Most Texas cotton, irrigated or dryland, could use rain soon

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COLLEGE STATION – The drought situation in the western half of Texas remained largely unchanged, but abnormally dry weather reclaimed large parts of the eastern half of the state during the last week of May, according to the U.S. Drought monitor and Texas AgriLife Extension Service reports.

After good rains a few weeks ago, South Texas also turned drier, with moderate drought to abnormally dry weather stretching from the Lower Rio Grande Valley up the Coastal Bend area.

A drier trend is hard on all crops, but it comes at a critical time for cotton in many parts of the state, said Dr. Gaylon Morgan, AgriLife Extension statewide cotton specialist, College Station.

“I was in the Rolling Plains last week,” Morgan said. “In the Haskell area planters were really rolling where they have irrigation and received some recent rains in the central section of the Rolling Plains.”

It was a different story in the northern and southern portions of the Rolling Plains, he said, where it’s mainly dryland farming The producers he talked to last week were holding back on planting, hoping to get enough moisture to at least get the crop up.

“However, they will soon be up against the planting date deadline and will have to start planting soon,” he said.

Morgan noted even where there is irrigation in the Rolling Plains, the producers, like their South Plains counterparts, will need timely rains to supplement irrigation.

“They had some surface moisture to establish the cotton crop, but they didn’t have any deep moisture, and their wells don’t have a lot of capacity, and they didn’t get much aquifer recharge after last year,” Morgan said. “I think they’re cautiously optimistic that they can make a crop between predicted normal rainfall and supplemental irrigation.”

South Texas cotton is starting to flower, but rains have been scanty for the last couple of weeks. Morgan was visiting Jackson County for a field day on June 4, and said the cotton looked great.

“But they had cracks in the ground 2 inches wide and probably several feet deep, so the moisture has to come fairly quickly if the crop is going to maintain its good yield potential,” he said.

Though the majority of cotton is grown in the South Plains and Rolling Plains, more than a half million acres are grown between the Coastal Bend and the Lower Rio Grande Valley, according to Morgan.

“Overall the cotton in the Blacklands looks good,” he said. “However, the cotton plant is about to reach the stage of high water demand and will need a good rain in the near future to ensure good fruit set. Producers with irrigation capability are irrigating their cotton while some are holding off a week hoping for a rain in the next week.”

More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website athttp://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/ .

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries for May 28 – June 4:

The 12 Texas AgriLife Extension Service Districts

Central: All small grains were grazed or baled. Summer vegetables were doing well. Most of the area received 0.5 inch to 1.5 inches of rain. Otherwise, the weather for small-grain harvesting was good, with only one rain heavy enough to cause lodging in some fields. Rangeland and pastures were producing less grass than normal because stands were damaged by last year’s drought. As clover, filaree and other cool-season annuals faded, the issue of bare ground and stand loss became more evident. The stand loss was most noticeable on shallow soils in both improved pastures and native rangeland. Along with below-normal rainfall in April and May, the stand losses may spell another tough year for livestock producers. Corn and sorghum were suffering from moisture stress. Rangeland was in poor condition, and forage was limited. Row crops were at least two weeks ahead of schedule and will likely be harvested early. Silage was nearly ready for harvest. Grasshopper populations were increasing.

Coastal Bend: High temperatures and no rain stressed row crops. Cotton reached the cutout stage early in some locations due to lack of moisture. Corn and sorghum were wilting. Growers with irrigation capability were watering crops. Pecan growers expected a good crop with little damage from case bearers. The grape crop also looked good with only slight problems from a few more of the common fungi such as powdery mildew. Grape yields were expected to be high as fruit was enlarging, and sugar content rising. Farmers were taking the first cutting of Bermuda grass and Bahiagrass. Many ponds had aquatic vegetation, and trees were still showing signs of stress and dying from last year’s drought.

East: The region received from 0.5 inches to 2 inches of rain. Some counties reported no rain, and soils continued to dry out. After finishing baling cool-season grasses, some producers were reporting damage from last year’s drought to permanent forages stands. Pastures with grazing pressure were underproducing. Some producers were buying hay from out of state due to high fertilizer prices and production costs. Many county offices reported dead and dying trees. Cattle remained in good condition. Feral hogs continued to be a major problem. Vegetable production increased where there was rain.

Far West: Temperatures ranged from the upper 90s to lower 100s, with lows in the lower 70s. Brewster County reported as much as 1.5 inches of rain, but only in small parts of the county. Presidio County reported high fire danger due to the hot temperatures and high winds. The above-normal temperatures and windy days continued to dry out topsoils. Hay in Andrews County looked good under irrigation. There was rapid growth of pasture forbs, but most species were of poor nutritional value. Fall-planted onions were being harvested, and alfalfa was growing with some fields ready for the second cutting. The working of sheep and goats was wrapped up in most counties. Ranchers were still having to provide supplemental feed to most of their animals.

