COLLEGE STATION – As corn prices surge, the condition of the crop varied widely around the state, according to reports by Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.
Where drought conditions ruled, dryland corn generally suffered, according to this week’s reports from AgriLife Extension county agents. But irrigated corn was in trouble as well in some areas, such as the Rolling Plains, as later-planted fields went into their peak water usage stage and well water levels dropped.
In the Panhandle, it was a mixed bag, with some agents reporting the crop to be in fair condition while others said it was stressed. Some dryland fields had already been abandoned.
In North and Central Texas, the reports were more positive, despite triple-digit temperatures and generally dry conditions.
“The corn harvest is starting with yields ranging from 50 to 110 bushels per acre,” said Shane McLellan, AgriLife Extension agent in McLennan County, south of Fort Worth. “The milo harvest is nearly complete with good yields ranging from 3,500 to 6,000 pounds per acre.”
Jared Ripple, AgriLife Extension agent in Williamson County north of Austin, reported most corn there had been harvested and aflatoxin levels were generally low.
Reports from North Texas were similar. Wayne Becker, AgriLife Extension agent in Cooke County, north of Dallas, said all but a few fields had been harvested. The corn harvest there came early thanks to a timely rain that helped mature the crop, followed by hot weather that promoted a quick dry down.
“If there’s any corn left by today (Aug. 7), I’d be really surprised,” Becker said. “We only grow about 2,000 acres of corn, and our average yield is probably below 100 bushels (per acre.) We’re averaging around the 100-bushel level, and aflatoxin which is usually a concern in our area, has been relatively low. All in all, we have to be pretty happy with our corn yields, and our grain sorghum yields are certainly running above average.”
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 July 31-Aug. 6:
Central: The region remained hot and dry. Most forage sorghum was harvested. Crops under irrigation still looked good, but dryland crops were burning up. Coastal Bermuda grass was cut and baled. Some hay producers were hoping for a third cutting. Grain sorghum and corn was also harvested. Aflatoxin numbers were low in corn. Pecans looked good.
Coastal Bend: Hot and humid weather prevailed. Some scattered showers were reported, but accumulations were mostly very low. The corn, grain sorghum and cotton harvests were well under way, with significant yield variation within individual fields. One corn producer reported a field’s yields varying from 30 to 90 bushels per acre. Producers who had already harvested cotton were shredding stalks or plowing fields. Soybeans were making and filling pods. Producers were making hay on pastures that received rain earlier. Cattle remained in fair condition with continued supplemental feeding.
East: With no rain and extreme heat, topsoils were drying out. Heat advisories remained in effect for much of the area. Henderson County posted a burn ban on its western side. Hay production began to slow. Pecans made good progress. Grasshoppers continued to be a problem. Armyworms were reported in some hay meadows.
Far West: Highs were in the triple digits and lows in the upper 70s with the drought continuing. Counties are seeing what little green they once had in fields turn brown. In Andrews County, forages and pecans under irrigation are stressed. In Howard County, stock tanks were dry or drying up, and there were reports of small grassfires. In Crane County, Lehman lovegrass pastures were still green while native-grass pastures struggled. Pine bark beetle reports continued to come in from the northern end of Presidio County. In El Paso County, pecans were progressing well, and alfalfa growers were taking a fifth cutting. Martin, Ward and Val Verde county livestock producers were de-stocking again.
North: Soil moisture was short to adequate. The corn harvest was estimated to be about 75 to 100 percent complete, with average to above-average yields. Virtually all grain crops were ready to harvest, so the only crops that will be impacted by dry weather will be cotton and hay. Cattle were in fair to good condition. Peaches still looked very good. Large numbers of grasshoppers and feral hogs were still problems.
Panhandle: Conditions remained hot and dry with temperatures at or above 100 degrees most of the week. Some areas received rain, from 0.16 inch to 2 inches. Soil-moisture levels were very short to adequate, with most counties reporting very short to short. Corn was in very poor to good condition, with most reporting fair. Most of the early planted corn was in fair shape, but later-planted corn was suffering as irrigation water had to be shared with other crops. Some cornfields were abandoned due to drought conditions. Cotton was in very poor to excellent condition with most reporting fair. Irrigated cotton was in good shape with little insect pressure. Dryland cotton, however, was barely holding on under the extreme temperatures. Rangeland and pastures were in very poor to excellent condition with most reporting very poor to poor. Due to lack of wind to run windmills, some cattlemen in some areas had to haul water to livestock. Some cattlemen were taking advantage of the emergency Conservation Reserve Program grazing. Cow/calf producers who still had cattle were feeding hay and culling herds and shipping calves.
