South Texas grain, cotton delayed by heavy rains

Nueces County grain sorghum farmers typically have completed grain harvest by now and turned their attention to managing cotton.

This year, they have at least half the crop left to cut and face daunting conditions to get combines in the field.

Rice wheels on four-wheel drive combines, tracked tractors pulling wide-tired grain buggies and fields ripped and rutted by heavy equipment moving through soggy conditions limit how rapidly growers can harvest grain sorghum.

“I’ve counted 132 fields of grain sorghum in the county,” says County Extension agent Harvey Buehring. “About 77 have been cut and 55 have not. Farmers tell me they have from 40 percent to 60 percent of the crop harvested.”

Some farmers have finished harvest; others have as little as 25 percent in the bin. Buehring says the crop, despite near record rainfall in June and July, will produce above average yields. “Even with these setbacks, we have a decent sorghum crop.”

He said early on growers were looking at a lot of fields with 5,000 to 6,000 pounds per acre yield potential. “We consider a 4200 pound average a good crop,” he says, “so some growers may lose as much as 1,000 pounds from the early potential and still beat the average.”

He said grain farmers are dealing with limited storage options. “Many local elevators are at capacity and trucks have been hard to find.”

Buehring downgraded cotton crop conditions from mid- to late-July. “I have dropped excellent condition from 45 percent down to 30 percent,” he says. The good range moves from 50 percent to 55 percent. And only 15 percent of the crop is rated fair to poor.

“We still have potential for making an above average cotton crop,” Buehring says. “A lot of low spots have yellowed and some fields have started to open and following rainfall those are stained and water soaked.”

He says cotton harvest will be delayed three weeks or more. “We typically harvest our first bale by July 15 and will be in full swing by July 23.”

He says the crop is nowhere near ready.

“We had a late start and a cool spring. We didn’t get enough heat units early and may not see much cotton stripped before August 15. We need a lot more hot weather.”

He says boll rot may be a bigger problem than usual. “We don’t have much of a bottom crop,” he says. “A lot of rain caused a lot of boll shed. Not much cotton was set the last few weeks.”

Buehring says as harvest date gets closer growers will watch the Gulf of Mexico and may hurry to apply harvest aid materials ahead of any tropical storm that could damage the crop even more.

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