Texas crop, weather report

The cotton crop in the West Central district is one of the best ever, said a Texas Cooperative Extension cotton expert.

Dr. Billy Warrick, Extension agronomist at San Angelo, said the cotton harvest over the past two months has been excellent.

"The lint quality from the first million bales ginned this season is white, long and strong which is what the cotton buyers want," Warrick said. "The biggest complaints have been having to harvest too slow, no module covers available, and 'the gin won't get to my cotton until February.' That all relates to a lot of cotton for the region."

Warrick said the same bumper-crop claim can't be made for the region's small grains crops at this time.

"Due to the lack of rainfall in October and November, the small grains crops (wheat, oats, barley, rye) have not had the opportunity to get started," he said. "Some fields have been planted over 60 days. On Nov. 25, some areas had rain and snow that resulted in three-quarters to 2 inches of moisture, and by Dec.7 you could see the small grains emerging."

Warrick said more rain is needed for the plants to develop and thrive.

The following condition reports are from Extension officials:

CENTRAL: Conditions remain dry which has allowed the pecan harvest to continue in full swing with high yields prevailing. Most of the region's wheat and oats are planted but some have yet to sprout. Ranchers are feeding hay as range and pasture conditions deteriorate due to the lack of rain and cooler temperatures.

COASTAL BEND: Dry fronts accompanied by winds continue to rob soil moisture. This and the cooler temperatures are depleting vegetation on pastures and rangeland. High fertilizer costs have many producers planning applications much closer to planting and adjusting the rate if moisture remains short. Rain is needed for winter forages and fallow crop land. Some hay feeding has started, but cattle remain in generally good condition.

EAST: The region experienced unseasonably high temperatures. This and recent rains have helped forage crops. The rain also enabled many producers to plant winter pastures. Winter livestock feeding is in full swing with cattle prices remaining strong. Lower quality calves are still hard to market, and their cheaper prices reflect that trend.

NORTH: Soil moisture ranges from adequate to short. The weather was unseasonably warm with morning dew and some light showers. Winter pastures are showing some signs of life after a Thanksgiving weekend rain. Small grains need a good rain. Many producers are starting to feed their cattle. Livestock are in good condition. Hay stocks are good and winter pastures are good in most areas. Cotton and sorghum have been harvested, and the pecan harvest is nearing completion. Winter wheat is 90 percent planted and about 90 percent emerged. Oats are about 95 percent planted.

PANHANDLE: The region experienced dry weather again last week. Cotton and milo are still being harvested. Wheat ranges from very poor to excellent with most areas reporting fair to poor. The crop would benefit from a good rain or snow. Range conditions are rated mostly fair. Fire danger is high. Cattle are in good condition, and supplemental feeding continues.

ROLLING PLAINS: Cotton strippers were running around the clock trying to get the cotton crop out before the rain and sleet hit Sunday. Producers were planting wheat in hopes of receiving moisture. Pasture forage is decreasing and supplemental feeding is increasing. Cattle prices are somewhat lower, and fall cattle work is winding down.

SOUTH: Conditions in the middle parts of the region were mild with no precipitation. Fall grain is being damaged by birds feeding. Vegetables, citrus and sugarcane are still being harvested. In the western parts of the region, drizzle fell over the area but did little to add soil moisture that is badly needed by wheat and oat fields. Cabbage and tomato harvesting continued last week. Livestock producers continued supplemental feeding.

SOUTH PLAINS: The weather was unseasonably warm with temperatures in the mid-60s F to lower 70s F for the highs and 30s F for the lows. Cotton harvest is almost complete, however most gins will be operating well into the new year. Sorghum harvest is complete with excellent yields being reported. Winter wheat is in poor to fair condition. With the crop complete, moisture is no longer a priority for cotton growers, but wheat producers badly need significant rain to boost the crop. Pastures and ranges are in mostly fair condition with rainfall needed.

SOUTHEAST: Dry conditions persisted, forcing producers to feed livestock heavily even though severe weather conditions have not occurred.

SOUTHWEST: Only a trace of rain fell, leaving the region very dry. Only about seven-tenths inch of rain has been received in almost three months. Record high temperatures aggravated the dry spell. Subsoil moisture is low. Fields are ready for early spring planting, but will need rain over the winter to enable planting of non-irrigated crops. Winter grasses have been slow to emerge as a result of the dry weather. Farmers are irrigating heavily. Land is being prepared for potato planting. The peanut harvest is complete, but the cabbage and spinach harvest continues. Hunting continues to dominate ranching activities, especially during weekends.

WEST CENTRAL: Many counties remain under burn bans. The cotton harvest is in full swing. Some field preparations and late wheat planting continues. Small grains and pastures are showing slight improvement after recent rains. Supplemental feeding of livestock is increasing. Livestock remain in fair to good condition going into the winter months. Livestock prices are good. The pecan harvest continues. There are still a lot of pecans in the hull that have not fallen, but recent frost should help. Some cleanup of pecan and peach orchards is under way.

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