Texas Field Reports: Sunshine and No Rain Have Farmers Working Full Speed

    Wheat harvest. Photo: Rome Ethredge

    Hay production in East Texas kicked into high gear last week as multiple days of sun dried out fields and provided a window of opportunity for cutting, raking and baling.

    Dr. Vanessa Corriher-Olson, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service forage specialist, Overton, said there was a boon in activity last week following a month of delays for most producers in East Texas due to rain, cooler temperatures and soggy fields.

    It was the spring’s first cutting for many producers around the region, she said. The first cut is considered a “clean-up,” when voluntary ryegrass and weeds are cleared from hay meadows to allow promotion of Bermuda grass. Bermuda grass and other preferred forages take water, fertilizers and ridding the meadow of competition for water and nitrogen, such as weeds.

    Producers should fertilize according to soil test recommendations to maximize a meadow’s potential, she said. Herbicides can also be an effective method of treating weeds and other unwanted grasses.

    “A lot of factors can impact production and number of cuttings,” Corriher-Olson said. “But decreasing weed populations and following soil test recommendations for fertilization are key. You have to have timely rains as well but that’s up to Mother Nature.”

    Irrigation capability can boost grass growth in some parts of the state but it’s not prevalent among producers in East Texas, she said.

    Producers want quantity but they also want quality in forages, Corriher-Olson said. More volume can be good for producers, but she said there is a balance because it is important for hay to meet livestock nutrient needs when producing or purchasing it.

    Steps can be taken to provide Bermuda grass the opportunity to grow at an optimal rate and quality is based on many of the same factors, she said. But the biggest influence on quality is when producers cut the hay.

    “Plants mature and then the quality starts going down,” she said. “It’s a balance. A producer might want more hay so they let it continue to grow but in the meantime they’re losing quality,” Corriher-Olson said.

    “Most producers cut Bermuda grass at 12-15 inches tall, she said. But other forages are different, so it’s important to research the best time to cut other grasses.”

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    The summer sun and heat will slow growth without timely rains but it’s typically four weeks between cuttings if everything falls in place for producers, Corriher-Olson said.

    “We’re a month behind the typical year,” she said. “Most producers should be making their second cutting right now, a better quality cutting, before temperatures get higher and grasses are slowed by excessive heat.”

    AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

    CENTRAL: A week of dry weather meant lots of hay was baled around the district, but quality varied from very good to over-mature. Wheat and oats were harvested for grain and quality was not so good. Dry conditions allowed other field work. Temperatures warmed up.

    Erath County reported adequate moisture. Livestock around the district were in good condition. Several corn and sorghum fields still had big washouts and areas of stunted growth. Late fertilizer and weed control were applied.

    Overall livestock, range and pasture conditions were good. Overall crop conditions were mostly fair.

    ROLLING PLAINS: Warm weather and windy days dried the topsoil enough for wheat harvest to resume. Wheat yields have been all over the board with reports of 16-60 bushels per acre on dryland and 50-85 bushels per acre on irrigated land. Some freeze damage and rust issues have affected yields.

    Hay harvest was underway. Cotton planting was in full swing. Range and pastures were in good condition as were livestock. Stock tanks and area reservoirs were full. Some repairs were being made to roads and fences damaged by flooding.

    COASTAL BEND: Hot, humid conditions persisted with no rain, which allowed farmers and ranchers to get a lot of fieldwork done. Temperatures and the heat index soared. River flooding occurred in one area that had been replanted due to previous flooding. The Colorado River reached a 37-foot flood stage, but had begun to recede.

    Drier weather allowed hay producers an opportunity to harvest and good yields were reported. A lot of hay was expected to be produced with drier weather.

    Corn leaf disease such as southern rust was present and presented a concern as plants finished out. Stink bugs, head worms and sugarcane aphids were causing concerns for grain sorghum producers. Drier weather allowed herbicide applications on pastures and forage crops.

    Cattle remained in good to excellent condition.

    EAST: Some counties in the district continued to receive excessive rains, while other counties had a break and dried out a bit. Counties reported good to fair pasture and range conditions with a few reporting excellent conditions. Subsoil and topsoil moisture was mostly adequate with some reporting surplus. Ponds and creeks were full.

    Houston County reported 12-plus inches of rain. Corn crops were standing in water and turning yellow.

    Other counties were harvesting some fruit and vegetable crops. Onions, squash, tomatoes and fruits were starting to produce in Smith County. Diseases were being reported on trees and lawns.

    Several days of sunshine allowed some pastures to dry enough for producers to cut and bale hay. Forages were in good condition. Weed control will be needed as soon as drier conditions allow. Producers in low lying areas were still having problems accessing pastures to harvest hay and spray.

    Cattle were in fair to good condition. External parasite control was underway on cattle. Horn flies were in full force. Cattle prices were declining. Mosquitos were a problem as were gophers and feral hogs.

    SOUTH PLAINS: Most planting was complete in Bailey County, and layby applications of herbicide and fertilizer were being made.

    In Cochran County, subsoil and topsoil moisture levels dropped due to high temperatures and wind. Producers have finished initial planting and the replant stage will begin soon. Producers were irrigating. Pasture, range and winter wheat needed rain. Cattle were in good condition.

    A few producers in Crosby County, who planted cotton in early May, reported replanting. Cotton planted after May 25 seemed to be doing much better than cotton planted earlier because of cool, wet weather.

    In Lubbock County, field operations included emergency tillage, planting, replanting and herbicide applications. Cotton planting was complete, and the crop ranged from planted to second true leaf. Sorghum and corn looked good. Wheat harvest began. There was some seedling disease present, but the biggest management concern was weed control.

