Texas Field Reports: Coastal Cotton Industry Hit Hard by Hurricane Harvey

    Cotton crop devastated by Hurricane Harvey, 2017. Photo: Josh McGinty, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

    Hurricane Harvey and its after-effects have the coastal cotton industry reeling, according to Texas A&M AgriLife experts.

    Dr. John Robinson, College Station, said harvest activities were 40 percent complete leading up to the arrival of Hurricane Harvey and estimated 300,000 to 400,000 bales of cotton were still on the stalk prior to the storm.

    “One producer I talked to said three quarters of his cotton was on the ground from the heavy rain and high winds,” he said.

    Harvested cotton could also be impacted, he said.

    Dr. Josh McGinty, AgriLife Extension agronomist, Corpus Christi, said cotton in his area would be fine as damaging winds and flooding occurred further north.

    “There was some damage to modules but north, Refugio County and beyond, they’re in pretty rough shape,” he said.

    McGinty said there were reports of cotton modules being scattered by high winds or standing in water.

    “There were a lot of cotton in modules sitting in gin yards or on the roadside,” he said. “There was a lot of flooding and wind so that could damage those modules and decrease grades. It’s not just yield losses, there are likely to be losses in quality.”

    Torrential rains, high winds and flooding may have hurt yields and quality, but the moisture also poses threats to producers, such as sprouting cotton seeds and aflatoxin in cottonseed. Ginning costs are typically covered by the seed value.

    “Seed will be worth less due to sprouting, and that means those producers will have to pay extra to cover the cost of ginning.,” he said. “In those areas where modules remained wet for extended periods of time, we could see aflatoxin, which means if the levels are high enough seed cannot be safely utilized as feed.”

    McGinty said another potential problem is damage sustained by cotton gin facilities within the hurricane’s path.

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    “There was damage to gins, but I am not sure to what extent at this point,” he said. “The gin in Bayside is likely done for the season. That just adds to a whole host of issues producers face right now and that will play out over the next few weeks.”

    AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

    CENTRAL: Large volumes of scattered showers were delivered by Hurricane Harvey. Temperatures were cooler in the morning and evening. High winds caused tree damage. Harvest continued, but a lack of elevator storage hampered corn harvest. Sorghum yields were above average. Cotton fields were defoliated and prepared for harvest. Producers cut and baled hay. Producers were planting oats for winter crops.

    Pastures were unusually green for this time of year. Armyworms were reported. Cattle and other livestock were in good condition. Stock tanks were full. Nearly all counties reported good soil moisture. Overall crop, rangeland and pasture conditions were good in nearly all counties.

    ROLLING PLAINS: The district experienced a few cooler days and received a few moisture events in some areas. Producers were prepared for wheat planting pending the arrival of suitable moisture conditions.  Rangeland continued to hold up well due to a wet late July and mid-August.

    Corn yields were not as good as expected, mostly due to wild hogs. A lot of corn was chopped for silage. Sugarcane aphids were beginning to be a problem in sorghum. Cotton conditions depend on location, but most looked good. Some stock tanks need replenishing. Livestock were in good condition.

    COASTAL BEND: Hurricane Harvey brought 13-30 inches of rain to the district. Soil moisture was at 100 percent surplus. Many producers reported most cotton fields were harvested. However, some fields were partially harvested, and anticipated losses were between 50-70 percent.

    Soybean harvest had just begun, and some producers reported up to 95 percent devastation of those fields. Many rice fields had been harvested, but unharvested rice was likely a loss. Farmers were in rice fields putting in boards to hold the rainwater and save on irrigation. Mosquitoes were a big problem for many due to standing water.

    Moderate flooding occurred in river basins. Many trees were uprooted, and there were many reports of home and equipment damage. Pastures and many fields remained saturated. Some cattle were moved from low lying areas. There was no estimate yet on livestock losses. Much of the damaged areas were not surveyed yet except by drone, helicopter or boat due to flooding.

    EAST: Temperatures were milder around the district. Some fish kills were reported due to the cloudy days. Hurricane Harvey hit San Augustine County hard, dumping 11-20 inches of rain. Anderson County received 3 inches. Most counties received little or no rain from the hurricane. Pasture and rangeland conditions were mostly fair to good. Excellent conditions were reported in Rusk and Gregg counties and very poor in Tyler County.

    Hay harvest continued as producers were able to cut pastures delayed by wet conditions and expected rain from Hurricane Harvey. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were mostly adequate with Tyler and Angelina counties reporting surplus. Anderson and Wood counties reported armyworm damage. Vegetable crop production slowed.

    Gregg County fall-season vegetable crops were planted. Upshur County producers were preparing winter pastures. Smith County producers were planting winter forages. Cattle were in fair to good condition. Some producers were supplementing feed in Anderson County. Fall cattle work was underway in Smith County.

    SOUTH PLAINS: Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels were adequate in counties that received rain, but moisture was still needed in the remaining counties. Both dryland and irrigated cotton fields were looking very good. Bolls were nearly done setting and looked very good. Producers continued to address weed management issues. Some bollworms and scattered aphids were reported.

