Despite recent freezes, Texas corn planting and production are looking positive for this year, Texas Cooperative Extension reports.
In the past couple of weeks, two serious freezes have hit the area near the Coastal Bend and up to five in Wharton and Colorado counties.
“It froze down to the ground with some temperatures reaching as low as 19 degrees to 20 degrees around the upper Gulf Coast,” said Dr. Steve Livingston, professor and Extension agronomist in Corpus Christi.
“The corn is recovering from this, however. It normally takes several freezes before corn has to be replanted, and most of the corn is going to make it. If you get several freezes back to back, it depletes the seed and the growing point and will not be able to recover. A few fields were seriously damaged, but this should not have a significant effect on corn production as a whole.”
The next few weeks will determine how well this year's yields turn out.
“Right now, we are under some severe moisture losses, and it has not rained in a considerable time,” said Livingston. “A lot hinges on what happens in the next couple of weeks. If we don't get a rain, the crop is going to grow slowly and not as large.”
The actual yield of corn is determined around the time it is about knee-high, and what happens between now and then will determine the size of the plant. “Warm temperatures and rain right now will get us home-free,” said Livingston.
“If we don't get it, we are going to have a lot of farmers who are going to have to keep the stand that they have, and these plants may not grow as vigorously.
“The thing we are concerned with is the row numbers. When corn is young, it is not using much water, but it will begin to grow very rapidly, which is called the rapid growth stage,” he said. “This is when it uses the most water. If it does not have it, it won't grow right or it won't have the yield potential it would if it had the moisture.
“Good sunshine and a good two-inch soaking rain would really help everyone out right now,” he said.
Although planted acres may be less this year due to the recent freezes, the yields may actually be higher.
If the Gulf Coast loses some of its crops, it would reduce the overall yields in Texas, but that would not be detrimental to the corn industry as a whole, said Livingston.
Planting in other areas of Texas looks promising. Corn-producing acreage is in the Amarillo area, said Dr. Brent Bean, professor and Extension agronomist. “Last year, farmers did not plant as much because gas prices were up, and people were worried about irrigation.
This year, gas prices are down, and people are planting more,” he said.
Natural gas is used to make fertilizer utilized on the farm and is used to fuel engines that pump underground water for irrigating crops.
Because the Amarillo area does not begin planting until April 10, the freezes should not have an impact on production, Bean said.
Corn in the Southwest is also doing well. Cool temperatures and pre-irrigated land are contributing to good stands, said Kenneth White, Uvalde County Extension agent.
Texas ranks 10th in U.S. corn production, with corn yielding approximately 5 percent of Texas' overall agricultural economy.