North: Hot weather continued to dominate. Soil-moisture levels were short to adequate in most counties. A few areas received scattered showers last week, but hail accompanied the rain in some areas. Hail in Rockwall County heavily damaged 50 percent of corn, and early assessments were that the damaged plants would not recover. Damage to sorghum was in the process of being assessed. The wheat harvest was wrapping up thanks to warm, dry conditions during the past two to three weeks. The scattered showers brought limited relief to corn, soybeans, sorghum and pastures. Hay meadows were suffering from lack of moisture, but hay harvesting was ongoing. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Tree deaths continued because of last year’s drought. Water primrose was invading ponds in Hopkins County.

Panhandle: Most of the region received some rain, from a trace to as much as 2 inches. Hartley County reported hail. Soil-moisture levels were from very short to adequate, with most counties reporting short. Corn was mostly in good condition. Cotton and grain sorghum were mostly in good to fair condition. Wheat was rated mostly fair. Rangeland and pastures were in very poor to good condition, with most reporting poor. Recent rains greened up pastures but soils were moisture deficit, and more rain will be needed to grow grass. Cattle were improving. Producers were preparing to spray for thrips. In some early planted cotton, they had already made applications.

Rolling Plains: Parts of the region saw storms but didn’t get much rain. King County reported baseball- and softball-size hail with 100 mph winds. However, only minimal damage was reported. Wise County reported the most rain, from 1 inch to 1.5 inches. Pastures needed rainfall to keep up with forage demands. Dryland cotton farmers began planting, but expectations were low. Some producers were lucky and had cotton emerged, but with the recent winds and dry weather, the seedlings were not expected to last long without rain soon. Irrigated producers watered plantings to get cotton emerged, but it has taken as long as two weeks in some cases to get stands. Residents were becoming concerned about the danger of wildfire and a repeat of last year’s drought. The wheat harvest was complete in most counties. Grasshopper numbers were increasing.

South: Temperatures above 90 degrees and persistent winds rapidly dried up soil moisture. Soil-moisture conditions were short to very short except in a few counties. In Atacosa and McMullen counties, they were 50 to 60 percent adequate. In Hidalgo and Willacy counties they were 60 to 65 percent adequate, which was quite a change from 50 to 100 percent adequate reported last week. With lack of rain and the hot temperatures, ranchers in the McMullen County area were reworking dry stock tanks to increase water holding capacity for the next rain. Cattle were in fair to good condition where grazing improved from rains a few weeks ago. In Atascosa County, peanut planting was in full swing. In Frio County, the potato harvest continued and crops were under irrigation. In Jim Wells County, corn was 100 percent emerged and silked, and sorghum was in fair condition. Sorghum in the Kleberg/Kenedy County area was 100 percent headed and 20 percent colored. Cotton in that area was in good condition. Dryland crops in the Zavala County area were in fair condition but needed additional moisture. Growers in that area were irrigating corn, sorghum, cotton, onions and cabbages. Also in that area, onion harvesting was very active, watermelon crops were progressing well and pecans were being monitored for pests. In Hidalgo County, the sunflower harvest began and row-crop irrigation was ongoing. In the Starr County, cantaloupe producers wrapped up their harvest. In Willacy County, the harvest of early planted sorghum continued.

South Plains: Highs were in the upper 90s to 100s most of the week with days cooling down a little at the end of the week. There were scattered storms in some counties, but most areas did not receive rain. Cotton growers nearly completed planting but did so mostly in an effort to beat crop insurance deadlines. Some producers dry-planted in hope of receiving rain later. Those with irrigation were readying to apply water to emerged cotton. Herbicide applications were being made in some fields. All areas will need timely rains for this year’s cotton crop to survive. Pasture and rangeland were mostly in fair to good condition. Cattle were in mostly good condition with little to no supplemental feeding being done.

Southeast: In Montgomery County, producers finished baling winter annuals and were waiting for some rain for warm-season grasses. Southern Brazoria County received about 1 inch of rain, while northern and central parts of the county received a quarter inch or less. Hay harvest activity continued through the weekend. Topsoil moisture at soybean planting was short. In Chambers County, the wheat harvest was completed. In Jefferson County, highs were in the low 90s, lows in the low 70s, with from 0.25 inch to 0.5 inch of rain received.

Southwest: Hot and dry weather continued, and soils were drying out. Corn, milo and cotton needed rain. The wheat and oat harvests were finished. The hay harvest continued. Peaches were still looking good.

West Central: The weather was hot, dry and windy with mild nights. A few areas reported scattered showers. The heat and wind had a negative impact on soil moisture. All areas needed rain. Some farmers were dry planting cotton due to lack of moisture. Many producers, however, were holding off planting cotton in hopes for rain and better soil conditions. The wheat and oat harvests continued in many areas, with fair to lower-than-expected yields reported. Many producers were finishing up harvesting wheat and were already preparing fields to plant haygrazer. Rangeland and pastures conditions varied depending whether the area had recently seen rain. Warm-season grasses were showing signs of heat stress. Livestock remained in good condition. Flies continued to be a major issue and required control. Pecan growers were increasing irrigation.


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