Cotton maturity varied widely across the state, with some fields struggling to make a stand, while in other areas it was being defoliated in preparation for harvest. (U.S Department of Agriculture photo)
Texas Business reports: COLLEGE STATION – If it’s true misery loves company, drought-hammered Midwestern farmers should find lots of company in Texas, said a Texas AgriLife Extension Service agronomist.
“Certainly, we’ve had very short rainfall in many areas of the state, and we’re looking at less -than-average (cotton) crop yields over most of the areas I’m familiar with,” said Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension agronomist, College Station.
Miller said the same could be said of most crops in Texas, despite recent rains in parts of the state.
“We’ve had a lot of rain along the Gulf Coast, and through parts of the Hill County and Austin,” he said. “All were good rains, but most of it came too late for crops.”
Miller said he expected cotton yields to be all over the place. In the Gulf Coast area, where cotton was being harvested, there was some cotton yielding in the 200- to 300-pound range and better. In the Rolling Plains and large parts of the South Plains, farmers were expecting a lot of failed acres. In other parts of the Rolling Plains and South Plains, those farmers who had timely plantings were holding on, hoping for more rain.
From AgriLife Extension county agent reports, some cotton has already been replanted to other crops after being zeroed-out by insurance adjusters. However, cotton in a few areas, such as the Panhandle and South Plains counties of Cochran and Deaf Smith, was doing reasonably well thanks to recent rains and excellent heat units. There were also a few reports of cotton doing well in North Texas.
From fellow AgriLife Extension agronomists, Miller said he’s heard of some good grain sorghum yields along the Gulf Coast, with reports of 5,000-pound yields per acre – but some much less.”
Soybean plantings, not a common crop in Texas on an average year, were down this year because the crop is not as drought tolerant as others.
“When soybeans are flowering and setting pods, it’s pretty important they have a shot of water,” Miller said.
If there are any bright spots, it’s the fact that commodity prices are so high, he said.
“We’ve got sharply increased prices for the crops that we do have, and sometimes if you have a very high price you can compensate for the low yields,” he said.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries for the 12 Texas Agrilife extension districts:
Central: Forage sorghum and corn were harvested as silage. The grain sorghum harvest began but was delayed due to heavy rainfall. The harvesting of sunflowers and corn also began. Other corn was still drying down. Livestock were in good condition. Producers started preparing land for winter forage. Some producers had already taken third cuttings of coastal Bermuda hay. Hay harvesting conditions remained good, but many fields had heavy grasshopper pressure. Cotton looked great, with only moderate insect pressure. Irrigation was halted because of rain.
Coastal Bend: As much as 9 inches of rain fell in isolated areas, but most locations got less than 0.1 inch. The rain hampered the corn and grain harvests, but benefited pastures and hay fields. Growers reported low yields but good quality on grain sorghum. Corn was also low-yielding, with many fields a total loss due to lack of moisture at crucial growing stages. Growers were beginning to defoliate cotton, with some harvesting already under way. Lint yields were expected to be below normal due to the drought.
East: Rain fell across most of the region. Some areas, such as Polk County, received as much as 10 inches. Hay production was in full swing. Many producers had already harvested more hay this year than they did in all of 2011. The fruit and vegetable harvests continued. Grasshoppers, horn flies, and crickets became a problem. Feral hogs remained active.
Far West: Highs were in the upper 90s, with lows in the mid-60s to lower 70s. There was no rain reported in most areas and windy weather was drying out the little remaining soil moisture. The exceptions were parts of Glasscock County getting about 3 inches of rain, and Ector County with from 0.5 to 4 inches. In most areas, pastures were browning due to heat and wind. In Pecos County, the melon harvest was ongoing, with excellent quality reported, and onions were still being pulled. In Reeves County, onions, chili peppers and cantaloupes were doing well. In Upton County, cotton was doing well due to high heat units. Ranchers were still providing supplemental feed to their livestock, but herd numbers remained low. Producers shipped all lambs and kid goats.
