COLLEGE STATION – Farmers and ranchers who passed on controlling slow-growing weeds this spring may now have reason for regret, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.
“If you’re standing out in your hay meadow or pasture and wish you had another inch of rain, that inch of rain may have been that which was sacrificed to early season weed issues,” said Dr. Paul Baumann, AgriLife Extension state weed specialist, College Station.
The cooler-than-usual spring slowed the growth of weeds and warm-season grasses alike, and many producers may have put off spraying or shredding weeds, Baumann said. But now that the drought is re-strengthening in nearly all of Texas, many weeds species are coming back with a vengeance, robbing improved pasture grasses of moisture and nutrients.
Weeds that always pose early season competition for improved forage grass areas of Texas include annual broomweed, wooly croton, goat weed, bitter sneezeweed and a number of other annual weeds, he said.
Many perennial weeds that flourish during a drought are troublesome but usually don’t pose as much as a challenge to improved pastures as the annuals, according to Baumann.
“For the perennials, we’re talking about silverleaf nightshade, dog fennel, horse nettle, Texas bull nettle and weeds like that,” he said. “They flourish because they have a well-developed, deeper root system that makes them less prone to moisture deficiency, particularly in the lower soil profile.”
But the early season annuals like goat weed, dove weed or wooly croton have shallower root systems that vie for the same shallow soil moisture that Bermuda grass and other improved pastures are trying to capture, he said.
For producers who did not do any early season weed control and are now seeing a flush of annual weeds in their pastures, Baumann recommended waiting until a good rain before doing anything.
“For the weeds that are still out there that are less than 6 to 8 inches tall, wait until you get a little bit of rain on them before spraying because they are going to be less susceptible to herbicide if they are moisture stressed,” he said.
Leaving weeds uncontrolled, even if there is not much grass growth, is not a good choice, Baumann said. This is because they are going to continue to compete for moisture during a very stressful time of year, as well as eventually deposit a seed load that will last for years to come.
Also, if there is a mid-season rain, the weeds will spring back to life and compete with pasture grasses at a very critical time of year, he said.
More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/ .
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries for the week of July 1-7:
Central: The region was starting to dry up, with crops showing visible signs of drought stress. The corn silage harvest began. There were reports of prussic acid poisoning in cattle from johnsongrass and sorghum. Some mornings were unseasonably cool. Grasshoppers were unbelievably bad.
Coastal Bend: Recent rains greened up some areas, but came too late for many crops. Soils were dry again. The grain sorghum harvest was underway with less than average yields reported. Many fields did not make a crop. The corn harvest began. Soybeans made a good pod set but needed rain soon. Grasshopper populations were high in some areas. Ponds were very low or dry in many areas. There were reports of cattle deaths due to toxic pond water conditions. Fish deaths due to low pond levels were also reported. Pecan yields were down from last year.
East: All counties showed signs of drought. High heat dried out soils, sharply reducing plant vigor. Pasture grasses were stressed with very slow regrowth. Grasshoppers were becoming an increasingly persistent problem. Some pond levels were as low as they were during the 2011 drought, and many creeks have stopped running. Hay sales were very slow. Cooler temperatures during the week allowed more vegetables to be harvested from gardens and sold at local markets. Cattle remained in good condition. Feral hog damage was reported.
Far West: Showers early in the reporting period yielded from a trace to 1.5 inches of rain. Daytime highs were in the mid to upper 70s the first part of week but later rose into the 90s. Dryland cotton farmers were working with crop-insurance adjusters. Most dryland cotton will be zeroed out this year, but irrigated cotton was doing well. Livestock producers were providing supplemental feed and hoping for rain.
North: Soil moisture was very short to adequate, and some counties were in desperate need of rain. Where there were rains earlier, Bermuda grass pastures were doing well, and some hay meadows were almost ready for a second cutting to be taken. Hay supplies remained very good. Sunflowers were in very good condition. The oat harvest was completed. Peanuts were in poor condition. Most wheat was harvested with reports of above-average yields. Grain sorghum was in good condition with all of the crop headed out and turning color. Corn was developing well, and cotton looked good. Livestock across the region were in good condition, with early spring-born calves heavy and being weaned. Pond levels were falling. Grasshopper pressure continued as the population increased.
