Texas crop and weather

Wet though cool weather improved range and pasture conditions across the state, but some crops took a hit from last week's freeze, report Texas Cooperative Extension agents and specialists.

Wheat and grapes took the biggest hits. Damage varied from county to county in the West Central, Rolling Plains, North, West Central and Central regions, Extension experts report.

"In Concho, McCulloch, and Mason counties the wheat that was pollinating was impacted the most – with a range of 25 to 50 percent impacted," said Dr. Billy Warrick, Extension agronomist based in West Central Texas. "The later-developing heads will need time and environment to produce full test weight grain. The younger wheat that had not headed yet looked good."

In Jones County, less than 10 percent of the crop was damaged, while San Saba and Gillespie counties appeared to have dodged the bullet completely, Warrick said.

In other areas, the assessment of damage to the wheat crop is ongoing.

"Glasscock, Reagan and Upton counties had the most damage. Wheat that was pollinating was injured in a number of samples evaluated. Younger wheat overall looked good," he said.

Grapes, both for wine production and the table, did not fare so well either in many parts of the state.

" It was a white Easter," said Jeff Wyatt, Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources in Dawson County. "Ten percent of all varieties of grapes were destroyed. Vine loss estimates are still pending."

"The Saturday before Easter was not kind to Pecos County growers," said Jed Elrod, Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources in Pecos County. "Wheat was the least of producer's worries as the wine grape crop was completely frozen out this year for a reported 100 percent loss."

Despite 4 to 5 inches of snow and near freezing weather, grapes and fruit in the Hill Country appeared to have escaped damage, said Dr. Forrest Mitchell, a Texas Agricultural Experiment Station entomologist, Stephenville.

"We got the most snow I've ever seen in this part of the country," he said. "Temperatures dropped briefly to 30 degrees (F), then climbed back up again."

The snow , which accumulated briefly on vines, may have insulated grapes and other fruit crops.

"I talked to the owner of a peach orchard briefly a week after the freeze," Mitchell said. "If anything is going be freeze-damaged, it's going to be peaches, but his crop was fine. As best as we can tell, we got away."

Here are reports from Extension districts around the state:

PANHANDLE: Temperatures were below average most of the week. Late-week storms brought light hail, rain, freezing temperatures and light snow. Precipitation ranged from a half to more than 1 inch. Soil moisture is rated from short to surplus with most areas reporting adequate to surplus. Corn planting has been slowed by wet fields and cold temperatures. Only minor damage to the wheat from Easter freezes was reported, and most areas reported the crop in good to excellent condition. Range conditions were rated mostly fair to good and improving. Cattle are in fair to good condition. Supplemental feeding has slowed but continues in most areas.

SOUTH PLAINS: Winds from 30 to 50 mph caused blowing sand. Primary field operations this week included emergency tillage to halt the blowing sand, shredding of stalks and listing of crops. Preliminary reports indicate that last weekend's freeze significantly damaged grapes. The extent of the damage depended upon location and variety, Extension agents report. Freeze damage in wheat has not been as significant as was anticipated. However, damage symptoms may take several days more to become apparent. Pastures and ranges are in fair to good condition. Cattle are in good condition, and the slightly warmer temperatures and open conditions should allow grazing to improve. Soil moisture is adequate.

ROLLING PLAINS: Temperatures were cooler with some reports of freezing. A complete assessment on the damage done to the wheat by the Easter freeze is still days away, Extension agronomists report. Friday 13 brought baseball-sized hail to area southwest of Wichita Springs. The wheat crop took a "pretty good beating," Extension agents report. Damage assessments from the hail continue, but Extension experts expect yield reductions of at least 10 percent. Leaf rust on wheat is increasing, but overall, the crop is in good condition, with about 25 percent headed out. Pastures have greened up and mesquite has leafed out. Livestock are in good to excellent condition. Cotton farmers are gearing up to plant cotton in the next few weeks.