    Peanuts were doing well overall in their development. Sugarcane aphid numbers remained very low across the area. However, yellow sugarcane aphids and cornleaf aphids were the most reported insect besides whorl feeding larvae. Area pasture and rangeland continued to remain in good condition. Cattle were in good condition as well.

    PANHANDLE: Temperatures were below normal for this time of year. Moisture was reported throughout most of the district. Hall County cotton and pasture conditions were improving. Continued warm weather will be needed to insure good crops. Pasture and cattle conditions improved.

    Wells on irrigated fields were shut off on all crops for the remainder of the season in Ochiltree County. Producers were waiting for fields to mature for harvest. Sorghum producers treated for headworms. No significant numbers of sugarcane aphids were reported in sorghum. Warmer temperatures helped cotton development, but there were concerns about cool nighttime temperatures.

    Wheat producers prepared fields for planting. Wheat producers aiming to have fall wheat pastures for stocker cattle began planting. Soil moisture conditions were excellent to plant. Rangeland and pastures continued to remain in excellent condition due to late-season rains and cooler temperatures.

    Cattle conditions and gains were excellent because of mild weather. Many ranchers will begin weaning calves soon. Cows were in good condition and should go into the fall and winter in good shape. Fly numbers were high, and control was ongoing.

    NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels ranged from mostly adequate to short, with some areas reporting surplus. Temperatures were warm, and weather patterns from Hurricane Harvey provided moisture but very little rain. Pastures continued to look great for this time of year due to the above-normal rainfall.

    Weeds were very prevalent in the pastures due to areas being too wet to spray so many producers were shredding. Soybean, sorghum and corn harvest continued and were doing well. Hay production continued to be strong. Livestock were in great condition and showing relief from cooler weather. Armyworms were reported in some counties.

    FAR WEST: (No report)

    WEST CENTRAL: Weather was seasonable with warm days and mild nights. Scattered showers were reported in most areas. Field preparations for fall planting were underway. Many wheat farmers were ready for planting. Cotton fields continued to progress and look very good.

    Toxic weeds and prussic acid poisoning problems were reported. Rangeland and pastures continued to improve and were in good to excellent condition due to recent rains. Grasses were green and growing. Winter grasses were starting to make an appearance. Cattle and other livestock were in good to excellent condition due to good grazing conditions. Dove season looked favorable with an abundance of birds. Pecans continued to look good.

    SOUTHEAST: Devastating rains and flooding damaged the remainder of the cotton crop yet to be picked. Counties in the district received 20-30 inches of rain. Low-lying pastures were flooded and livestock were displaced due to tremendous rains accompanying Hurricane Harvey.

    Crops were destroyed and many livestock were lost. Producers had difficulty accessing farms due to flooding. Many pastures spent several days underwater. Total losses of cattle, fences and stored hay will take some time to recover. Round bales of hay were still submerged. All counties reported surplus soil moisture.

    SOUTHWEST: Some county pastures and rangelands improved due to recent rains from Hurricane Harvey. Some counties received too much rain which caused major flooding and loss of livestock while other counties were still in desperate need of rain. Small grains were going in mostly for fall grazing. Fall calving was underway.

    SOUTH: Conditions were hot, dry and windy. Rainfall was reported in some parts of the district as a result of Hurricane Harvey, but amounts did not help dry conditions in some areas. Live Oak and Jim Wells counties received a very beneficial rain of from 1-4.5 inches, from Hurricane Harvey that should improve pasture conditions. Other areas reported between a tenth of an inch to 1.5 inches while others did not receive any moisture.

    Winds from the hurricane were reported at less than 50 mph at the Alice Airport. Soil moisture conditions remained mostly adequate.

    Cotton harvesting was expected to be underway soon in some areas and in full swing in others. Cotton harvesting was completed in Kleberg and Kenedy counties, with yields averaging 2 bales an acre. Peanut harvest slowly started as well. Cattle were in good shape. All crops were harvested in some areas. Peanut fields continued to develop under irrigation.

    Pasture and rangeland conditions continued to improve. Supplemental feeding was at an increase as forage quality and quantity continue to decline in dry areas. Brooks County reported having 20 acres of organic watermelon planted.

    The livestock auction in Brooks County was closed due to Hurricane Harvey, but resumed with the sale of 1,350 head of cattle. Less than 1,500 acres of cotton in Brooks County remained in the field prior to the hurricane. A drive-by assessment after the hurricane revealed minimal damage to those fields. Average yields on grain sorghum was 4,000 pounds per acre.

    Coastal Bermuda grass fields were under irrigation. Some watermelon and cantaloupes remained in fields. Pecan orchards were in good condition, and no major pest problems were reported. Producers with irrigation water capabilities were busy applying water to some late-planted cotton and newly planted cabbage fields.

    Oat planting was active. Producers were preparing seed beds for spinach, onions, cabbage and carrots. More vegetable seeds were planted in Hidalgo County. Soil moisture conditions were very short there. Rangeland and pastures there showed signs of drought stress.

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