Texas crop, weather: Rains green things up, but too late for small grains

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COLLEGE STATION — Rain came to many parts of the state, giving some relief to drought-stricken crops and pastures, and — temporarily at least — alleviating the danger of wildfire.

The consensus among Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel and farmers located where rain was received was that it came too late to save small-grain crops, and more rain will be needed soon for any substantial improvement in pasture and hay land.

Parts of Central Texas received from a trace to 4 inches of rain on May 13. About 1 inch was more common, as was received at Davidson Brothers Farms, just east of Georgetown. The Davidson Brothers, Dennis and Buster, and son Dustin, raise stocker cattle and grow hay, as well as some corn and cotton.

“Our biggest rain since January was yesterday at about eight-tenths,” Dennis said. “We had 8 inches of rain in a two-day period in September, which was enough moisture to get our oats up for grazing. But we didn’t have another good rain until Christmas Eve.”

Then there were small rains near the end of January, which they have “been pretty much living on” until the recent 0.9 inch rain, he said.

“Corn: It’s deceiving if you look at it. It’s green, and if you don’t know much about farming, you’ll think it’s alright,” Dennis said. “But if you look at it right now, it’s starting to tassle and it’s not even waist high, so that’s not going to make any grain. I don’t even think it’ll put an ear out.”

Dennis said they’ll probably either bale or ensile their corn. But because it won’t likely make any grain, the silage will not be of any quality, and will mainly be a filler-feed.

Local wheat was in similar condition, said Jared Ripple, AgriLife Extension integrated pest management agent for Williamson County. The crop may look good and golden from the road, but plants are stunted and stands thin. The crop is apparently making grain, but yields will be well below 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:

Central: Most counties received rain, but it was too late for some crops. Cotton farmers began planting. Most winter wheat and oats played out for grazing, and summer grasses made slow progress.

Coastal Bend: The region received from 1 inch to 3 inches of rain on May 12. Although this was a great relief for producers, more was needed to combat the extremely dry conditions in pastures and to give crops needed moisture.

East: Some counties received as much as 3 inches of rain while others remained dry. Tyler County reported nearly 4 inches of rain, which helped relieve dry conditions, but much more was needed. Burn bans remained in effect for most of the region. Producers continued to reduce the size of their herds. Producers in some areas fertilized pastures just before the rains. However, more moisture will be needed before a good cutting of hay can be taken. Hay fields and pastures made little progress. Livestock were in fair to good condition with some supplemental feeding still being done. Feral hog activity remained a problem.

Far West: Parts of the region received from 0.1 to 0.3 inch of rain. Burn bans remained in effect. Fires were still burning in Brewster and Pecos counties. Pecan trees were in full bloom. Fall-planted onions were bulbing. Cotton farmers began planting in some irrigated fields, but reports were that it was not going well. The region remained in dire need of a good rain.

North: Soil moisture was mostly in the adequate range with only a couple areas reporting shortages. After a terrible March, rain put things in much better shape. Corn, grain sorghum, soybeans, pastures and hay land all benefited. Sunflowers were planted, and cotton planting was in progress. Rice was in very poor condition. The rain came a little too late to help small grains such as wheat and oats, and reports were that wheat was beyond repair. Some areas reported damage from high winds and hail. Wheat suffered quite a bit of storm damage in some areas. Also, wind and rain have hampered spraying operations for the past six weeks. Some farmers and ranchers began cutting and baling early season hay, and many were able to get the hay rolled before last week’s rains. Overall, hay production remained slow, and some livestock producers were still feeding hay. Peaches looked good.

Panhandle: A few counties got from a trace to slightly more than 1 inch of rain. In some areas, there was only enough rain to settle the dust, and the storms also brought high winds and above-average temperatures. High wildfire danger was ongoing. Irrigators were actively watering, trying to keep up with crop-water demands. High winds made it difficult for producers to irrigate newly planted crops. Cotton and peanut planting was in progress. Rangeland was mostly in very poor condition. Cattle were reported to be in good to fair condition with continued supplemental feeding. There were reports of wheat-streak mosaic in some irrigated wheat.