NORTH: The corn crop is nearly 100 percent planted, mostly emerged, and in good condition. In some areas, the corn suffered some visible freeze damage but is expected to recover. Wheat that was heading – which includes most of the crop – may have been damaged from last week's freeze. Hail and thunderstorms were reported in some areas. The cooler weather has slowed the growth of warm- season forages. Winter pastures are doing well. No damage has been reported on peaches. Soybeans, sorghum and cotton are being planted. Hessian fly larvae have been found in several varieties of wheat including those most resistant to the pest. Hay reserves remain low, and livestock are a little thin from the winter, but overall are in good condition. Some areas still need rain.

EAST: Farmers are preparing land and planting crops. Warm-season grasses are growing, and winter pastures are doing well. Many cattle are coming out of the winter in thin body condition, scores 3 and 4, some Extension agents said. Other counties reported cattle to be in good to excellent condition. Planting of warm season grasses continued, and hay supplies are still short. Planting of warm-season vegetable crops continued. Fertilization of pastures increased. Hay yields of winter pastures are expected to be better this year, but the high price of nitrogen fertilizers and corn have producers worried, Extension agents report. Cattle prices are steady to higher, with demand remaining strong. Snow fell for several hours throughout the counties, but there was no accumulation. Temperatures fell to the high 30s Fahrenheit.

FAR WEST: Soil moisture ranged from very short to adequate, and crops and pastures are in very poor to good condition. Corn is in poor condition. Winter wheat is in fair to good condition. Much of the area received some adverse weather over the Easter weekend. Freezing temperatures, lasting about about 48 hours, damaged crops. Most fruit on trees was damaged, especially apples and peaches. All watermelon seedlings were killed. All of the grape crop was lost. The extent of damage to pecan crop is not yet known. High winds dried out the topsoil.

WEST CENTRAL: Late-season ice storms and freezing temperatures damaged small grains crops. Damage to wheat fields is currently being evaluated. The extent of the damage to buildings from hail and high wind damage is yet to be determined. There is better news when it comes to range and pastures, with Extension agents reporting "significant improvements" from the recent rainfall. Spring green-up is in full swing with good growth of warm season grasses and forbs. Livestock are in good condition as forage quality improved and quantity increased. The late cold spell was hard on goats, with some deaths in new kids reported. Fruit-tree damage is undetermined. Pecan damage appears to be minimal.

CENTRAL: Soil moisture ranges from adequate to surplus. Grapes and other fruit appeared to have escaped damage despite a heavy snowfall and temperatures right at or slightly below freezing. Some oats and wheat fields were damaged last week from snow and below-average temperatures. Corn and sorghum fields appear all right, having seemingly survived the severe weather. Range and pasture conditions are in good shape. The cold, wet weather has stalled cotton planting.

SOUTHEAST: Weather conditions have allowed some oat and ryegrass fields to be baled for hay. Fertilizer applications have been modest because of high costs. A farm in the Dayton area had damage to several hundred acres of corn, 75 acres of grain sorghum and 125 acres of coastal bermudagrass. The damage does not appear to have been caused by the Easter freeze, and an investigation is ongoing. At this time, the damage appears to be isolated to one farm only. Spring planting was delayed due to rains during the week, and more rain was received over the weekend. Livestock are doing well.

SOUTHWEST: While good rains have improved the agricultural situation, the region remains dry. The last 25-month period has been the driest period on record for a large portion of the region. Late-season cold spells, including a freeze, have slowed the growth of many crops. Young corn and sorghum plants are yellowing as a result of the cold weather, and recently planted cotton may not establish good stands. The region looks green, however, and forage availability has improved. Sorghum, corn, potatoes and some cotton have all been planted and are progressing. More rain is be needed to sustain this spring growing momentum, Extension agronomists said. The cabbage harvest continued; the spinach harvest has wound down. Potatoes are up, but making very slow progress due to the cool weather.

COASTAL BEND: Dry weather prompted producers to irrigate crops in some areas, while the western part of the region received as much as two inches of rain . Cool temperatures slowed corn growth. Livestock are in good condition, with good grazing as pastures responded to the moisture.

SOUTH: Producers irrigated their crops because of dry conditions in some parts of the region. The western part of the region, however, received as much as 2 inches of rain as last week's cold front moved in. The harvest of sugarcane, citrus, vegetables and onions continued. Corn and cotton progressed well. Livestock condition has improved as increased forage on native range and pastures became available.

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