Panhandle: Temperatures were below normal with a few scattered showers. Soil moisture continued to be rated mostly short to very short. The wheat harvest wound down. Corn was rapidly growing with the heat, and some fields were tasseling, though many were 10 days away from tasseling. Grain sorghum was behind in development, with plants 10-12 inches tall. Cotton was struggling, with many fields still not yet squaring.
Rolling Plains: After a week of below-normal temperatures, hot, dry, windy weather returned. All cotton stands were planted and becoming established, but rain was needed for crop development to proceed. Warm-season grasses on native ranges also needed moisture. Earlier rains in some counties replenished pastures and water tanks, but the dry weather reminded everyone that the region was still under drought conditions. Producers were chiseling wheat stubble fields where they could and trying to keep weeds under control. Area ponds and lakes were still in desperate need of runoff. Grasshoppers continued to be a nuisance.
South: There was very little rain received, with only a few counties reporting light showers. Willacy County was the exception with 0.25 to 1 inch received. Highs of 100 degrees and above continued to be recorded throughout the region, causing soil moisture levels to decline. Soil moisture levels were mostly short to adequate throughout the region, except adequate levels in Atascosa, Dimmit, Maverick and Cameron counties. Rangeland and pastures remained in fair shape, but forage quality deteriorated due to drought stress. Livestock producers continued providing supplemental feed to cattle. In Atascosa County, crops were doing well with some hay harvesting being done. In Frio County, peanut planting was completed, corn and sorghum were maturing, and irrigation increased. In Zavala County, cotton, corn, sorghum and guar progressed well with minor insect pressure. Also in that county, the cabbage harvest resumed, while watermelon and cantaloupe harvesting was ongoing. In Cameron County, the harvesting of grain sorghum halted and the corn harvest continued. In Starr County, hay baling continued, and producers were preparing to harvest cotton.
South Plains: A few counties received spotty showers. Lubbock and Garza counties reported from a trace to 0.5 inches. Parmer County had additional crop losses due to hail. Most of the region had considerably cooler temperatures, with highs in the 80s and low 90s. The exceptions were Mitchell and Scurry counties that had highs in the 100s. Most irrigated crops were doing well as long as farmers had enough water to pump. Peanuts were doing well under current conditions. Most were well into the bloom stage and setting pegs. Corn development ranged from emergence to tasseling. Cotton was from the seedling stage to a third-grown square. Early planted sunflowers were blooming. Replanting of failed cotton acres continued where there was enough soil moisture. Dryland crops were began to show signs of stress during the midday. Rangeland and pastures were much improved from earlier rains, but more rain was needed to sustain growth. Livestock mostly were in good condition.
Southeast: Soil moisture ranged from very short to short across the region. Extremely high temperatures in some counties stressed all plants, while cooler temperatures prevailed in Burleson County. Walker and Waller counties received a little rain, but pastures remained extremely dry and hay was not being made. Cows were struggling to find anything green in that part of the region. Grasshoppers were still causing problems in many parts of the area. Brazoria County was very dry, with highs in the upper 90s and the lows in the 70s. In Chambers County, crops were progressing well despite dry conditions, and producers were expecting to take a second cutting of hay soon. Liberty County had some scattered showers but no significant rain. Orange County conditions were good thanks to some rain. Adequate soil moisture in that county was supporting good forage growth, but more rainfall was needed. Overall, rice was in good to excellent condition.
Southwest: Hot, dry windy conditions dried out crops and pastures. However, rangeland and pastures remained in fair to good condition. Corn and grain sorghum were stressed from lack of moisture but were still expected to finish. Hayfields needed a rain for a chance of a second cutting. Dryland grain sorghum was doing great in some areas. Most sunflowers were being harvested with good yields reported. Livestock remained in good condition, but horn flies were becoming an increasing problem.
West Central: Days were dry, hot and windy with mild nights. The entire region continued to suffer from extreme drought. Grasshoppers remained a big problem for producers. Cotton and grain sorghum were progressing well but will need rain soon to continue good growth. Some producers were harvesting hay with average yields reported. Rangeland and pastures continued to decline. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Stock-water tank and pond levels continued to drop. Some water sources dried up.