North: Soil moisture remained short to adequate. Some areas received significant rains while others got only a trace. Corn was maturing, and some fields were ready to harvest. Pastures were in fair to excellent condition and growing. The cotton crop looked better in some areas than it has in the last few years. Producers of Bermuda grass hay harvested their second cutting for the year. The first cutting of summer annuals such as haygrazer and sorghum sudans was also very good with above-average yields. Producers continued spraying for weeds. Stock-watering tanks were in very good shape for the early summer. Grasshoppers remained a major problem. Peaches looked good.
Panhandle: Most of the region received from a trace to 2 inches of rain. Irrigators were active. Corn was in mostly fair to good condition. Hansford County reported some hail damage to corn and other summer crops. Sorghum, soybean and peanuts were in mostly fair to good condition. Cotton was in mostly fair to good condition. The wheat harvest was complete. Rangeland and pasture ratings continued to vary from very poor to excellent, with most counties reporting very poor to poor. Cattle were in fair to good condition. Insect activity on all crops was average, with a few flare-ups of spider mites in corn.
Rolling Plains: Scattered showers fell across parts of the district, but most counties remained dry. Irrigated cotton was growing slowly, but dryland cotton showed stress. Producers were spraying herbicides. Pastures were quickly drying out in most areas, but some counties reported that rangeland and livestock were in fair condition thanks to recent rains. Producers worried they won’t get another cutting of coastal Bermuda hay. Sorghum forage was being baled. Grasshoppers were a problem in some areas. In King County, most ranches had either liquidated or relocated cattle. Burn bans were issued in some counties. Underdeveloped pecan nuts were dropping in some areas due to poor pollination and water stress.
South: The northern part of the region received enough rain to slightly improve soil-moisture levels in rangeland and pastures. Atascosa, La Salle and McMullen counties received from 1 inch to 3 inches of rain. Webb, Zavala and Willacy counties received about 1 inch on average. Soil-moisture levels were 50 to 100 percent adequate in the northern counties, short to very short in the eastern and western counties, and 70 percent adequate in Willacy County. Generally, rangeland and pastures remained mostly in fair to poor condition. The quality of forage continued to decline while the price of supplemental feed increased. However, cattle body condition scores remained fair with supplemental feeding. In Atascosa County, peanuts progressed well, and some cotton was breaking bolls. In Frio County, the corn harvest continued, grain sorghum was maturing, cotton setting bolls and peanuts in good condition. In Jim Wells County, harvesting of sunflowers and grains continued with poor to fair yields reported. Also in that area, hay was being baled and sorghum stubble harvested for livestock feed. In Maverick County, most of the vegetable crops were being harvested, and there was considerable harvesting of coastal Bermuda grass and sorghum forages. In Zavala County, rain delayed the corn harvest. In Hidalgo County, the grain sorghum and corn harvests continued, and growers were defoliating cotton in early maturing fields. In Starr County, the grain sorghum harvest was nearly completed. In Willacy County, the grain sorghum harvest was also nearly over, and cotton fields were being defoliated.
South Plains: Several counties reported from a trace to 3 inches of rain with no mention of hail. Cotton varied widely in maturity, from pinhead square to peak bloom. Early grain sorghum was heading and flowering, while replanted cotton was just emerging. Where there was little to no rain, cotton producers with irrigation worked hard to keep up with water demands as the crop moved into the bloom stage. Dryland cotton was struggling and needed a good general rain, as did pastures and rangeland. Peanuts were blooming. Pest management consisted mainly of weed control with little insect pressure reported.
Southeast: Many areas received rain. Waller County got from 10 to 12 inches with more expected in the coming week. Burleson County reported scattered showers with a trace to 4 inches accumulation. The harvest of dryland corn started in some areas. Fort Bend County also had heavy rains, which delayed the grain sorghum harvest. Jefferson County got from 2 to 9 inches of rain.
Southwest: Pastures improved with recent rains. The rain slowed the grain and corn harvests. More rain was needed.
West Central: The weather continued to be hot, dry and windy. Soil-moisture levels were very low in most areas. Scattered rains were reported in some counties, with a few receiving significant amounts. Crops and pastures continued to show the effects of heat stress. Dryland cotton and other crops will need a good rain soon if they are to produce decent yields. Rangeland and pasture conditions continued to decline. Grass recovery was slow and weeds were abundant. Pecan growers were spraying orchards.