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Agriculture Today

Wheat hurt more by lack of moisture than cold

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February 22, 2011 | 3,462 views | Post a comment

As temperatures begin to warm up after an extended cold spell, wheat producers in some parts of the state are going to have to make some hard choices, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service expert.

The record freezing weather caused only cosmetic damage to Rolling Plains wheat and will have little effect on yields, said Dr. Todd Baughman, AgriLife Extension agronomist based in Vernon.

The late fall and winter is a usually drier time for the region, he said, but typically it will receive about an inch of moisture a month in one form or another.

Wheat in the region is grown for grazing and for grain. In an average year, 60 percent or more of the region’s producers will do both, graze during the winter, then pull cattle off and allow wheat to make a grain crop, he said.

The stands are surviving from earlier rains in the summer and early fall. But as the weather warms, the crop will start growing faster and require more moisture. Unless there is rain, a producer will have to make some tough management decisions or lose stands, Baughman said.

“One, he’s going to have to sell cattle earlier than he would like, so they’re going to go in light (to market),” he said. “Or he’s going to have to use additional hay and feed to extend that grazing, which is going to add to the cost of grain. Or he’s going to have to pull acres away from harvest. My guess is that all three of those things will happen.”

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported four consecutive days of below-freezing temperatures damaged young spinach, onions, and cabbage. It was too early to estimate the total damage done, but the tops of about 300 acres of spinach had to be trimmed off.

The region remained very dry, with total cumulative rainfall since Aug. 1 at about 35 percent of the long-term average for the same period. High winds aggravated the dry spell and increased the incidence of roadside wildfires. Fields were ready for early spring crops, but rain will be needed very soon for dryland plantings. Pastures and rangeland were in winter dormancy, and forage availability was below average. Ranchers were busy with the calving/lambing/kidding season. Livestock losses were low from cold weather because livestock producers were able to take some precautions before it arrived. Ranchers were working to repair damage to frozen livestock water-supply pipes.

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Coastal Bend District, including Karnes County, reported below-normal, freezing temperatures were the rule for most of the reporting period. Field activities, including fertilizer applications, resumed as soils dried out. Corn growers were preparing to start planting soon. Due to loss of grazing, livestock producers continued to supplement cattle with forage and protein.

Compiled from Texas A&M University and Texas AgriLife Extension Service reports.

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