Mostly dry, clear weather aids cotton harvest

With few exceptions, much of the state continued to dry out after the drenchings received by Hurricane Ike and other storm systems a few weeks ago, according to reports from Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

Evenings cooled and days remained warm, but generally not warm enough for cotton and sorghum producers in some areas. In others, rain came too late to save cotton. Though drying out, topsoil moisture was generally adequate to help winter wheat and promote additional planting.

"Deaf Smith County producers have had a fairly productive week with warm and sunny days with cool nights. No moisture in the forecast has made for a productive week," said Rick Auckerman, AgriLife Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources in the Panhandle county. "Cotton is in need of some heat units with many fields not close to maturity. Grain sorghum maturity is all over the board, and some fields just now blooming. These will make great cow feed."

"Most of the milo and cotton needs more hot days to mature," said Burt Williams, AgriLife Extension agent in Hansford County , north of Amarillo.

"Insurance companies and cotton producers are surveying the Hardeman County cotton crop to see if it is worth harvesting," said Steven Sparkman, AgriLife Extension agent for the Rolling Plains county. "Several producers have already been given permission to destroy the '08 crop because of little or no yield potential. Wheat planting is under way despite the fleeting moisture. Most producers remember that three of the last four years timely fall moisture has been hard to come by."

"We are in need of rain; topsoil moisture is drying out,”said Clint Perkins, AgriLife Extension agent for Wood County in East Texas. "Armyworm pressure is high, but not many producers are spraying to control them."

The following summaries were compiled by AgriLife Extension district reporters this week:

CENTRAL: Area conditions remained dry, and topsoils were quickly drying out. Cotton yields were low but exceeded expectations somewhat. Lack of moisture impeded planting of wheat and oats. Stock water tanks were still low.

COASTAL BEND: Dry conditions continued to worsen throughout the district. No rainfall and near-to-above-normal temperatures were beginning to stress forage and fall corn. Open fields were being cleaned and prepared for 2009 crops.

EAST: Due to the lack of rain, soil moisture was low and delayed winter forage planting. Many producers continued to bale hay. Armyworms remained a problem in many counties.

FAR WEST: The region experienced cooler days and nights. Sorghum was maturing. Cotton farmers were worried about an early freeze, as the cotton needs more heat units to mature. Wheat was looking good. Some alfalfa producers were plowing and replanting fields to maximize their hay production because of an expected shortage of winter hay supplies. The melon and onion harvests were completed. Rio Grande flood waters were receding but still high.

NORTH: Soil moisture was adequate in some counties, but short in others as there has been no rain since Hurricane Ike. The planting of winter annuals slowed where soil moisture was low. Pasture conditions were good, and there was hay of fairly good quality. Livestock were in good condition. Sunflowers were being harvested. The corn harvest was completed, and the soybean and sorghum harvests were nearly complete. Cotton was in good shape with about 30 percent to 50 percent harvested and bolls opening on the rest. Winter wheat and oats were being planted. Warm-season grass growth slowed down with cooler nighttime temperatures. Feral hog activity was on the increase again. Armyworms continued to plague some pastures, particularly fertilized hay meadows. Sweet potato growers were reporting problems with field rats and mice damaging the crop before harvest.

PANHANDLE: Temperatures were slightly above normal. Soil moisture varied from surplus to very short with most areas reporting short to adequate. Corn was rated mostly fair to good with the harvest beginning in some counties. Warmer conditions were still needed to mature much of the cotton crop. Sorghum was mostly fair, but as with cotton, harvesting was limited as the crop needs more warm days to mature. Soybeans were rated good. Wheat was emerging and ratings varied from fair to excellent with most areas reporting fair. Range and pastures varied from very poor to good with most areas reporting good. Livestock were in good condition.

ROLLING PLAINS: A severe infestation of fall armyworms invaded most of the region's 24 counties. The pests caused widespread damage to hay meadows, pastures and home lawns. Fly populations remained high in areas where control measures were not implemented. Evenings have been cool, but daytime temperatures were often in the 90s. Rain in some areas will help winter wheat to emerge, and in other areas will allow further wheat planting. The rain, however, delayed cotton harvest. In Haskell County, producers were thrashing peanuts. Wild hogs were a concern while digging the peanut crop. Livestock were in good condition in all counties.

SOUTH: The weather has been hot and dry. Pasture and range conditions were deteriorating due to lack of soil moisture. Livestock were in good condition with minimal supplemental feeding. Onion harvesting began in some areas, and producers were preparing fields for onion planting in other areas. Peanut harvest began. Spinach planting was active. Cotton gins were also busy throughout the area.

SOUTH PLAINS: The region experienced another week of warm, open fall weather throughout, which was followed by a weekend of rain showers. Soil moisture was short to adequate. Cotton was in fair to good condition. A few cotton fields were defoliated, and harvest should begin soon for some fields. However, much of the cotton crop needed more time for bolls to open. Later-planted sorghum fields continued to mature. Yields of earlier-planted sorghum varied widely. Winter wheat planting continued. Corn harvest neared completion with average yields reported. Pumpkin harvest was in full swing. Peanuts were being dug, and combining should start next week. Pastures and ranges were in fair to good condition. Cattle were in good shape with little to no supplemental feeding.

SOUTHEAST: Removal of trees and repair of fences damaged by Hurricane Ike continued. Some hay fields have been cut, and the dry weather encouraged curing.

SOUTHWEST: After excellent rains during August, the region has remained very dry in September-October. Rain in September was less than 20 percent of the long-term average. The forage situation improved with the rain in August, but pastures and ranges were showing stress again. Fall crops were making good progress under heavy irrigation. The peanut harvest gained momentum. The cotton harvest was nearly complete, but about 30 percent of the cotton remained in field-stored modules. The fall cabbage harvest gained momentum. Spinach planting was under way.

WEST CENTRAL: Weather conditions remained constant with hot days and cool nights. Producers increased field activities, including plowing and planting. Producers began harvesting cotton in a few counties. Armyworms infested small grain fields. Range and pasture conditions were extremely poor as soils dried up. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Stock tank levels continued to drop. Pecans were beginning to fill, but light yields are expected.

TAGS: Cotton
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