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Texas Field Reports: Planting Continues Amid Rains; Fires Still a Risk Up North

Ernst Undesser
By Adam Russell, Texas AgriLife Extension March 14, 2017

Texas Field Reports: Planting Continues Amid Rains; Fires Still a Risk Up North

©Debra L Ferguson Stock Images

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

CENTRAL: Counties continued to receive rainfall, which hindered some planting. However, dry weather was anticipated and planting was expected to resume as fields dry. Subsoil moisture was good. Corn and summer hay pastures were being planted. Hay feeding slowed somewhat due to annual grasses greening up and growing.

Local auctions reported cattle prices were down. Cattle and small livestock were in good condition. Temperatures were still warmer than average for this time of year. Most counties reported good soil moisture. Overall crops, rangeland and pasture conditions were good.

ROLLING PLAINS: Dry and windy conditions were reported across the district. The wind dried out the soil profile, but the warm sunny days helped wheat and tricale grow. Producers sprayed for weed control and prepared equipment for planting. Wild ryegrass and spring pastures were starting to come out, and there was one report that mesquite trees were starting to green up. Lots of donated hay was heading to the Panhandle from area producers for wildfire victims’ livestock.

COASTAL BEND: Conditions were wet. Crop planting slowed in some areas as producers were unable to access saturated fields. Corn and sorghum emerged in some areas. Early planted cotton was also sprouting. Fertilizer was applied to some hay fields. Pastures were greening up nicely and should supply abundant forage this spring. Livestock were finding increasing amounts of winter forages available, along with some early green up of warm-season grasses. Cattle remained in excellent condition.

EAST: Much-needed rains were received around the district. Pasture and rangeland conditions varied from excellent in Rusk County to very poor in Trinity and Anderson counties. Most counties reported good conditions. In Anderson County, winter pastures were coming on strong. Producers were still supplementing with protein and energy feeds.

Cherokee County reported ponds and creeks were full. Subsoil conditions were mostly adequate with only Shelby and Trinity counties reporting short conditions. Topsoil conditions were adequate. Spring showers were keeping the ground moist and saturated in some places. Soaking rains have set up great growing conditions in Upshur County.

Ryegrass was starting to grow in Wood County. Warm-season grasses were greening up. Vegetable producers were planting and preparing land. Around 75 percent of corn fields were planted in Anderson County with 250 acres replanted due to wild pig damage. Producers were concerned about fruit tree chill hours due to a lack of cool weather.

Growers were pruning peach trees in Gregg County. Livestock were in good body condition. In Trinity County, cattle were in various stages of condition with some in great condition and some looked hard kept. Marion County cows were calving, and calves were growing well. Cattle prices in Gregg County were up a bit. Shelby County reported prices were better. Smith County producers were preparing to vaccinate cattle as part of spring cattle work.

SOUTH PLAINS: The district experienced smoke on March 7 from deadly Panhandle wildfires. Continued high winds and dry weather depleted subsoil and topsoil moisture levels. Moisture was needed badly. Several wheat fields were jointing and being pushed along by the warmest February temperatures on record.

Field preparations were occurring for the spring planting season, including shaping of beds, some pre-plant irrigation and herbicide applications. Many cotton producers were pre-watering. Crops and rangeland look good but could use some precipitation. Winter wheat and oats could use moisture.

PANHANDLE: The district was warm, dry and very windy with high fire danger. The reporting period was devastating for the district due to high winds and wildfire outbreaks. The fires were responsible for four human deaths in the Panhandle district and about a half million acres of grassland lost and an unknown number of cattle and fence lines lost. Potter County lost 28,000 acres. Gray County lost 135,000 acres, and Lipscomb County was hit hardest with 315,000 acres lost.

Randall County producers were donating needed supplies such as feed, hay, livestock medication and fencing materials to designated delivery points to assist farmers and ranchers affected by the disaster.

High winds continued to deplete soil moisture. Some cooler temperatures and some moisture were reported, but soil moisture was short. Producers were applying fertilizers and pre-emergence chemicals and started irrigating wheat. The weather conditions made irrigated wheat fields jump with lush rank growth. Few insect problems were noted so far with a few fields showing signs of brown wheat mites.

