Texas wheat producers may increase planted acres slightly as the forecast for moisture through winter and market trends improve outlook, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.
Dr. Clark Neely, AgriLife Extension small grains and oilseed specialist, College Station, said he anticipates a “bump” in statewide wheat acres this season. Texas wheat acres have been exceptionally low, around 4.5 million acres, he said. But they could settle between 4.7 million to 5 million acres based on recent price trends.
“Prices crept up in June and August,” Neely said. “They’ve fallen since, but prices are higher than they were last year, and the rally may be enough to entice growers, especially on acres that haven’t had wheat in their rotation in a while.”
Neely said dryland acres will be subject to Mother Nature because subsoil levels in predominant wheat growing regions – High Plains and Rolling Plains – are not at levels that would sustain dryland wheat fields. Dryland wheat makes up a large percentage of the acres in the Panhandle and South High Plains.
He is cautiously optimistic about rain because trends indicate an El Nino weather pattern this winter, which typically means more moisture.
“There’s a fairly strong trend that we’ll have more moisture this winter,” he said. “If we don’t, there’s not much moisture in reserve for wheat.”
Dr. Jourdan Bell, AgriLife Extension agronomist, Amarillo, said producers in the High Plains are beginning to plant winter wheat pastures for grazing and that wheat plantings should begin in earnest soon although many producers are still waiting on moisture.
Bell said scattered rains delivered around 1 inch of moisture and created good planting conditions for some wheat producers. Forecasts were calling for chances of rain and temperatures in the 80s, which will minimize rapid drying of soil and create ideal conditions for wheat drilling.
However, in some areas there is not any subsoil moisture, which is a concern because there may be sufficient soil moisture to germinate wheat, but without continued precipitation it may run out of moisture and die, she said.
“Many irrigated producers who planned to have wheat pastures ready for grazing by early fall have already planted,” she said. “There are also producers who plant wheat as late as December, after corn and cotton harvest, but the bulk of planting is in September and October. Producers are still watching the weather and markets, so we don’t know just yet what producers are considering with their acres.”
Bell said planted wheat acreage in the region would likely be steady following reductions in recent years. She doesn’t expect a significant decrease in acres planted, especially for grazing.
“Winter wheat is very important for the cattle industry in this region,” she said. “Producers may graze their fields and watch the market before deciding they want to take it to grain.
“It appears that wheat planting is slower than in previous years due to the persistent drought across much of the region,” she said. “However, wheat pasture is in high demand for stocker cattle, and I anticipate seeing wheat planting get busy in the next few weeks if the forecast holds for timely precipitation.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Districts
CENTRAL: Good general rains were in the forecast. Farmers were getting fields ready for small grains. Corn and sorghum harvests were winding down while cotton was in full swing. Rain was still needed, but consistent rainfall recently helped soil moisture. Temperatures remained hot and conditions continued to dry down in some areas. Most cow herds were culled down once earlier and may be again but if moisture does not materialize. Most counties reported poor soil moisture levels and poor crop conditions. Overall rangeland and pasture conditions were poor in nearly all counties.
ROLLING PLAINS: Hot, dry, windy days took a toll on available soil moisture. Pastures and rangeland were beginning to go dormant due to lack of rainfall. Supplemental feeding of livestock increased, and producers were searching for hay as supplies have been depleted. Dryland cotton was blooming in the top-reaching cutoff stages. Some irrigated cotton acres looked about average, while others were well below average. Producers began preparing wheat ground with hopes of a good rain.
COASTAL BEND: Scattered rain showers were reported. Showers slowed down soybean, rice and cotton harvests in certain areas. Cotton was harvested with varying yields reported. Some producers reported average cotton yields at 2-2.5 bales per acre. Field work, including stalk destruction and disking, was ongoing. Soybean yields in some locations were 30 bushels per acre, and corn harvest was nearing completion. Rangeland and pasture conditions continued to decline due to lack of moisture. Hay yields were very low. Early weaned calves were starting to show up at auction barns. Cattle remained in fair condition with some supplemental feeding occurring due to lack of available forage.
EAST: Scattered thunderstorms throughout the reporting period completely missed a sizable percentage of forage and hay producing counties in the district. Ponds and creeks continued to go dry, which caused more problems for livestock producers in all counties. Sabine County reported temperatures in the low-to-mid-90s tempered by partly cloudy skies, which slowed down moisture loss. Pasture and rangeland conditions were good in Jasper county, fair in Houston, Polk, Sabine and Gregg counties, and all other counties reported very poor conditions. Houston County received much-needed rain throughout the county and could support a third cutting of hay. Jasper County reported excess rain and inability to get into pastures. Cherokee, Henderson, Marion and Smith counties reported hay production was almost non-existent and the search continued for hay from other states. Subsoil conditions were adequate in Sabine, Jasper and Gregg counties, and all other counties reported very short conditions. Topsoil conditions were adequate in Henderson, Sabine and Jasper counties, while all others reported very short conditions. Producers in Cherokee, Marion and Smith counties reported supplementation for livestock. Smith County reported producers continued to cull herds because of drought conditions. Gregg County reported cattle prices were lower per hundredweight across the board. Wild pigs continued to cause damage in Henderson and Wood counties. Armyworms continued to plague pastures and yards despite spraying in Smith and Angelina counties. Fly numbers were high in Henderson County.
