Texas Crop, Weather: Topsoil Moisture Is Blowing In The Wind

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COLLEGE STATION – With high winds and little or no rain, topsoils were drying out quickly throughout the state and stressing forages and other crops, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

In most areas, the situation was reported as being troubling but not yet critical. Wheat was heading out, and thanks to earlier wet weather promised good yields in most areas.

In Southwest Texas, cumulative rainfall totals for the last month were down about 40 percent, but wheat farmers were expecting to make a good wheat crop for the first time in five years.

Where they had irrigation in place, farmers were watering crops heavily. According to reports from AgriLife Extension agents, the situation was becoming more critical in East Texas, with its sandy soils that quickly dry out.

Randy Reeves, AgriLife Extension agent in Harrison County, northeast of Longview, said people are becoming concerned as the area is already 6 to 8 inches below normal rainfall accumulation for the year.

"One dead giveaway that we can tell it's real dry without just looking - - and I think any county agent can testify to this - - is normally this time of year we're covered up with vegetable disease problems," Reeves said. "And the fact is that it's so dry, we're just not seeing them."

Of bigger concern in East Texas, which is cow/calf county, is that Bermuda grass pastures are burning up.

The first cutting of warm-season hay is usually the last week of May, first week of June, but it's unlikely to happen this year, Reeves said.

"We'll get it (eventually), but it's gong to be late. A lot is going to depend upon what happens later this week and this coming weekend. If we don't get a rain soon, it's really going to set us back," he said.

Forecasters are predicting 15-25 mph winds for the rest of the week, with a chance of rain later, Reeves said.

"We need it bad," he said. "The wind definitely does not help."

The following summaries were compiled by AgriLife Extension district reporters:

CENTRAL: High winds rapidly depleted topsoil moisture. Small grains began to turn color, which indicates harvest will likely start the last of May. However, many crops showed signs of moisture stress. Oats were looking good and should yield much better than average. Warm-season grasses needed higher temperatures and more rain for growth. Some producers fertilized pastures but the lack of rain has prevented any grass growth. Calf weights were above average for this time of year.

COASTAL BEND: Most row crops under irrigation were being watered. Warm, windy weather dried topsoils, but soil moisture was still adequate at 2-3 feet deep. Rain was needed. Farmers continued to apply fertilizer and cultivate crops. Livestock were in good condition.

EAST: The region needs a good rain. Soils continued to dry out quickly under the constantly windy conditions. AgriLife Extension agents reported many producers were concerned the region will have another dry summer. Producers cut ryegrass and clover for hay, but with the lack of moisture and low nighttime temperatures, Bermuda grass was slow to grow. Producers fertilized hay fields hoping for rain. Livestock were in good condition. Feral hogs continued to be a problem.

FAR WEST: Days were hot with high winds and no precipitation. Soil-moisture levels were dropping and young rangeland plants were severely wilting. Most wheat and oats were harvested for hay. Farmers were irrigating fields to maintain subsurface moisture in preparation for cotton planting. Some farmers put cotton in dry, planning to irrigate it later. Cover crops were plowed under in preparation for other plantings. Growers were planting chile peppers, beginning to harvest onions and baling alfalfa.

NORTH: Soil-moisture levels were adequate. Crops progressed but remained behind normal after late planting due to wet weather. What corn that got planted was in fair to good condition. Because of the rain, only about 30 percent of normal wheat acreage was planted. That wheat looked good, but it was also behind schedule. All wheat should be headed out by now, but only 50 percent was. This means harvest will be later this year, but it still has good yield potential. Growers were planting cotton, and oats were being harvested. Soybeans and sorghum were in fair to good condition. Peaches and strawberries looked good. Planting of summer annuals was under way, and ranchers began to cut and bale ryegrass. Warm-season gasses were progressing well with the recent rains. The weather was clearer, but the nights remained cooler than normal which has slowed pasture growth. However, pastures were looking good, which was fortunate for livestock producers as hay stocks were nearly depleted. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Insect populations were increasing, and feral hogs remained a major problem.

