Texas crop, weather for Sept. 4, 2013
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Texas crop, weather for Sept. 4, 2013

Gulf Coast/Central Texas cotton harvest running ‘hot and heavy’

Cotton combine head

Cotton harvesting has begun is some areas of the Blacklands, and will speed up the second week of September, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, rd-burns@tamu.edu

COLLEGE STATION – From the Gulf Coast to Dallas, cotton harvesting. or preparations for it, were going “fast and furious,” according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

“There’s going to be a lot of cotton coming out of these fields in a fairly compressed period compared to most years,” said Dr. Gaylon Morgan, AgriLife Extension statewide cotton specialist, College Station.

In the Upper Gulf Coast, the cotton harvest actually started a couple of weeks ago, but was delayed by rain. However, now the harvesting has actively resumed, Morgan said.



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Coastal counties, such as Matagorda, are mostly finished, with Wharton and Colorado making great progress, and harvest activities were progressing up through the Central Texas Blacklands, he said.

“A lot of defoliating has gone on in the past seven to 10 days in the Blacklands, and will continue for the next week,” he said. “Harvesting has begun is some areas of the Blacklands, and will increase this week.”

Without any tropical storms on the immediate horizon, Morgan expected the harvest in the southern half of the state to continue with minimal issues.

“In many cases, we have tropical storms or fall weather bringing more precipitation into the Upper Gulf Coast and Blacklands, but we haven’t had that this year, which has been great for timely harvest and should also keep the fiber quality up,” he said.

South Plains and Rolling Plains cotton – at least that which is irrigated – has made progress thanks to warmer weather, according to Morgan.

“Increased heat units the past couple of weeks have allowed the crop to catch up on maturity,” he said. “The bad news, they haven’t had much moisture.”

In the Rolling Plains, the crop has been late but has looked pretty good most of the summer, but the dryland could use more moisture, he said.

“In most of the High Plains, the dryland crop really doesn’t exist, but the Rolling Plains dryland crop was planted late, got some moisture and should make a respectable crop,” Morgan said.

What could spoil the prospects for the High Plains and Rolling Plains cotton would be an early freeze as the crop is still a little behind in maturity, he said.

More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/ .

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

Map of the 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Districts.

The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Districts

Central: The region was hot and mainly dry, with a few showers over the Labor Day weekend. Stock water was becoming an issue in some areas. Grasshoppers still had a presence, and armyworms were found in a few locations. Corn and sorghum yields were good. Producers were defoliating cotton. Pecan trees were dropping nuts, and there were reports of heavy aphid infestations. Hay fields showed little growth. Livestock body condition scores were declining due to the lack of grazing across the area.

Coastal Bend: Many areas received much-needed rain, bringing from 0.7 inch to 2 inches of moisture. The rain temporarily put the cotton and soybean harvests on hold. Some grain sorghum and corn were yet to be harvested. Most of the cotton being harvested was showing below-average yields. Sesame was beginning to dry down, and the harvest was expected to start within two weeks. Rice farmers continued to deal with limited to no water from the Lower Colorado River Authority. The harvest of the primary rice crop was nearly finished, and with the assistance of irrigation wells, some farmers have flooded for the ratoon crop. Quality and yield looked good for the primary crop. Armyworm damage in pastures and hay meadows was reported in some areas. The rain greened areas up, but growth of pasture grasses remained minimal. Some hay was still being made, but it was being fed almost as fast as it was harvested as many pastures were bare and out of grass. Producers continued supplemental feeding of livestock and were beginning to cull cows based on performance. Black Spanish grapes were delivered to the wineries, which marked the end of the grape harvest. Most growers reported average yields of more than four tons per acre.

East: The entire region needed rain as drought conditions continued to worsen. The lack of rain, high temperatures and winds, along with armyworm infestations, took their toll on hay crops and forages. Burn bans were in effect throughout the region. Grasshoppers continued to be a problem as well. Very little grazing was available to livestock, and some producers were already feeding hay. Lack of stock-water supplies in pastures were also a problem. Despite the lack of grazing, cattle remained in good condition. Weaning and selling of spring calves and cull cows continued. Field preparation for winter pasture planting was slow due to the drought.