SOUTH PLAINS: Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels continued to dry out due to high temperatures and lack of moisture. Some areas received rainfall, and rain was in the short-term forecast. All area crops continued to mature. Some cotton fields with bollworms were reported. AgriLife Extension agents were directing producers scout their fields every four days to keep an eye on bollworm populations. Planting of haygrazer and winter wheat started. Producers continued to do pest and weed management to finish out fall crops. Pastures and rangeland remained in fair condition. Cattle were in good condition.
PANHANDLE: Conditions were hot and windy with near-normal temperatures for most of the district. Some moisture was received, but more was needed throughout the district. Crops were under irrigation. Pasture and rangeland were expected to go dormant soon if rainfall does not occur. Extreme temperatures in Hall County zapped moisture from pastures and crops. If high temperatures persist, crops, cattle and pastures will continue to decline. Irrigated cotton was good to excellent. With a timely rain, dryland cotton would look excellent as well.
NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels ranged from mostly adequate to short across the counties. Temperatures ranged from the mid- to high-90s, with 5-15 mph winds. No significant rain was received, but rain and cooler temperatures were in the 10-day forecast. Pastures and hay fields were showing signs of stress. Hay harvest continued in some areas. Cotton and soybean fields were not looking good. Very few wheat and oat fields were being drilled due to dry conditions. Cattle continued to look good, with some farmers feeding hay. Armyworms were reported in some counties.
FAR WEST: Temperatures averaged highs in the low triple digits and lows in the 70s. Rainfall amounts averaged a trace to 1.1 inches from random showers. Insect populations were reported on pecans as orchards looked good. Mosquitoes were still an issue. Fire dangers from lightning storms were still a concern. Both Pima and upland cotton looked very good overall and above-average yields were expected. Alfalfa and Sudan grass continued to be cut and baled with minor rain damage.
WEST CENTRAL: Conditions were hot, dry and windy, which further dried the soil profile. Forages were still green and looked better than they have all summer, but pastures will need rain soon if any fall production will occur. Farmers in the county started to plant winter wheat and oats as rain was forecast. Stock tanks were critically low and in dire need of runoff. Livestock were in mostly fair condition. Producers were still in search of hay to replenish stocks heading into winter, but there just wasn’t much available. Demand for cattle continued to be strong with the stocker steers and heifers, feeder heifers, pairs and bred cows selling steady. Prices on feeder steers, packer cows and bulls were lower.
SOUTHEAST: Rains hindered the rice harvest in Chambers County. Continued rains were expected which will impact the rice grain quality. Pastures were seeing sufficient rain, and some were getting surplus. In Walker County, temperatures were high with no rain, which made conditions difficult. Soil conditions in many areas were marginal with more moisture needed to maintain or improve conditions. Brazos County received a much-needed scattered shower, with some parts receiving up to 1.5 inches. More rain was in the forecast. Burn bans remained in effect. In Burleson County, cotton looked very good, especially for dry conditions. All other crops were harvested. Pasture conditions were very bad in many areas. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied from fair to very poor with fair ratings being most common. Soil-moisture levels ranged from adequate to very short with short being most common.
SOUTHWEST: Extremely dry conditions continued to decrease soil moisture levels. Rangeland and pasture conditions were rapidly worsening. Overall, livestock were in good condition as dry weather reduced internal parasite issues this year. Livestock auctions continued to run larger numbers of cattle as grazing conditions declined. Corn, sorghum and cotton harvests were compete with below-average yields reported.
SOUTH: Most parts of the district reported continued hot and dry weather conditions with short to very short soil moisture levels. Western parts of the district reported some rainfall, up to 1 inch, and adequate to short moisture levels. Rain was in the forecast for some parts of the district. Cotton harvest was well underway in some areas, and peanut harvest was expected to start soon. Pasture and rangeland conditions were poor and declining in most areas, and livestock supplemental feeding continued. Stock tank water levels continued to decline, and in some areas were becoming critically low. Some early weaning and shipping of calves was occurring. Body conditions scores on cattle remained fair. Irrigation continued in Coastal Bermuda grass for hay, watermelons and cantaloupes. Pecan orchards were in good condition, and the ongoing drought was not expected to hurt production. Some producers were planting oats, while seedbed preparations began for spinach and cabbage planting. Cotton stalk destruction was active, and vegetable planting was underway in some areas.