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Agriculture Today

Wheat, cotton outlook ‘pretty bleak’

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Wilson County News
May 31, 2011 | 3,252 views | Post a comment

Many areas received rain, but in most of the state the agricultural situation remained extremely dire, according to reports from Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel in a May 24 press release. Most everywhere, soil moisture remained short, except in North Texas, where despite good rains, they were reported as merely adequate. In most areas, wheat grown for grain has been lost or yields severely reduced, according to reports from AgriLife Extension county agents.

Cotton planting continued in areas where the planting window is later, such as the South Plains and Rolling Plains, but the situation in those regions doesn’t look promising either, said Dr. Mark Kelley, AgriLife Extension regional specialist based in Lubbock.

In an average year, the South Plains grows about 4 million acres of cotton, approximately 60 percent or more of the state’s total acreage. Cotton has largely failed in South Texas, and the plantings are at risk in Central Texas. Because the planting window is later in the South Plains, there was hope the drought conditions would lift in time for cotton, Kelley said.

Farmers with center pivots are able to get the planting zone wet enough to get a good emergence, Kelley said. Those with only drip irrigation -- unless they have the option to roll water (surge irrigation) or have a sprinkler system over the drip -- are having trouble keeping the moisture high enough in the soil profile to plant.

“For the dryland guys, the moisture is non-existent. We’ve got some that are trying to trickle seed in to the dry dirt and just hope for rain,” he said. “It’s looking pretty bleak here.”

Meanwhile, the opportunities for planting to produce a viable crop and to meet crop insurance deadlines are fast approaching. Around Lubbock the deadline is about June 5 and south of Lubbock, June 10, he said.

From a national standpoint, Texas is a “minor player” in feed grains, said Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension program leader and associate department head of the soil and crop sciences department, College Station. But Texas typically plants about half the cotton acreage in the United States, so a large-scale crop failure here could have a large impact on prices nationally.

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported the region greened up after thunderstorms brought as much as 4 inches of rain on May 19. But the rain was not a drought-buster, as it came quick and hard and more than half ran off instead of soaking into soils. Irrigated corn, sorghum, peanuts, sunflower, cotton, sweet corn, cantaloupes, watermelons, pecans, grapes, peaches, sod, and landscape nurseries made good progress under heavy irrigation but at high pumping costs. Pastures and rangeland also made some progress after the rains, but there was little deep-soil moisture, and that growth will cease without another rain soon. Forage availability remained below average, and livestock that hadn’t been sold still required supplemental feeding. Wildlife continued browsing highway roadsides in large numbers at night, creating hazards for motorists.

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

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