Each step farmer Malcolm Williams took into his pasture announced the presence of water and soft, saturated topsoil. He left his flatbed truck at the gate knowing it wouldn’t make it far without damaging the knee-high grass or getting stuck.
There was standing water on three of Williams’ pastures he typically uses for hay production. Williams doesn’t expect to be able to access the pastures any time soon, so he’s moved cattle on them for grazing.
“It’s too wet to fertilize and it’s too wet to cut for the producers that were able to fertilize,” he said. “Whenever you think you might have a window to work with, it rains.”
Spring storms have created a dilemma for crop and forage producers who can’t access their fields to tend to pests and weeds or find a window of time to cut, cure and bale forage. Some fields in east and southeastern Texas have been drowned out or washed away and likely won’t be replanted, according to various producer and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension reports.
Producers are doing what they can to work around the soggy conditions.
A helicopter applied treatments to an 85-acre corn field west of Tyler late last week because the producer could not access the field with equipment. One producer risked forecasts of late weekend rain to cut a coastal Bermuda grass meadow. The gamble worked out.
Chad Gulley, AgriLife Extension agent in Smith County, said producers around the area are in an awkward spot.
Some fields have hip-high cool-season grasses that need cutting to allow warm-season grasses to emerge, Gulley said. Cool-season and warm-season weeds are converging on fields that have been stunted by cooler temperatures or taller growth.
But wet fields won’t allow them in fields to address the various situations without risking damage to equipment or fields, he said.
“I had one vegetable producer who told me they were just able to get back into their fields and it started raining again,” Gulley said. “There are a lot of hay producers who want to get into their fields but were worried about there being enough time for it to cure before the next rain.”
Gulley said some producers have put off cuttings because of the forecast only to see a window of opportunity pass by.
“Some producers are getting to the point where they might take their chances to get hay in,” he said. “They say they’re going to cut and hope for the best.”