PANHANDLE: Topsoils dried out because of lack of rain and strong winds. Growers started to cut some wheat for hay. Dryland wheat needed moisture, and some irrigated wheat showed signs of disease, but most wheat was in fair to good condition. Corn was 65 percent to 100 percent planted and about 50 percent emerged. Producers started planting sorghum, cotton, peanuts and silage. Rangeland grasses were emerged and growing, providing good grazing for cattle.

ROLLING PLAINS: The rain stopped for awhile, and the wind picked up with a vengeance, drying out the top couple of inches of soil. However, deeper moisture remained. Producers planting sudan or cotton were hoping there was enough moisture in the top 2 inches to germinate the crops and get suitable stands. Some farmers were replanting grain sorghum where it had been washed out by earlier rains. Wheat continued to mature, but yields were not thought to be as good as earlier expected due to excess moisture and cool conditions while the crop was in the dough stage. Farmers were plowing to try to stop the sand from blowing and re-listing fields that were washed out after the heavy rains. Ranchers have been enjoying the moisture as pastures were greening up and were in good to excellent condition. Peanut producers were busy planting. Many producers have cut their wheat and alfalfa and started baling hay. Stocker cattle inventories were dropping as ranchers pulled them off grazing and started shipping. Cows were calving. Horn flies were becoming an issue.

SOUTH: The region did not receive any rain. Warm temperatures promoted good grass growth in rangeland and pastures. Some field crops were doing well, but dryland corn was stressed due to the hot weather and no rain. Soil moisture levels ranged from 45 to 100 percent adequate in all counties except for Zavala County where they were at 100 percent short. Producers in the northern part of the region began irrigating corn and sorghum. Producers expected to harvest wheat and oats in that area in the next couple of weeks. The potato harvest continued in the northern counties as well. In the eastern part of the district, crops were in good condition, hay grazer was growing well, grain growth was outstanding and cotton was improving. In the western part of the region, warm to hot days gave cotton a big growth boost. The warm weather was also favorable for wheat and oats that had matured but needed to dry down before harvesting. Also in that area, corn and sorghum crops were doing very well with little to no insect pressure. Onion growers began harvesting. The cabbage harvesting was ongoing. In the southern part of the region, spring vegetable crops were doing well. Hay producers were cutting and baling. Livestock were in fair to good condition, and supplemental feeding was at a minimum. There was some concern of stock tank water levels dropping because of high evaporation rates as temperatures reached 100-102 degrees.

SOUTH PLAINS: Weather was mixed; cool at the beginning of the reporting period and warming towards the end. Temperatures ranged from 60 to nearly 100 degrees during the days and 40 to 65 degrees at night. Soil moisture was adequate. Corn planting was in full swing. Some producers began planting cotton but stopped due to the cool weather. They also began planting peanuts, sunflowers and sorghum. Winter wheat was in fair to good condition and headed out. Pastures and rangeland were in fair to good condition. Livestock were also in good condition.

SOUTHWEST: Year-to-date cumulative rainfall was just below the long-term average, but cumulative rainfall since mid-March was down about 40 percent. Additionally, hot dry winds were aggravating the dry spell, and farmers had to begin to irrigate heavily. Irrigated fields were making excellent progress, though. Dryland crops continued to make good progress, but more rain was needed very soon if they are to produce decent yields. Wheat was drying down, and the harvest was expected to start soon. Producers were expecting a bumper crop after five years of very little production. Forage availability was above average, but pastures and ranges need more rain to produce an average spring forage crop. The spring onion harvest was gaining momentum. The cabbage and broccoli harvests were ongoing. Potatoes made excellent progress. Growers were planing to start planting peanuts soon.

WEST CENTRAL: High winds accompanied warmer weather. Soil-moisture levels were still good in most areas, but most crops could use a rain. Producers were planting cotton into irrigated fields, and dryland producers were expected to begin planting in a couple of weeks. Preparations for cotton, sorghum and hay crops were ongoing. Small-grain crops were generally in very good condition and above-average yields were expected. Hay producers were cutting and baling some small-grain crops. Farmers were applying fertilizer on improved grasses. Livestock were in good to excellent condition. Grazing on rangeland and pastures conditions continued to improve. Pecan growers began spraying and irrigating in orchards.

Source: AgriLife Communications, Texas A&M University



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