All across Texas farmers are busy working through the late days of August with an eye on planning crop rotations and marketing strategies.
For many grain and cotton farmers, especially in southern and coastal regions of the state, harvest is either behind them already or currently in progress. In the Southern and High Plains, some grain sorghum is drying down and cotton is just a few weeks behind.
Thanks to substantial downpours over the last several days, isolated areas of the Texas Blacklands received as much as 10 inches of rain Monday night (Aug 14, 2017). Thunderstorms and shower activity was widespread across the state. Abilene picked up 3 inches of rain; other parts of Callahan County received 5 inches. In Granbury, winds of 53 mph were recorded, and about 12,000 homes and a number of businesses in Tarrant and Parker Counties were still without power Tuesday afternoon.
Unsettled weather across the northern half of Texas kicked off over the weekend when a high pressure system, which usually parks over the state for most of August, moved slowly to the east and allowed a weak cool front to roll into the state from the northwest. By Saturday night, heavy rain and winds near 71 mph were reported in parts of the Panhandle just north of Amarillo causing some damage to crops. Late Sunday, rains had reached Northeast Texas and eventually far East Texas bringing nearly 7 inches of rain to Tyler and the Longview area.
Juan Hernandez at the National Weather Service office in Fort Worth forecasts more rain for parts of the state by the weekend. Thanks to unstable air aloft and an influx of tropical moisture, cooler days should follow, along with an increasing chance of rain, as much as 3 to 4 inches in the next few days for the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.
As reported last week, early cotton harvest estimates in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and along the Coastal Bend of Texas indicate promising yields, many fields bringing in high quality cotton. Cotton harvesting is now underway along the mid-to-upper coast region, which was also hit hard by thunderstorms and downpours earlier this week. Wet fields have slowed or halted harvest operations as of Tuesday.
CURRENT CROP UPDATE
According to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, as of Monday, aphid numbers in the Southern High Plains were elevated in areas that were previously treated for cotton fleahoppers. There were signs of cotton root rot in some areas of the Blacklands. Cotton harvest is expected to resume in parts of the Upper Coast region once fields begin to dry, possibly later this week.
Meanwhile, USDA-NASS reports vegetable harvest has slowed down in North East Texas. Some areas of South East Texas reported fungus problems in fruit trees last week with more concerns voiced following heavy rains earlier this week. Pecan trees in the Southern High Plains were shedding and operators were applying pesticides to control weevils.
Cattle conditions in areas of South Texas have declined. Producers continued providing supplemental feed for livestock. Range and pasture condition varied across the state. Some areas benefited greatly from the recent rains and increase in soil moisture. However, pastures in South Texas and areas of the Trans-Pecos were still dry and continued to decline in forage quality. Feral hogs continued to be a problem for corn growers in North East Texas.
For home gardens and family vegetable gardens on commercial farms, Jane Sloane, Ellis County Master Gardener, says August can be a challenging month for growing vegetables in Texas. Usual dry conditions and temperatures that can hover above the century mark stress many vegetable plants. Depending on your soil type and condition, plants can survive the hot weather, provided they receive adequate water.
Tomato plants that are still alive and healthy will go semi-dormant during the peak of high summer temperatures, but when the weather begins to cool, the plants should once again bloom and provide another crop. Sloane says peppers from your spring garden will also go semi-dormant during high heat months, but will produce a lot of blooms in the fall and will probably give you a better yield than you experienced in the spring.