Rolling Plains: Conditions remained extremely dry — a repeat of last year. Dryland cotton was withering away under extreme heat and drought. What little cotton that earlier looked as if it might make it began blooming and was expected to play out soon. Farmers feared even if rain was received soon it would be too little too late. However, irrigated cotton looked pretty good. Pastures were drying up and being grazed out. Some producers were weaning and selling calves early in order to keep their few remaining cows. Other livestock continued to need supplemental feed. Producers are worried about lack of shade for cattle in the heat, and some were even constructing portable shades. Hay production was light. Some grain sorghum was harvested. Tanks and reservoirs continued to dry up, and the water level of more wells was dropping. Many trees were stressed or dying. Some counties reported high grasshopper populations.
South: Soil Moisture conditions were short to very short. Producers were able to take a second cutting of hay on some fields. Irrigated crops looked very good, and peanuts were progressing well. Corn and sorghum harvests were ongoing. Cotton was opening bolls, and peanuts were pegging. Beef and forage producers managed to make at least one hay cutting so far. Some have gotten two, but forages were wilting fast. Stock-tank levels dropped under the hot, dry weather while livestock water needs increased. In the eastern part of the district, dry and hot conditions allowed harvesting to progress rapidly. Crops in areas that didn’t get rain mid-July were showing stress, and forages especially were rapidly wilting. In the western part of the district, most native-grass rangeland and pastures were in the poor to fair condition. Supplemental feeding increased as livestock producers continued to try to maintain manageable herd sizes. Cotton and pecan producers were irrigating. The corn and sorghum harvests were completed. Cotton was in good condition. In a narrow strip of Webb County, a 5 to 6-inch rain caused some flooding of homes and streets in northeast Laredo. But stock tanks were filled or nearly filled by the deluge. Hay supplies are low, but should improve in areas with rainfall. In the southern part of the district, cotton and corn harvesting continued, livestock were in fair condition, and sugarcane growers were actively irrigating.
South Plains: Most of the region remained dry, with only Garza County reporting any rain, and then only in isolated regions. Triple-digit heat was reported throughout the region for most of the reporting period. All crops and pastures were stressed, and many cotton fields were pushed into early cutout (the stage of growth prior to boll opening). The remaining cotton had a wide range of maturity levels. Irrigated cotton was suffering as well as producers tried to pump enough water without any recharge of aquifers by rain. Dryland cotton was barely hanging on. Corn was at its peak water-use stage. Some early planted corn was beginning to mature. The corn-silage harvest was expected to begin in a week or two. Insect activity was very minimal. Peanuts and grain sorghum continued to mature. Late-planted grain sorghum ranged from 5 inches tall to nearly the boot stage. Many fields were drought-stressed.
Southeast: The corn and sorghum harvests proceeded without problems. Dryland yields were average to slightly below average. Irrigated corn harvesting was just starting.
Southwest: Typical hot summer temperatures prevailed, and there was little to no rain. Pastures that were green a week ago are now brown with no growth. The corn, sorghum and milo harvests were nearly over with good yields reported. Cotton was opening bolls. Irrigated forages made good progress. The pecan crop was heavy, and producers were shaking trees to reduce nut load on limbs.
West Central: Extreme hot, dry, windy conditions prevailed. Temperatures remained in the triple digits throughout the week. Soil-moisture levels continued to drop, and crop and pasture conditions continued to decline. Some producers were still cutting and baling hay, but yields were low. Cotton was blooming, and some growers were spraying weeds. The grain sorghum and silage harvests were in full swing. Irrigated crops were doing well. Insect pressure was low. Field preparation for fall planting was completed in some areas. Rangeland and pastures were in very poor condition and severely drought-stressed. The extreme heat caused many native and improved grasses to remain dormant. Livestock remained in good condition with continued supplemental feeding. Stock-tank water levels further dropped. Pecans looked very good as growers irrigated orchards.