Texas Field Reports: Field Conditions Move from One Extreme to the Other

    Many row crop producers around the state faced tough planting conditions, from cool ground temperatures to too much rain, that delayed or damaged initial plantings this spring. Now dryland crops are facing another challenge – heat and rapidly decreasing moisture levels.

    Dr. Gaylon Morgan, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service state cotton specialist in College Station, said cotton planting in his region was delayed by heavy rains, which prevented farmers from accessing fields. Soils were still saturated when cotton was planted, and some bottomlands were drowned out or washed away.

    Morgan said farmers replanted some acreage in May before the final planting window for cotton closed for the Brazos and Blackland areas. Replants fared from fair to good, but too much rain during early plant development could be detrimental to plants, especially if arid conditions persist.

    Heavily saturated soils in the spring depleted oxygen levels, which inhibited strong root development, Morgan said. A high moisture index can also trick plants into maintaining a shallow root system at that stage of development because plants expect conditions to remain the same.

    “Our earlier planted cotton is flowering, and these plants are past the point where they dedicate much energy toward new root development. They’re putting all their energy toward making flowers and bolls,” Morgan said. “So you’ve got shallow root systems that didn’t have a prolific growth period and now you have hot days that can dry out the first few inches of soil quickly.”

    Morgan said producers with irrigation have been watering. But less than 10 percent of the Blackland’s cotton crop is irrigated.

    Despite concerns for some producers and many acres being left unplanted or replanted due to excessive April and May rains, overall row crops in southern portions of the state are much better off than last year, he said.

    “Last year about 500,000 acres of cotton weren’t planted in South and East Texas because it was too wet,” he said. “But overall the transition from very wet to very dry is the concern now. The cotton crop here has a lot of potential, it just needs rain.”

    Dr. Calvin Trostle, AgriLife Extension agronomist in Lubbock, said a small portion of crops in the Panhandle will require replanting due to failure from weather damages or poor conditions. Grain sorghum is often a common replant crop, but the window for planting is closing the further north in the High Plains one goes.

    Trostle said mild spring temperatures delayed cotton plantings in parts of the region and many producers were still considering alternative crops after the window to plant closed on most seed crops due to maturity concerns. Short-season cotton varieties could be an option for replanting or late planting, but cotton colleagues note the region is well past any comfortable replanting with cotton.

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    Hail, wind and blowing sand damage on West Texas cotton are frequently heavy in May and June, up to 400,000 acres in some years, or about 10 percent of the total crop, Trostle said. AgriLife Extension cotton staff note that damaged cotton must be evaluated for health and stand before being terminated.

    “It’s nothing out of the ordinary,” Trostle said. “It’s on a case-by-case basis here. There was some hail damage, and conditions may have prevented fields from emerging, but I think flooding was blown out of proportion. We did have a gulley washer, but it was mostly concentrated in the metro-Lubbock area, which got a lot of media attention but I don’t think it affected rural, agricultural land that much.”

    Trostle said sunflowers may be a replant consideration for some producers. Sunflowers can be planted through early to mid-July.

    AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

    CENTRAL: The district began to dry up and allowed producers to get into fields. Producers baled hay, and fields were in excellent conditions for this time of year. Cotton recovered well with the warm weather and sunshine. Livestock and cattle were in good condition.

    Tanks, rivers and creeks were full. Insect pressure was still low. All counties reported good soil moisture and 95 percent of ranges and pastures as in good condition. Overall crop conditions were 90 percent good.

    ROLLING PLAINS: No moisture was received. Most wheat was harvested, and the remainder should be harvested soon if weather continues to cooperate. Wheat yields and quality appear to be all over the board this harvest season. Temperatures continued to rise to the upper 90s with no cooler temperatures in the forecast. Forages continued to thrive following the good early moisture.

    Cotton planting neared completion. Sorghum producers monitored crops for sugarcane aphids. Livestock were in good condition. Stock tanks and area reservoirs were full.

    COASTAL BEND: Hot, humid and dry conditions prevailed with some scattered showers reported. The rains held up field work in some areas. Crops have suffered from excessive water in fields where there was poor drainage.

