Few bright spots in state’s crop situation
By Robert Burns
COLLEGE STATION -- If it’s true misery loves company, drought-hammered Midwestern farmers should find lots of company in Texas, said a Texas AgriLife Extension Service agronomist.
“Certainly, we’ve had very short rainfall in many areas of the state, and we’re looking at less-than-average (cotton) crop yields over most of the areas I’m familiar with,” said Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension agronomist in College Station.
Miller said the same could be said of most crops in Texas, despite recent rains in parts of the state.
“We’ve had a lot of rain along the Gulf Coast, and through parts of the Hill Country and Austin,” he said. “All were good rains, but most of it came too late for crops.”
Miller said he expected cotton yields to be all over the place. In the Gulf Coast area, where cotton was being harvested, there was some cotton yielding in the 200- to 300-pound range and better. In the Rolling Plains and large parts of the South Plains, farmers were expecting a lot of failed acres. In other parts of the Rolling Plains and South Plains, those farmers who had timely plantings were holding on, hoping for more rain.
From AgriLife Extension county agent reports, some cotton has already been replanted to other crops after being zeroed-out by insurance adjusters. However, cotton in a few areas, such as the Panhandle and South Plains counties of Cochran and Deaf Smith, was doing reasonably well thanks to recent rains and excellent heat units. There were also a few reports of cotton doing well in North Texas.
From fellow AgriLife Extension agronomists, Miller said he’s heard of some good grain sorghum yields along the Gulf Coast, with reports of 5,000-pound yields per acre -- but some much less.
Soybean plantings, not a common crop in Texas on an average year, were down this year because the crop is not as drought-tolerant as others.
“When soybeans are flowering and setting pods, it’s pretty important they have a shot of water,” Miller said.
If there are any bright spots, it’s the fact that commodity prices are so high, he said.
“We’ve got sharply increased prices for the crops that we do have, and sometimes if you have a very high price you can compensate for the low yields,” he said.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported pastures improved with recent rains. The rain slowed the grain and corn harvests. More rain was needed.
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Coastal Bend District, including Karnes County, reported as much as 9 inches of rain fell in isolated areas, but most locations got less than 0.1 inch. The rain hampered the corn and grain harvests, but benefited pastures and hay fields. Growers reported low yields but good quality on grain sorghum. Corn was also low-yielding, with many fields a total loss due to lack of moisture at crucial growing stages. Growers were beginning to defoliate cotton, with some harvesting already under way. Lint yields were expected to be below normal due to the drought.
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the South District, including Atascosa County, reported the northern part of the region received enough rain to slightly improve soil-moisture levels in rangeland and pastures. Atascosa, La Salle, and McMullen counties received from 1 inch to 3 inches of rain. Soil-moisture levels were 50 to 100 percent adequate in the northern counties, short to very short in the eastern and western counties, and 70 percent adequate in Willacy County. Generally, rangeland and pastures remained mostly in fair to poor condition. The quality of forage continued to decline while the price of supplemental feed increased. However, cattle body condition scores remained fair with supplemental feeding. In Atascosa County, peanuts progressed well, and some cotton was breaking bolls.
Robert Burns has nearly 30 years’ experience writing about agriculture and agricultural-related research. He writes about Texas AgriLife Research and Texas AgriLife Extension Service activities at the Overton Center and centers in Stephenville and Temple.