Crop prospects not good at this time
Dry topsoil and low subsoil moisture, along with cooler than normal soil temperatures, are having a chilling effect on spring planting, said Dr. Travis Miller, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomist and Texas A&M University soil and crop sciences associate department head, College Station.
Most of Texas is going into the fourth year of drought, Miller noted.
Drought ratings edged slightly higher, with 58 percent of the state ranging from moderate to exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor and reports from AgriLife Extension personnel.
“At least in the fall, we had quite a bit of rain across the Blacklands, parts of the Gulf Coast, and East Texas,” Miller said. “There’s deep soil moisture there, but in some places it’s getting a bit too dry on the surface for good planting conditions.”
Only a few weeks ago in some areas, such as Southeast Texas, fields were too wet to get in to work. But after a couple of dry weeks, a dry or crusty soil surface can still make planting into moisture a challenge.
But for those areas with subsoil moisture, it’s the cooler than normal soil temperatures that pose some concern about late plantings, Miller said.
“Farmers are very hesitant to put very expensive seed in cold soils,” he said.
Though the crop prospects aren’t good at this time, there’s still time for many areas to catch up, Miller said. The corn-planting season began about Valentine’s Day for the Gulf Coast and can be as late as mid-June for the more northern areas of the state.
The Texas High Plains remains the worst hit, he said.
“There are pockets that have some moisture, but overall, the Panhandle, South Plains, and Rolling Plains remain very dry,” Miller said.
Agrilife Extension reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported dry conditions continued to reduce soil and subsoil moisture throughout the area. Winter wheat and oats remained in good condition. Spring plantings of corn and grain sorghum were expected to begin soon. Peach trees were blooming. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued.
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.