    Corn was drying down and should be ready to harvest soon. Yield loss appeared to be minimal despite corn leaf diseases in many fields. Cotton was in full bloom in most areas. Growth regulators were being applied, but some producers continued to fight issues ranging from nutrient deficiencies to too much growth.

    Grain sorghum harvest was underway and doing well with good yields being observed. There were reports of increased sugarcane aphid numbers in some grain sorghum fields, and harvest equipment was being monitored for aphid residue build-up.

    Hay production was in full swing, although many producers were making their first hay cutting almost a month behind schedule. Range conditions were good, and cattle continued to do well as good soil moisture provided adequate forage.

    EAST: Conditions around the region were mostly hot and dry. Hay production was going at a rapid pace as producers tried to catch up. Many producers were still completing their first cutting on some fields. Weather conditions were good for warm season forage growth. Rains had mostly stopped, which allowed the soil to dry, grass to grow and crops to breathe. Pasture and range conditions were good to excellent.

    Weeds were a problem due to earlier moisture. Insect and disease issues were being reported on various crops, plants and lawns. In some counties, producers had to water gardens. Subsoil and topsoil moisture conditions were mostly adequate with Harrison and Smith counties reporting surplus. Angelina County reported soil moisture as short. Gardens were producing very well. Corn, peas and tomatoes were excellent.

    A few counties received light precipitation from scattered afternoon storms. Cattle were in good to excellent condition with a good crop of calves, but the cattle market was down. Producers continued to sell market-ready calves and cull cows. Fly counts were getting high. Feral hog and gopher control continued.

    SOUTH PLAINS: The district experienced hot, dry conditions, and producers irrigated heavily. A few scattered showers fell in some areas, but subsoil and topsoil moisture levels continued to drop around the district. Scurry County reported between 1-4 inches of rain.

    Some cotton was yet to be planted while other fields displayed six true leaves, which is a normal range at this point in the season. Conditions were conducive for good emergence and subsequent healthy growth despite late plantings in some areas. Attention to weeds, nematodes, plant growth regulators and fertility were becoming priorities for producers.

    Peanuts that avoided blowing sand were doing well but were not blooming yet. Producers were checking for nodulation. Grain sorghum and corn were doing well. A few corn fields were nearing the tassel phase. Field operations included postemergent herbicide applications and cultivation. Fields were drying out after the high temperatures.

    Pastures, rangeland and winter wheat needed rain. Cattle were in good condition. Producers were in need of some moisture to cool things down and improve all crops and pasture conditions.

    Wheat harvests were active with yields ranging from 17-30 bushels per acre on dryland and 40-65 bushels per acre on irrigated fields. Local elevators were full and moving grain out as fast as possible to make room for incoming grain.

    PANHANDLE: Temperatures were near normal for most of the region. Some moisture was received. Amounts ranged from a trace to 1.5 inches, but more rain was still needed to improve soil moisture. Weather conditions were detrimental to cotton seedling progress, as there was not enough moisture in dryland fields to assist cotton emergence.

    Wheat harvest was near completion. Yields were mostly above average, ranging from 20-60 bushels per acre on dryland to up to 100 bushels per acre on irrigated fields. Irrigated corn progressed well. Corn crops were off to a slow start but generally doing well. Irrigated corn progressed well.

    Cattle were in good condition. Spring breeding season was winding down. Stocker cattle were still coming into summer pastures. Grasshopper numbers increased in rangeland. Grasses were still mostly green but more rain was needed. There were no reports of insect problems yet.

    Grain sorghum was off to a great start, but the total acreage of grain sorghum was down considerably. Hay and silage crops were planted with a few late plantings of forage sorghum remaining. Sunflowers were expected to be planted through early July.

    NORTH: Topsoil moisture ranged from adequate to short. Farmers were able to harvest most oat and wheat fields. Yields were 50-80 bushels per acre for wheat and 70-90 bushels per acre for oats.