    Mitchell County received 2.5 inches of rainfall during the week.

    Scurry County producers received 1-3 inches of rain and were trying to complete cotton planting. The outlook was positive.

    Wheat harvest began last week in Swisher County with about 5 percent of farms done. Sorghum planting increased. Corn was at V4 stage and looked healthy. Fall armyworm pressure increased.

    PANHANDLE: Warm dry days have helped planting and growth of cotton crops. Pasture and cattle conditions improved but the district needed moisture. Wheat harvest was approximately a week away for the majority of crops. Hot, dry, sunny days have arrived. Temperatures reached into the mid-90s. Producers wrapped up planting season and started harvesting wheat.

    NORTH: Topsoil moisture was adequate to surplus throughout the counties. Weather turned hot and humid, and conditions dried out rapidly. Farmers were able to access fields, and planting conditions were very good. Grasses were in good condition. However, rains have cut protein levels in hay laying on the ground waiting to cure and be baled. Producers tried to get the first cutting of hay out of the fields.

    Most of the last cotton and soybean fields were planted. Corn looked good. Bermuda grass recovered slowly in some fields. Livestock were doing well. Mosquitos and flies were terrible. Disease and insect presence were high in gardens.

    FAR WEST: Conditions were hot and humid with rains across the district ranging from traces to more than 4 inches.

    Ward County reported warm, dry conditions but that range conditions improved following rain in early June.

    Lightning was prevalent in the thunderstorms and started a fire in the northern part of Hudspeth County, but it was contained.

    Cotton planting in Glasscock County was complete, and most fields emerged and looked good. Wheat harvest neared completion, and yields have been very good with 40-70 bushel per acre being reported. Sorghum neared boot stage with a lot of fall armyworms.

    Triple digit temperatures were a concern as corn started to tassel and similar temperatures were forecast. Most cattle were still on supplemental feed, but mineral consumption was reduced. Pecan trees needed water, and evapotranspiration was expected to be a factor with temperatures over 100 degrees.

    In Pecos County, corn was in good condition, and winter-wheat was harvested. Pasture and range conditions across the district were fair to good.

    WEST CENTRAL: Days were hot and humid with warm nights. Scattered rains were reported. Most areas were drying out enough to get into fields, so activities increased. Cotton planting was in full swing with a large portion of fields planted. Corn and sorghum crops were in excellent condition.

    Wheat harvest was underway in fields dry enough to work. Most wheat and oats looked good, but some reports noted sprouting. Rust and other problems may show up before harvest concludes. Some wheat will be cut for hay.

    Producers were making their first cut of Bermuda hay. Range and pastures were in excellent condition. Grasses looked good, but weeds were abundant where they have not been managed. Livestock remained in fair to good condition, but some sheep and goat producers on small acreages were battling stomach worms. Cattle were fat, but prices have declined. Grazing pastures for cattle were lush, and livestock were doing very well.

    Pecan trees were in good condition with a heavy crop of 4-5 nuts to a cluster reported.

    SOUTHEAST: Much of the district was still very wet, and some areas were still flooded. Rain continued to soak some areas. The forecast called for more rain. Some rice was planted. There still has been little to no hay produced. Most producers have hired planes to spray cotton and sorghum for insects.

    Livestock were in decent condition, but many were displaced by recent floods and were being returned to their own pastures. Vegetable gardens struggled due to the excessive moisture. Some crops were trying to recover, but most were drowned out by flooding.

    Producers in Brazos County were able to get in fields and plow. It was unlikely that small grains remaining in fields would be harvested. A few fields were cut and baled quickly before the rain started again. Soil-moisture levels throughout the region ranged widely from adequate to surplus, with most ratings in the surplus range.

    Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely too, from excellent to very poor, with good and poor ratings being most common.

    SOUTHWEST: Weather conditions improved, and ponds were still full. Warm-season grasses, pastures and crops improved. Daytime temperatures warmed up with highs in the upper 90s. Wheat harvest was almost complete, and corn and milo looked good. Livestock remained in good condition.

    SOUTH: Temperatures began to rise, well into the triple digits, throughout the district. Rain events ranged from drizzle to scattered showers of up to 3 inches in some areas. Areas that had missed previous rains received good amounts, and pastures responded by greening up.

    Crops were in good condition and pastures were rated good to excellent. Range and pastures were expected to dry out very fast if temperatures continued to rise. Potato and corn food processing continued. Peanut planting also continued. Cotton was in the squaring stage, corn continued to mature, and sorghum started to mature and turn color. Body condition scores on cattle remained good to excellent.

    In Duval County, not many crops, other than grasses for hay and some small fruit, have been planted and were in good condition.

    In Jim Wells County, some fields dried enough for farmers to begin spraying for various pests. Local beef cattle markets reported a slight increase in prices but a slight drop in offerings. Recent rains reduced the number of cattle being marketed.

    Soil moisture conditions ranged from 60 percent short in Maverick County to 100 percent adequate in Brooks County and 100 percent surplus in Kleberg and Kenedy counties. A great harvest season was predicted for some areas. All vegetables, forage and grains have been planted and have emerged.

    A lot of Coastal Bermuda hay bales have been available due to good rangeland conditions. For now, livestock have plenty of good forage to graze on.

    Corn and sorghum made excellent progress due to very good growing conditions and soil moisture. Some sorghum producers reported chinch bug activity in some fields but said they would monitor population levels at this time. Melons continued to make good progress and the onion harvest was complete.

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