Rolling Plains: A few counties in the eastern part of the district received from 0.75 inch to 4 inches of rain. The rest of the region remained dry, windy and under extremely high wildfire danger. Wildfires raged in King and Dickens counties on May 14 -15 and into the early week. Preliminary estimates were that more than 75,000 acres were lost. The wheat harvest was under way, with below-normal yields. Where possible, producers were still irrigating wheat to try to get it to fill out grain heads. Cotton producers were planting on irrigated acres, and some of the crop was already emerging. Dryland cotton farmers were waiting on rain to plant. Pastures were in poor condition, and hay supplies were short. Some producers were considering selling more cows because of the lack of grass and cost of hay. Stock-water tanks and lakes were very low. In Parker County, most of the pecan crop looked good. Growers began spraying for pecan-nut case bearer.

South: The region received from 1 inch to as much as 2.5 inches of rain, which was welcome but not enough to substantially improve rangeland and pastures. Producers hoped to see some improvement to those crops that have shown a slight chance of survival and fair to good yield potential. Livestock producers were glad to see heavy runoff make its way into creeks, gullies and tanks. The wheat and potato harvests were very active. In Frio County, corn was at the silk stage, cotton at the squaring stage and sorghum heading. In Zavala County, cotton and corn farmers were glad to not have to irrigate their crops this past week due to the rain. However, onion and cabbage producers were not so pleased about having to put harvesting on hold until fields dried out. The southern part of the region continued to experience drought conditions.

South Plains: During most of the last week, the region had low humidity and high winds, with gusts of around 40 mph. Scattered light rains — from a trace to 0.2 inches — fell in most areas, with a few isolated areas receiving as much as 1 inch. Temperatures ranged from lows in the 40s to highs in the 90s. Some producers were planting on irrigated acres, but most were waiting as late as possible to begin planting in hopes of rain. Most counties were still under burn bans as the danger of wildfire remained extremely high. Field conditions were so dry that it was common to damage tillage equipment during field preparations. Rangeland and pastures were also dry and needed rain for new growth. About 80 percent of the winter wheat crop was declared a loss. Corn appears to be somewhat affected by the cool nights, and cotton that was already planted had yet to emerge. Some of the non-emerged cotton was planted two weeks ago. Stock-water depletion was becoming an issue.

Southeast: Most of the region received from a trace to nearly 1 inch of rain. Tanks and ponds collected much-needed water. It was Brazoria County’s first rain since January, and it measured from 0.4 to 0.9 inch for most of the county. Hay supplies remained short. Pastures continued to deteriorate as did the condition of cattle. Rice was in fair condition. No rice was under permanent flood at this point but farmers expected to flood fields soon. Grain sorghum and soybeans were in fair condition.

Southwest: Parts of the region received rain, from a trace to as much as 4 inches in a few areas, but overall the region remained very dry. The storms that brought the rain also lowered daytime temperatures and reduced the risk of wildfire, but without more rain the region will soon have high risks of wildfire again. Irrigated corn, sorghum, peanuts, sunflowers, cotton, pecan, grape, peach, sod and landscape nursery crops made good progress, but water-pumping costs were high. The cabbage and lettuce harvests wound down. The onion, potato, and sweet corn harvests were well under way. Growers had to frequently apply fungicide treatments to cantaloupes and watermelons to control foliar diseases. Green beans, tomatoes and squash also made good progress. Pastures and rangeland that received rain were expected to green up, but there was little moisture deep in the soil profile. Forage availability remained below average and livestock that had not already been sold off still required supplemental feeding. Large numbers of white-tailed and axis deer browsing highway roadsides at night posed serious hazards for motorists.

West Central: Much of the district received light rains. A few areas received as much as 4 inches. In some areas, the rain came hard and fast enough to provide some much needed runoff to critically low stock tanks. Soils were so dry that they seemed to suck up what didn’t run off. Rangeland, pasture and wildlife were not doing well. There were reports of wildlife foraging for food in towns. Summer annuals and pastures will benefit from the rains. However, the rain probably came too late to save small-grain crops. What little there was to harvest will be ready in a week or two. Producers were planting cotton, grain sorghum and hay crops.


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