Texas crop, weather

Producers in many counties are either actively planting corn or have completed corn planting. In many other counties, including those in north central Texas, corn planting has been delayed either because of too much or too little moisture , according to reports from Texas AgriLife Extension Service agents across the state.

For those who haven't planted, the window of opportunity has either closed or soon will be, said Dr. Travis Miller, associate department head and AgriLife Extension program leader for soil and crop sciences.

"One of the most important variables that a corn farmer has is timely planting," Miller said. "If you plant too early, you may get a poor stand or you may get freeze injury to the crop."

Late planting raises other issues, such as the detrimental impact that high temperatures have on pollination, which in turn will reduce yields, he said.

"We’d like to see corn planted by March 15 to March 20 in this part (central) of the state," Miller said. "You can see why there is concern if you haven’t got your corn in the ground what your options are."

"Because of rains received over the last two weeks, corn planting has been delayed to the point that most producers may now have to plant grain sorghum on corn acreage," said Rick Maxwell, AgriLife Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources in Collin County north of Dallas.

"A few more acres of corn were planted toward the end of last week in a short window of opportunity on some fields that had dried enough to plant, but we are still only at about 25 percent of the total acres that were designated for corn."

"Producers are still undecided on planting intentions; corn for grain and silage contracts are still shifting depending on the feed yard or dairy they are contracting with," said Rick Auckerman, AgriLife Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources in Deaf Smith County west of Amarillo. The following summaries were compiled by AgriLife Extension District reporters this week:

CENTRAL: Most areas received additional rain showers. Many growers completed corn and sorghum planting. Cotton planting should begin shortly. Livestock were in good condition.

COASTAL BEND: Dry weather and excessive winds stressed crops in the western part of the region. Drought conditions worsened. Planting was in full swing in the central part of the region, and completed in some counties. Moisture will be an issue if it doesn't rain in the next two weeks. Forage was still available. Eastern areas resumed planting.

EAST: Thunderstorms brought heavy rainfall, damaging winds, hail and frequent lightning to much of the area. Some trees were lost due to winds. Parts of San Augustine County reported as much as 20 inches of rain within eight hours, causing widespread damage including loss of fencing, livestock and several dams. Other counties reported heavy rains that flooded gardens and saturated low-lying fields. All ponds are full. Planting of vegetables and pastures was delayed because of wet conditions. Cattle were in good to excellent condition. Supplemental feeding continued but slowed as pastures greened. Warm weather grasses made good growth. Spring calving and calf working was under way. Feral hogs continue to damage pastures in many counties.

FAR WEST: Soil moisture ranged from very short to adequate. Val Verde was the only county that received precipitation. Range and pasture conditions were very poor to fair. Winter wheat was in very poor to good condition. Oats were in poor to fair condition. Ranchers continued to fight grass fires.

NORTH: Soil moisture was adequate to surplus, but because of frequent rainfall over the last two weeks, corn planting has been delayed. At this time, most producers will now have to plant grain sorghum on corn acreage. Wheat and small grains were doing very well at this time with no reports yet of rust problems. Small grains and pastures showed improved growth, but still lag behind normal. Good growing conditions continued to be the rule for most forages and crops due to the mild temperatures and rain. Strawberry production began, and peach trees look good. Summer pastures began to green up. Dairy operators had a couple of days that were dry enough to chop wheat and oats for silage. Ryegrass and clover made good growth. Livestock were in fair to good condition, and winter feeding will soon be discontinued. Fly numbers on livestock increased. Range and pasture conditions were in fair to good condition.

PANHANDLE: Soil moisture was very short to short with most areas reporting very short. Land preparation for spring planting continued. Wheat was mostly poor. Range condition was very poor to fair with most areas reporting poor. Fire danger remained high. Cattle were in fair condition. Supplemental feeding continued.

ROLLING PLAINS: Wheat quickly progressed because of warm weather. The crop's stage of growth ranges from boot to heading out; a few late fields were not yet in the joint stage. Overall, the crop is in good condition. Subsoil moisture remained adequate, though a little more would aid preparations for cotton and milo planting. Pastures were greening up and starting to look very good. Producers were applying herbicides to clean up fields and maximize forage production. Spring field preparation was under way, but high fertilizer prices caused many producers to wonder if the risk was worth the investment. The peach crop appeared to be good. Fire ants were active, especially in the areas of Archer County affected by grass fires this winter.

SOUTH: Mild temperatures, no precipitation and dry soil conditions continued to be the rule throughout the entire region. Mid-region producers were irrigating crops. Dryland crops suffered drought stress from the combination of windy conditions and dry weather. The citrus and vegetable harvests continued. In the western part of the region, many dryland producers halted the planting of some sorghum crops because of the lack of moisture. The extremely high cost of diesel fuel is forcing producers to debate cutting back on irrigating, which will affect yields. Cabbage harvesting continued this week, and onions progressed well under irrigation as did corn and cotton crops. Producers are still providing supplemental feed to cattle because of lack of lush, spring forage.

SOUTH PLAINS: The week was warm and windy with no rainfall. Soil moisture was short to very short. Pre-watering continued for irrigated cotton fields as producers prepared for the upcoming planting season. Dryland cotton planting will have to wait until it rains. Common concerns among producers are the costs of fuel, fertilizer and irrigation pumping. Winter wheat was in poor to fair condition, and irrigation was in full swing. Pastures and ranges were in poor to fair condition and in need of rainfall. Cattle conditions were mostly fair to good with supplemental feeding continuing.

SOUTHEAST: A few showers greatly increased forage growth. Temperatures were moderate with a couple of cool nights. Winter annuals flowered and began producing seed. Producers continued to plant sorghum, and some early soybeans will soon be planted. Subsoil moisture was sufficient, but topsoil moisture was needed. Pastures were in fair condition in central parts of the region and to the north. Pastures in the southern parts of the region were quickly drying out. Pasture fertilization continues. Grass continues to green up. Livestock are doing well.

SOUTHWEST: The region remains very dry. Texas Bluebonnets and Indian Paint Brushes, which are normally abundantly along roadsides at this time of the year, are rare and stunted due to the drought. Substantial risk of road side/field fires continued.. Forage availability was below average. Ranchers were providing heavy supplemental nutrition to livestock. The dry soil profile required farmers to heavily irrigate. Corn, sorghum and vegetables made good progress under irrigation. Cotton planting was under way. A few counties received some rain, which allowed planting on dryland fields. Small grain production will be down significantly over last year. The cabbage and carrot harvest continued. Onions and potatoes made good progress under heavy irrigation. Cantaloupes and watermelons were planted. Some melon fields showed good stands under heavy irrigation. Unlike 2007, fruit and vegetable growers had no problems with late freezes this spring. Pecans were leafing and flowering.

WEST CENTRAL: Days were warm and windy, but the nights remained cool. A few areas received scattered showers. Soil moisture remained low in most areas. Field activity increased with the application of herbicides and fertilizers and some corn being planted. Oats began to head. Wheat conditions were poor. Range and pastures began to green up. Warm season grasses came out of winter dormancy. Livestock supplemental feeding continued. Cows were calving and goats were kidding. Pecan trees budded out.

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