Good late-summer rains improved conditions for cotton in the Rolling and High Plains regions of Texas and likely mean an above-average crop for 2016, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.
Dr. Seth Byrd, AgriLife Extension cotton agronomist, Lubbock, said cotton harvests in two top cotton producing regions began on a small scale a few weeks ago but should ramp up soon. So far, the cotton fields there look better than expected.
“Producers had low expectations for dryland fields because of a hot, dry July, but they seem happy with where the crop is at this point,” he said.
Byrd said leaf grades, which are determined by the amount of plant material left in lint, was a big issue last year. With about 4,000 bales ginned, Byrd said this year’s small sampling of cotton showed leaf grades in the 2-3 range.
“It’s pretty clean cotton so far,” he said.
Dr. Gaylon Morgan, AgriLife Extension state cotton specialist, College Station, visited the Rolling Plains last week and said overall, fields represented “one of the better crops they’ve had in quite some time.
“They caught some more timely rains than previous years and the dryland crop looks like it could be 25 percent better than average, especially in the Northern Rolling Plains.”
Not enough cotton had been harvested to give a good indication about fiber quality, Morgan said.
He said there were issues with weather, pests and diseases. Hail storms led to substantial damage for isolated fields, and stink bugs surprised producers by the amount of damage they caused in some areas. Bacterial blight also impacted production in some of the northern tier counties of the Rolling Plains.
Byrd and Morgan said irrigated fields looked very good and the rainfall also reduced irrigation costs. Morgan estimated 10-15 percent of dryland fields were defoliated, while irrigated and late–planted fields still had a significant number of green bolls.
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Morgan said temperatures were at or above 90 degrees and were expected to remain in the region for a while before cooler temperatures return. Fields in the Rolling Plains were planted later than usual due to late May rains, and fields in the High Plains, which are typically harvested late, could be later than usual also.
There remains some concern of frost for some late maturing cotton, Byrd said.
“They’ll be up against a freeze at some point but weather the past two weeks and the forecast for the near future is perfect for maturing cotton,” he said.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
CENTRAL: Armyworms were still present, but the numbers and damage seemed to be dropping. Small grains not eaten by armyworms looked very good. Pecan harvests started and looked good. Cotton harvest was in full swing and nearing completion. Field preparation for winter wheat was underway. Cattle were doing well without supplemental feed.
Wheat and oats were almost all planted. Soybean harvests neared completion. Many forage producers battled grassburs in their fields. Most counties reported good soil moisture and fair pasture and rangeland conditions. Most crop conditions were fair as well.
ROLLING PLAINS: No report was available.
COASTAL BEND: Warm temperatures and humid conditions prevailed with highs around 90. Soil moisture levels continued to decline due to the lack of rainfall and unseasonably warm temperatures. Dry field conditions allowed tractors to remove remaining cotton stalks and catch up on fallow land preparation for 2017.
Pecan and soybean harvests continued. Hay and forage were in ample supply. Some livestock operations held back last year’s calves to take advantage of high prices, however, cattle prices were lower than expected.
EAST: The district remained hot and dry. Counties needed rain, and several reported drought conditions.
Harrison County was under a burn ban. Pond levels were dropping. A cool front moved through the area bringing rain to only a few counties with amounts from a few tenths to more than 1.5 inches. Pasture and range conditions were fair to good.
Some producers in Smith and Wood counties were waiting to see if it would rain before preparing ground for winter pastures. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were adequate to short with some counties reporting very short.
Hay production in Cherokee County came to a halt due to lack of rain coupled with cool temperatures.
Producers were still baling hay in Houston County but grass growth stalled in most places so yields were not good.
Upshur County reported final hay cuttings were taking place.
Some producers in Smith County hoped to cut additional hay but curing was a problem due to weather conditions. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Cattle were calving and fall cattle work was underway. Cattle prices continued to drop. Smith County producers were weaning calves with some holding replacements.
In Polk County, most spring-born calves were marketed but at a price well below last year. Pregnancy checking and culling continued.
Predator control was underway in Upshur County.
SOUTH PLAINS: Conditions were warm and dry for most of the district. Some areas experienced cool damp conditions for a few days. Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels in Cochran County were still adequate. Peanut, corn and sorghum harvests continued.
Cotton continued to mature. Producers were defoliating most area cotton fields. Cotton harvests were kicking off in some areas, and the moisture was enough to keep farmers out of the fields for a few days. The average yield for irrigated cotton was expected to be three to four bales per acre. Planting of winter wheat continued. Pastures and rangeland continued to improve with the recent moisture, and cattle were in good condition.