    Corn crops looked good but needed rain as plants were in the dough stage. Milo looked good so far but could use rain. Soybeans still looked good and should start flowering soon. Hay production was in full swing.  Producers were harvesting around 2.5-3.5 bales per acre.

    Cattle had ample grass so far. Stocker operators continued to ship cattle each week as the forage declined. Many producers held on to yearling calves longer this year because of good grass availability and a tough market. Hot days were affecting cattle, which were staying in the shade during the middle daytime hours and grazing in the early morning and late afternoon.

    FAR WEST: Temperatures were hot, ranging from the mid-90s into triple digits with a high of 108 degrees reported along the Rio Grande River. Producers continued to look for ways to control weeds by any means possible. Weeds have taken over some crops due to the wet conditions, and producers were fighting back by cultivating, spraying, rotary hoeing and hiring field hoe hands. Corn and sorghum looked great.

    Scattered rains in some areas provided a slight break from hot temperatures and ranged from a trace to 4 inches. Some crops were somewhat behind schedule due to weather-related issues in the spring. Pasture and range conditions improved from the recent rains. Producers in Brewster and Jeff Davis counties were having problems with water levels in wells. Livestock were in good condition.

    WEST CENTRAL: Conditions were hot and humid. Temperatures were in the upper 90s. Fire dangers continued to increase as pastures continued to dry out. Small grain harvest was winding down. Cotton planting neared completion. Planting was behind due to wet conditions. Fields were off to a good start with good subsoil moisture and hot days.

    Wheat harvest continued with fair yields being reported. Some wheat and oats were damaged by excessive rains, but preharvest sprout was not as bad as anticipated. Corn and sorghum crops were in excellent shape. Cutting and baling hay was underway. Good yields were reported from first hay cutting, which was mostly complete. Producers continued to battle weeds.

    Range and pastures were in excellent conditions. Livestock were doing well on green pastures. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Sheep and goat producers continued battling stomach worms. Flies and mosquitoes were a major nuisance.

    SOUTHEAST: Hot conditions persisted. The sun helped to dry conditions; however, in certain areas there was still an adequate amount of soil moisture.

    Livestock in Fort Bend County were in good condition. Cotton responded well to recent heat and sun but will need additional growth regulators for management. Sorghum and corn were in good condition.

    Small grains were harvested in Brazos County.

    In Montgomery County, some hay was cut and baled. There were still many fields too wet to enter. Damage to pastures and fences was still being assessed.

    Jefferson County producers were able to work in the fields. Soil-moisture levels throughout the region ranged widely from adequate to surplus, with most ratings in the adequate range. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely too, from excellent to good, with good ratings being the most common.

    SOUTHWEST: Warm, dry conditions allowed ranchers to bale hay. Temperatures were in the high 90s. Dry weather reduced the topsoil moisture, but spotty showers across the district helped alleviate drying conditions in some areas. Peach season was in swing, and vegetables were being harvested. Crops continued to look good. Livestock were in good condition due to forage availability.

    SOUTH: Hot and humid conditions continued throughout the district. Triple-digit temperatures were reported in some areas. Some light to moderate showers were reported in some areas but not enough to benefit soil moisture indexes, ranges and pastures where rainfall was reported.

    Dry conditions prompted producers to irrigate cotton, sorghum and some corn fields. Grain sorghum varied in stages from earlier-planted fields being ready for harvest to late-planted fields just turning color, but most fields looked good. Cotton crops were very good to excellent. Most cotton fields were setting bolls well and showed tremendous potential for good production.

    Grain harvest should be in full swing soon. Peanut planting continued and was expected to be completed soon. Corn and potato harvesting continued in portions of the district. Many producers continued plowing up wheat stubble.

    Pasture and range conditions were good to very good, but hot temperatures sapped soil moisture. Subsequently pasture conditions in many areas have begun to go into a dormant-like condition. Conditions were good for baling hay. Body condition scores on cattle continued to be good.

    Soil moisture conditions varied from 100 percent adequate to 80 percent short within the district. Higher numbers of cattle were marketed as summer conditions began to take a toll on forage quality.

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