There were still many stocker cattle on wheat pastures, and it appears producers intend on grazing the wheat instead of going to harvest. Cattle conditions continued to be good. Some strip tilling took place. Producers were preparing fields for the upcoming planting season.

NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels ranged from mostly adequate to short with a few counties reporting surplus. Reported rainfall amounts were from a trace to about 0.5 of an inch. Temperatures were warmer than normal. Farmers were preparing land for spring planting.

Wheat fields were being fertilized, and winter grains looked good. Everything was greening up. Some peach trees were starting to bloom. Some ponds were still low. Corn farmers were not planting yet, possibly due to the recent rains. Cattle were in good shape.

FAR WEST: Temperature highs were in the 80s with lows in the 40s. Precipitation averaged 1 inch. Fires in the Panhandle affected the sunlight and polluted the air. High winds dried the topsoil. Producers continued to prepare fields for spring planting.

Wheat made progress, and weed control applications were being made on fields with better yield potential. Perennial grasses were beginning to green up at the base in some locations, but mesquites had not yet budded out. Producers continued to feed wildlife and livestock. Lambing and kidding continued.

WEST CENTRAL: Spring-like weather conditions were arriving early. Warm days and cool nights continued. No rainfall was reported. Rangeland fire conditions had producers on high alert. Field work continued to increase in preparation for spring planting. Corn planting was underway and sorghum will be planted soon. Small grains continued to do well. Cotton ginning was wrapping up.

Rangeland and pastures continued to look good and were greening-up. Warm-season forages and native grasses were breaking dormancy. Livestock remained in good condition and small grain grazing was still holding on. Supplemental feeding continued to decrease. Fruit trees were blooming. Mesquite and other trees were beginning to bud out very early.

SOUTHEAST: It rained most of the reporting period with reports of light showers that did not halt fieldwork to 3-4 inches of rain, which halted the planting of corn and sorghum. Additional rain was forecast. Livestock were in good condition. Growing conditions were good. Cool-season pastures were growing.

The early green conditions have producers wanting to get started with fertilizer and herbicide applications in pastures. Pasture and rangeland conditions remained fair. Soil moisture levels ranged widely from adequate to surplus with mostly adequate ratings.

SOUTHWEST: Soil moisture remained good as rainfall received ranged from 2-4 inches. Small grains and pastures were growing well. Corn planting was delayed in some areas due to rain, and it could take a week or so before planting resumes. The rain and warm temperatures increased forage growth, and some fruit trees were budding out. Livestock and wildlife had plenty of forage, spring lambing and kidding of sheep and goats continued.

SOUTH: Good rainfall was received throughout most of the district. Amounts ranged from 1-5 inches with most areas receiving more than 2 inches. A few areas only saw clouds with no rain. Precipitation events were slow-soaking rains, which should improve topsoil and subsoil moisture conditions throughout the district. Temperatures varied with reports of lows in the 50s to highs in the 80s.

Crops were doing well. Potato fields started to flower, and wheat and oats were in the heading stage. Pastures and rangeland conditions continued to improve with the help of the light showers and warm temperatures. Body condition scores on cattle were also improving, and most herds remained in fair condition. Soil moisture conditions were mostly adequate throughout most of the district but some areas were still short.

Most corn fields were planted, and good progress was made on grain sorghum planting prior to the rainfall. Producers hoped the rain events would set the area up for a good cotton planting season. Livestock conditions were slightly down as noted in those marketed locally. The market was slightly down for feeder cattle with 500-pound steers averaging $1.26 per pound compared to $1.33 in recent weeks.

Coastal Bermuda grass was beginning to turn green. Rains were a big relief to dryland wheat and oat producers, as the crops continued in the critical seed-head development stage. Cabbage harvesting was active. Some fresh market spinach producers reported crops could be extended up to five weeks thanks to good demand and fair-to-good growing conditions.

Corn, cotton and sorghum planting was active. Livestock on native rangeland and pastures continued to do well. Some light supplemental feeding was reported. Sugarcane, vegetable and citrus harvesting was active.

Ernst Undesser
By Adam Russell, Texas AgriLife Extension March 14, 2017