Rain was received in some areas. Floyd County received anywhere from 0.3-0.8 of an inch of rain, and Lubbock County reported 0.4 of an inch to 1.7 inches. Corn and sorghum were still maturing. Wheat could use rain.
PANHANDLE: The district reported above-average temperatures. Weather was very cool and windy. Some moisture was received. Measurements were from 0.5-1 inch of rain. Soil moisture was mostly adequate.
Deaf Smith County producers were close to wrapping up corn harvests. Yield reports were all over the board. Some producers reported very low to average yields while some were above average. Producers blamed low yields on the July heat wave.
Sugarcane aphids were still causing problems in area sorghum fields with many producers applying second and third applications of insecticides.
Winter wheat planting was ongoing with some of the earlier plantings emerging. Some wheat was irrigated, and cattle were placed on some for grazing. Insect and disease pressures were plaguing some area wheat plantings. Producers will replant some fields. Silage harvests were wrapping up.
Hansford County corn harvests were underway. Corn was making around 250 bushels per acre and under. Some late-planted corn could be very late maturing. Soybean harvests started, and yields were better than expected. A few milo fields were harvested, but some fields need a freeze to mature.
Randall County was unseasonably warm with daytime temperatures in the lower 80s. Cattle remained in good to fair shape. Rangeland and pastures were mostly fair to good but continued to decline.
NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels varied from adequate to short. Weather was dry with warm days and mild nights and little rain. Grass was holding up, but the cool nights slowed growth. Grain farmers continued to plant wheat even though soil moisture was very low. The armyworm problem continued, but was not as bad as a few weeks ago. Early planted wheat was sprayed to combat armyworms.
Soybean harvests continued with yields of about 20-25 bushels per acre. Cotton was being harvested, but no yield reports were available yet.
Livestock were in good condition. Calf weights were heavy due to the abundance of grass. Spring calves were weaned and doing well on the late warm-season pastures. The cattle market was depressed, and producers hoped for a bounce in prices. Fly and mosquito numbers were still high.
FAR WEST: Temperatures were in the low 90s but dropped drastically with a cold front. Rain showers occurred with amounts ranging up to 1.5 inches. Rangeland grasses were showing stress in drier areas. Many producers were defoliating cotton but were hampered due to the high humidity. Cotton yields were decent so far. Wheat and hay grazer baling started. Supplemental feeding of livestock and wildlife continued.
WEST CENTRAL: Wheat was planted. Cotton bolls were opening and some farmers applied harvest aids. Producers made a final cutting of hay. Properly managed pastures and forages still looked good. Armyworms continued to be a problem. Temperatures were higher than normal before a cold front late in the week brought light showers. Wheat planting was expected to begin soon. Cattle were in excellent condition going into the winter months.
SOUTHEAST: In Fort Bend County, the livestock were in good condition. Producers cut and baled hay. Cotton was harvested with some remaining fields being destroyed relative to insurance claims. Soybeans were in poor condition, and many will likely be destroyed due to insurance requirements.
In Montgomery County, hot and dry conditions were delaying the establishment of winter annuals in pastures. Regrowth slowed on grazed pastures. Weed populations continued to manifest with thin stands for grass. A few scattered showers were received but not enough to leave puddles.
In Jefferson County, the pastures and fields were in good condition. Livestock were doing well. Soil-moisture levels throughout the district ranged widely from adequate to short, with most ratings in the adequate range.
SOUTHWEST: Producers hoped the next cold front would bring some rain, as land was starting to crack due to dry conditions in some areas. Topsoil moisture conditions continued to decline. All harvests were completed or nearing completion, and farmers were preparing to start planting winter crops. Pecan harvests continued. Rangelands and livestock continued in good to fair conditions.
SOUTH: Warm daytime temperatures and cool nighttime temperatures continued throughout the district. Conditions were hot and dry in some areas, including highs in the 90s and up to 100 degrees. Rangeland and pastures were good in some areas and began to show signs of stress as a result of the lack of rainfall in other parts of the district.
Harvesting and planting activities increased. Peanut harvests were underway and irrigation pivots were running constantly. The cotton harvest was complete. Wheat and oats planting continued.
There were some reports of armyworms in hayfields. Body condition scores on cattle remained good, while the cattle market remained low but constant. Wildlife populations remained in great shape for the fall hunting season. Some hunters were preparing their deer leases. Spinach planting for both fresh market and processed spinach was active.
Cotton harvests kept gins very busy. The pecan harvest was still more than a week away. Yields and quality were expected to be average to above average. Cabbage made good progress after irrigation, and wheat planting continued. Sugarcane harvests were ongoing, and early orange harvests picked up momentum. Onions were being planted.