton fields will be treated. Corn progressed well.

    This week’s inspections show most fields in the soft dough stage and setting well. Minimal worm damage was noted and harvest was expected to be well above average if all goes well. Also in Jim Wells County, range and pasture conditions slipped some as topsoil moisture declined in some areas. Beef cattle conditions held but a good rain was still needed to improve forage quality and quantity. No significant rain was reported in Kleberg and Kenedy counties, and crops looked stressed from lack of moisture. Dimmit County continued to dry out.

    Pivots and sprinkler systems were in full swing. Maverick County received good rainfall with more forecasted. Watermelon, onions, corn and sorghum have been planted. Producers continued cutting and baling coastal Bermuda grass. In the Webb County area, temperatures passed 100 degrees with a few cool days and minimal rain. Range and pasture conditions were beginning to look rough. Zapata County received a few days of cloudy and cool weather. Heavy rainfall resulted in about 1 inch for some parts of the county.

    Range and pastures remained in good condition throughout the area. In Zapata County, another dry week kept producers busy irrigating corn, sorghum, cotton, melons, cabbage and sunflowers. According to producers, livestock on native ranges and pastures had adequate forage. No supplemental feeding activities were reported. Wheat and oats harvest was very active and expected to continue. Onion harvesters were also active. Carrot harvest was completed. Corn and sorghum made good progress in Zavala County, as most corn fields were in the silk stage, and sorghum was close to heading.

    Cotton made good progress with little insect pressure. Conditions were good in Cameron County, where good rainfall was received. Crops were progressing well. Cotton was flowering and sorghum crops were headed out. Corn crops were maturing. Also in Cameron County, livestock body conditions were excellent as a result of good forage for grazing. Hay cutting began with good yields. In Hidalgo County, crop irrigation was very active. Onion harvesting continued and citrus harvesting was almost complete. Row crops throughout Starr County continued to progress well after a 1-3-inch rain.


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