Far West: Days were hot and dry and nights mild. Some areas reported scattered showers with a trace to 0.2 inch of accumulation. Where there was rain, grass was growing rapidly. Area pastures and rangeland without rain were doing poorly. Grasshoppers were beginning to cause problems in cotton fields.

North: Soil-moisture levels were very short in some areas. Pastures and rangeland were deteriorating very quickly and livestock watering ponds were dropping. Bermuda grass was turning brown. Pastures in some counties were grazed down to the point where most producers had to start heavily feeding supplemental hay. Livestock showed signs of heat stress. Local burn bans were being initiated across the region. Corn and grain sorghum growers continued to harvest, with above-average yields for both crops, and the harvest was 80-85 percent complete in most counties and 100 percent in others. Cotton was beginning to open bolls in Delta County. Farmers there had a problem with sugarcane aphids on sorghum gumming up equipment.

Panhandle: Temperatures were hot and dry for most of the region. Many producers were either planting or preparing to plant winter wheat. Irrigation on corn was very active. Despite the dry conditions, corn looked pretty good. Irrigated grain sorghum was doing well, but the dryland crop was struggling to survive. The potato harvest was underway. Rangeland and pastures continued to improve with the recent moisture but were still mostly in very poor to poor condition. Cattle were in good condition. Producers were weaning spring calves early. The fall calving season was just starting for some. Horn flies were bad on cattle in feedlots and pastures. There was an increase in insect populations in all crops, with corn earworm and cotton bollworm presence increasing in particular.

Rolling Plains: Hot dry conditions continued throughout the region. Cattle remained in good condition, but pastures were drying out and in need of rain. Producers were busy preparing land for winter wheat planting. Most cotton was setting bolls, with the crop in fair to good condition, though there was noticeable wilting in early afternoons. Soil-moisture levels were quickly dropping. Fall calving began. Several counties instituted burn bans. All corn was harvested. Grasshoppers remained abundant. Rattlesnakes were reportedly on the move in one county. Hay was being baled and sold right out of the fields.

South: The region had scattered showers but only enough to slightly improve soil moisture and significantly improve pastures in a few areas. In the northern counties, the showers brought only a trace of rain. Some eastern counties got from 0.5 to 1.5 inches. There were instances of about 1 inch in Maverick County, and as much as 3 inches in the Starr and Willacy counties area. Generally, however, soil-moisture levels remained short to very short throughout most of the region. The exceptions were Atascosa County with 60 percent adequate levels, Maverick County with 70 percent adequate, Zavala County with 100 percent adequate and Willacy County with 45 percent adequate. Rangeland, pastures and cattle-body conditions remained fair throughout the region. In Atascosa County, the cotton harvesting began, pecan trees sported some fruit and peanuts were progressing well. In Frio County, the grain sorghum harvest was finished, and peanuts were in the pod stage. In Zavala County, the corn harvest was completed, some cotton neared harvest, and oat farmers were making planting preparations. In Hidalgo County, cotton was being harvested as weather permitted, and fall-vegetable planting was very active.

South Plains: Only Garza County reported rain, with accumulations from a trace to 0.3 inch. Most of the region reported above-normal temperatures in the mid to upper 90s. Insect pressure remained light throughout the region, though some Lubbock County grain sorghum was treated for head worm. Producers with irrigation were still watering to finish crops. Cotton was in cutout, grain sorghum was heading, and peanuts and sunflowers were maturing. Pasture and rangeland was mostly in good condition, but rain was needed to maintain grazing.

Southwest: Scattered showers were reported, but generally, hot and dry conditions persisted over most of the region. Range and row crops were declining. However, fall corn made good progress. Farmers were spraying cotton defoliants and preparing fields for planting of oats and winter wheat. Livestock remained in good to fair condition with continued supplemental feeding. The deer fawn crop looked good, with large numbers having survived the summer.

West Central: The region was dry with triple-digit temperatures returning. Soil-moisture levels were declining due to the extreme heat and lack of rain. A few areas reported scattered showers that helped somewhat. Cotton was maturing rapidly. The corn harvest was underway with good yields being reported. Some producers continued cutting and baling hay. Field preparation for fall planting began. Rangeland grasses were showing heat stress and pastures were declining. Stock-tank water levels were very low. Livestock remained in fair to good condition as producers supplied supplemental feed and hauled water. Pecans looked promising.

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