Summer temperatures are heating up, the Fourth of July holiday looms ahead, early harvest is underway or not that far away, and it's a good time to check on how the crop year is faring across the Southwest.
Regardless where you farm in the region, chances are you have already have made some progress this crop year. But you probably have had your share of challenges as well. Depending on where you farm, spring's transition from spring to the summer season has been on the brutal side for many, temperatures warming up well into the three-digit zone. Forest and field are drying out and in need of rain in most areas, though there have been some beneficial weather in spots all across the Southwest.
It has been a combination of heat units, lots of sunshine, occasional rains and good weed and pest management that have helped Deep South Texas farmers to get off to an early start to the season. In the Lower Rio Grande Valley some grain sorghum is already being harvested, the first bale of cotton in the nation has come in, and corn harvest is getting underway. County agents have described the three county Valley area a 'sea of white' because of the amount of cotton bolls that have opened.
While farmers in South Texas say a little more rain would have been nice, few are complaining with the way most crops are looking at this point in the summer season. In addition to first harvest of sorghum underway, corn is also being harvested with cotton soon to follow. Even potatoes are currently being harvested in South Texas, as have and some watermelon and cantaloupe. Pecans are reported doing well, but almost without exception, everyone seems concerned about the dry weather.
In the Lower Texas Valley, irrigated cotton is doing well and dryland looks good to this point. Pest pressure has been ramping up, especially whiteflies in cotton, and all eyes look to the clouds for needed moisture to finish out the year on non-irrigated fields.
"Cotton has been maturing so quickly, its June and already we have had the first bale harvested. We have so much white cotton in the fields right now just about everywhere you drive. But I am concerned about all the whiteflies we are finding in varing numbers," reported Texas AgriLife integrated pest management specialist Danielle Sekula in Weslaco.
Sekula credits early planning thanks to an early spring as the primary reason the crop season has progressed so quickly. The first certified bale of cotton in the nation was processed at the Harlingen Gin Company on June 6. The seed cotton was picked north of Edcouch-Elsa and weighed in at 1,680 pounds. Wyatt Agri Products operates multiple Texas farming entities in the Valley and Coastal areas of the state. A fitst Bale Contest has long been staged in support of local scholarship fundraiser. The bale will be auctioned off at the fundraiser event scheduled for Sept. 14 in Harlingen.
In the Texas Coastal Bend crops are maturing according to schedule, but many farmers say sorghum, cotton and corn are suffering from the dry, hot summer. Rains have fallen across parts of the Coastal Bend but have been random and spotty. The northern half of the Bend received the most rain in recent weeks, and farmers who were lucky enough to get timely moisture in May and early June say most crops are progressing well in spite of the heat. But as sorghum harvest ramps up this week and next and corn harvesting continues, challenges remain.
For some, pest pressure has been one of those challenges, and it could get worse, especially as sorghum harvest is expected to force the migration of many of these pests into adjacent cotton crops.
"Corn and grain sorghum harvest has begun on the Mid-Coast of Texas. Early yield reports are above average. While many sorghum fields are no longer susceptible to the yield reducing impacts of insects, farmers should not forget late planted fields. Stink bugs and headworms can impact sorghum yield and quality losses until hard dough or when the grain cannot be compressed between the fingers," reports Texas A&M IPM specialist Stephan Biles, who covers Calhoun, Victoria and Refugio Counties. "Sugarcane aphids have been relatively low across the mid-coast this year with less than 30 percent of fields requiring treatment."
Soil moisture continued to decline significantly in the Rolling Plains. Dryland cotton was reported in need of rain, but hay was being baled last week. Wheat harvests has concluded in the Rolling Plains and producers were preparing fields for next year’s crop.
Things are not significantly better in the Southern Plains where record-high temperatures have stressed the cotton crop, which is showing signs of poor stands across large areas. Temps reached 112-degrees at one point last week before the arrival of a cool front that brought some relief with spotty showers. Rain is 'desperately needed, and soon.'
In the central part of the state the Texas Hill Country is reporting fair to good conditions for pecans, and in the western regions of the Hill Country vegetables were doing well around Uvalde. Watermelon and cantaloupe harvest was underway as of last week. For the most part, Central Texas is reporting good pasture conditions with most stock ponds either full or near full. Some areas received beneficial rain over the weekend.
In the Panhandle conditions are hot, dry and windy. Soil moisture is quickly declining in most areas. Deaf Smith County producers were busy harvesting wheat fields and running irrigation on corn and cotton last week. Wheat harvest was reported generally average to a little better than average. Farmers say rain is greatly needed in the next few days in order to bring in a good cotton crop this fall.
Conditions in the eastern half of the state were reported good last week. Adequate moisture in recent weeks has helped some farmers to be optimistic about their cotton and corn. Heavy downpours in areas near the southern Louisiana border have been problematic, but conditions are expected to improve this week. East Texas vegetables are doing well and hay is now being baled again after rains earlier last week.
In Oklahoma, sugarcane aphids have now been found in sorghum in Caddo, Garfield, Jackson, Kiowa, and Payne counties. In all cases, infestations were on one or two plants per field. The number of aphids ranged from 2-5 on one leaf, and detections included a mix of winged adults and small nymphs. There have also been reports of yellow sugarcane aphid, greenbug, and corn leaf aphids as well.
Green chile growers in New Mexico's Hatch Valley are reporting fair soil moisture up until the first week of June, but conditions are drying now as temperatures rise. For many growers in the mid-to-lower Rio Grande Valley River basin, adequate irrigation allotments have kept most crops in good condition. Also of benefit, pest and weed pressure have been well controlled according to New Mexico State University extension agents.