High Plains comeback coming too late?

Most areas of the Texas High Plains region received substantial rainfall, but severe weather as well during the month of May and June, said Randy Boman, Extension agronomist in Lubbock.

"Upwards of a million acres of cotton were destroyed and not replanted," Boman said. At least a few hundred thousand acres of cotton in this area were replanted late due to wet planting conditions. "In the High Plains, cotton is usually planted from April 20 to June 25," he said.

The stands that were not completely destroyed by blowing sand and wind are developing very slowly, he said. A substantial amount of acreage is just now beginning to bloom. Some fields may not begin to bloom until the first or second week of August, Boman said.

"Once we hit Aug. 20 in Lubbock, it's hard to get a boll to mature before the season runs out," Boman said. "Normally harvest is in full swing on Oct. 20. This year, harvest may not begin for some of the late planted fields until November."

Yield potential begins to decline rapidly after June 1 in northern counties and after June 10 in the southern region of the High Plains, he said.

A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture compared the rate of development of irrigated cotton planted in May and June. Although the June-planted crop came up to a stand faster and started squaring and blooming in a fewer number of days, it was unable to catch up with May planting in terms of boll development.

"In Lubbock, blooms occurring after Aug. 15 have a low probability of producing mature bolls. In fact, a bloom occurring on Aug. 30 will develop into a mature boll only 14 percent of the time," Boman said.

"The cotton looks good: if only it were June. As of July 13, only 54 percent of Texas' fields were squaring compared to 76 percent last year at this time," Boman said.

However, pests have not caused as much damage to cotton this year as they have in the past.

Insect activity continues to be light although there have been slight increases of several bugs including fleahoppers and Lygus bugs, said James F. Leser, Extension entomologist in Lubbock. This is because of the rainfall in June, which stimulated weed growth for these bugs to inhabit.

Some bollworms have infested fields in the Southern Blacklands and Coastal Bend area of Texas, Leser said.

"So far, budworm numbers are low in the High Plains. Control in South Texas has been good except where rain and dense plant canopies have confounded control," he said.

"We have been seeing very good growth in the last 10 days thanks to the hot temperatures," Boman said. "Many of the damaged fields are recovering. Some fields, however, are beginning to wilt. We are going to need some more rainfall to keep these late crops on track."

Bob Robinson, district Extension director in Amarillo, said the recent dry, hot weather has been very good for the cotton crop in the Panhandle. Most fields are squaring, but the rate is considerably lower than in recent years, he said.

Rain came at a bad time for cotton growers in South Texas according to Terry Lockamy, district Extension director in Weslaco. Virtually all fields have open cotton and many fields need to be defoliated soon, he said.

The following specific livestock, crop and weather conditions were reported by district Extension directors:

PANHANDLE: soil moisture short to very short. Most corn fields are silking and tasseling. Corn is rated fair to good. Sorghum is also rated fair to good. A few greenbug colonies have been reported. Peanuts are rated mostly good to excellent with no pest problems. Range grasses have begun to wilt because of the dry conditions the past two weeks. Rangeland conditions are rated poor to good with most areas reporting fair. Cattle are in good condition but continue to have problems with horn flies and mosquitoes.

SOUTH PLAINS: soil moisture short to adequate. Very hot, dry conditions during the week. All crops are in need of moisture. Pastures are in fair condition but need moisture. Corn is in good condition with heavy irrigating continuing. Peanuts are pegging and are in good condition. Sorghum and sunflower planting is near completion.

ROLLING PLAINS: soil moisture short. Temperatures were well above 100 this past week. Field work has slowed in most areas due to hot, dry field conditions. Fleahoppers were sprayed in some cotton fields last week. Hay grazer is being cut and baled for hay. Most crops and pastures are in fair to good shape, but need rainfall to improve.

NORTH TEXAS: soil moisture very short to adequate. High temperatures are causing soil to dry out quickly. Corn and cotton are rated fair to good. Oat and wheat harvest has come to a close. Sorghum, soybeans and sunflower planting is finished. Corn silage is being harvested with yields being reported at 12-15 tons per acre. Hay harvest continues although forage growth has slowed.

EAST TEXAS: soil moisture adequate. High humidity and temperatures all last week. Pastures declining in areas lacking rainfall. Hay production is steady and producing normal yields. Cattle conditions are good although markets are somewhat weaker. Watermelon harvest continues.

FAR WEST TEXAS: soil moisture very short to adequate. Three counties are reporting cotton and sorghum planting is complete. Watermelons are 50 percent harvested and chip potatoes are 100 percent harvested. El Paso County reported alfalfa is in the third cut stage. Val Verde County reported Hurricane Claudette passed through Del Rio earlier this week with 55 mph winds. Most of the county received one to two inches of rain. Some areas received four inches in isolated spots. Supplemental feeding of cattle continues.

WEST CENTRAL TEXAS: soil moisture short. Few scattered showers have been reported. Most counties have been very hot and dry. Soil moisture is depleting rapidly. Cotton crop is progressing well. Sorghum is looking good, but in need of rainfall. Haying continues in improved pastures and grazer fields. Land preparation for fall planting is still under way in some areas. No insect problems have been reported at this time. Pastures are burning up quickly and summer grasses are in need of more rain. Stock tanks are beginning to dry out. Livestock conditions continue to be good.

CENTRAL TEXAS: soil moisture short. Hay yields are lower than normal. Both sorghum and corn are drying down rapidly in the hot weather. Cotton is blooming and setting bolls. Cattle performance is decreasing due to heat. Milk production is also dropping due to heat.

SOUTHEAST TEXAS: soil moisture adequate to surplus. Fort Bend County received two to six inches of rain. Hurricane Claudette did some damage to corn and grain sorghum harvest, which had just begun. Galveston County reports high winds and heavy rains from Claudette causing crop damage, but the extent of damage is not yet known. Head-rotting of mature grain sorghum is expected due to the high moisture recorded this summer. Harris County reported rains from Claudette pushed soil moisture from adequate to surplus in some areas. Sorghum that was ready for harvest is now delayed. Corn is maturing and looking better than it did last month. Hay fields are receiving high insect damage in some counties.

SOUTHWEST TEXAS: soil moisture adequate. Forage availability is slightly above average for mid-July. Corn and sorghum harvest is gradually gaining momentum. Cotton and peanuts gained full advantage of recent rains and continue to make excellent progress. Pecans have set a good crop and are making good progress. Watermelon and cantaloupe harvest has peaked and is beginning to wind down.

COASTAL BEND: soil moisture adequate to surplus. Hurricane Claudette made landfall causing damage to crops, flooding range and crop land and causing wind damage. Rainfall also delayed harvest in areas where fields were too wet to enter. Drought-stricken plants could not survive 75 mph winds. Corn and milo harvest continues in areas where producers can get into fields. Rice remains in good condition. Pecan crop has nut loss due to heavy rain and wind. Pastures and hay are in good condition.

SOUTH TEXAS: soil moisture adequate. Conditions continue to be mild. Scattered showers throughout the district. Sorghum and corn harvesting halted due to rain. Range conditions continue to improve in areas of rainfall.

Ellen Klostermann is a writer for the Texas Agricultural Extension Service.

e-mail: [email protected]

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