Texas crop, weather

Recent rains have given hope to cotton producers, but the wheat outlook, especially west of Interstate 35, remains a "mixed bag," said a Texas AgriLife Extension Service crops specialist.

"There are several challenges to the wheat crop," said Dr. Billy Warrick, who is based in San Angelo, but whose responsibilities range from Brownwood to El Paso, an area encompassing approximately 1 million acres of wheat, both dryland and irrigated.

Weather dictated that much of the crop was planted late. Lack of moisture restricted development of dryland stands, he said.

"And rains received in March and April have resulted in weed problems that will interfere with harvest," Warrick said.

The result is the usual dryland yields of up to 25 bushels per acre for his region will likely fall to 12 to 15 bushels this year, he said.

"In the Brownwood area, where yields are generally higher at 32 to 34 bushels, we're probably going to see 20 to 22 bushels," he said.

Though it's not his region, Warrick has heard the Panhandle dryland yields will be off this year too, he said. Irrigated wheat yields will be slightly lower than last year. Despite high pumping costs, the $7.50 to $8 per bushel wheat price has been "the carrot" producers needed to keep the center pivots running, he said.

The following summaries were compiled by AgriLife Extension district reporters this week:

CENTRAL: Hot and windy conditions prevailed. Fields began to dry, and winter grasses were playing out. Corn tasseled; the crop uniformly matured. Pecan growers sprayed for scab and casebearers. Wheat and oat crops were being harvested.

COASTAL BEND: Record-setting heat and lack of rain stressed crops and livestock. Cotton bloomed in early fields, and some sorghum fields changed colors. Producers were supplementally feeding livestock because of lack of grazing.

EAST: Temperatures rose and rainfall decreased, making it a good time for the first cutting of hay. Cattle remained in good condition, with calf working continuing. Vegetables were harvested; there was one report of rust on green beans in Nacogdoches County. Cherokee County bedding-plant shipments slowed. Cover sprays of fruit trees continued in Henderson County.

FAR WEST: Days have been hot, and rainless with high winds. Scattered wildfires burned more than 1,200 acres. Cotton planted in drip-irrigated fields dried up due to lack of moisture. The winter wheat and oat harvests were almost complete. Watermelons were planted for the second time this year due to damaging hail in the Coyanosa farming area. Pecans and wine grapes progressed on schedule.

NORTH: Soil moisture ranged from short to adequate, and growing conditions were good. Warm-season forages began to grow with warmer weather. However, the higher temperatures slowed the growth of cool season forages. Livestock were in fair to good condition, but the afternoon heat drove them to shaded areas, discouraging them from grazing. Wheat turned and harvesting should begin next week. Some wheat will be harvested for grain and some for hay. Corn, grain sorghum and soybeans have all been planted and all emerged. With the exception of a few late planted fields and some low lying areas where it was drowned out, most of the corn was in good shape. Grain sorghum and soybeans also looked good. Cotton planting and the oat harvest were completed. Producers began taking the first cutting of early season hay and were reporting good yields. Ryegrass was also cut. Very few fields were fertilized because of the cost of nitrogen. Producers were looking into other ways to fertilize meadows. Summer grass showed good growth on fertilized fields, but production was way down on non-fertilized fields. Range and pastures were in good to fair condition.

PANHANDLE: Temperatures were above average most of the week. Soil moisture ranged from surplus to very short, with most areas reporting short to adequate. Corn was rated fair to good. Stands were rated fair to good. Spider mites were reported in edges of some corn fields. Cotton, peanut, sorghum and soybean plantings continued. Wheat was about 90 percent headed and rated as poor to very poor. Irrigated wheat was rated fair to good. Wheat streak mosaic virus, High Plains virus, triticum mosaic virus, some barley yellow dwarf virus, some soil-borne wheat mosaic virus and trace levels of leaf rust and powdery mildew were diagnosed in many fields. Range conditions improved with the recent moisture; ratings vary from excellent to very short with most reporting fair to poor. Cattle condition was fair to good. Supplemental feeding continued in most areas.

ROLLING PLAINS: Thanks to recent rains, conditions have greatly improved. Pastures turned around almost overnight, and livestock were in great condition. Farmers began planting cotton, and a few fields are already emerged and promising good stands. However, hot temperatures and high winds soon dried out most soils in the area, and some counties reported 100-degree days. Wheat harvesting slowly began, and yields of most fields have been disappointing. However, producers were cutting thinner stands first. They will move to the better producing fields as weather allows. Hay growers began baling the first cutting of Bermuda grass, and yields appeared to be average for early season harvest. Pecan growers sprayed orchards for pecan case bearer. Sorghum stands were off to a good start.

SOUTH: Soil moisture conditions this past week ranged from adequate in mid-region to very short in western counties. Unusually hot and dry weather continued throughout the entire region. Corn, cotton and sorghum crops in the mid-region progressed well. Irrigation continued wherever possible. Sorghum turned color with the help of irrigation. Melon and cabbage harvesting continued in the western parts of the region. The harvesting of onion crops wound down. Overall, livestock were in fair condition. Supplemental feeding of livestock slowed.

SOUTH PLAINS: Hot, windy, dry conditions dried things out some; soil moisture ranged from short to adequate in areas that received a good rainfall a week ago. Planting of crops was in full swing due to recent rains. Cotton planting was about 50 percent complete; sorghum was 40 percent complete; peanuts were 85-90 percent complete. Corn planting neared completion with 85 percent emerged. Winter wheat completely headed and was in fair to poor condition. Ranges and pastures improved somewhat because of recent rains. Livestock were in good condition, and some supplemental feeding continued.

SOUTHEAST: Recent rains helped relieve dry conditions. High temperatures and strong winds, however, were causing the loss of soil moisture. Cost of fuel and fertilizer operation remained a concern. Fertilizer applications were reduced. Seventeen percent of the rice is under permanent flood. Some late soybeans will be planted soon. A limited amount of hay was cut. Livestock were doing well.

SOUTHWEST: Thunderstorms deposited from 1 to 5 inches of rain in some small parts of the region, but most counties remained dry. The dry weather continued to set records. High temperatures and southerly winds aggravated the drought. Forage availability remains below average. Wildlife continued to browse in irrigated fields and home landscapes. Corn, sorghum, spring vegetables, sunflowers, pecans, sod, grapes, cantaloupes, watermelons and cotton made good progress under irrigation. Thrips and aphid insects caused some problems. Some small grains, previously under irrigation, were harvested, but yields were expected to be much lower than last year. The cabbage harvest wound down, while the potato, onion and pickling cucumber harvests gained momentum.

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