Cotton acres in Texas will likely increase as producers seek an alternative to grains this season, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.
Dr. Mark Welch, AgriLife Extension grains marketing economist, College Station, said 4.5 million acres of planted wheat this crop season compared to the 6 million acres planted normally will mean Texas farmers will look for alternatives to plant. Nationally, Midwest corn acres will likely drop as farmers shift to soybeans due to favorable prices.
Texas farmers will also likely shift from corn to alternatives, most likely cotton, due to better market conditions and lower production costs, Welch said.
“Cotton performed really well in Texas last year,” he said. “Conditions were perfect for most producers and with good yields and prices holding, it makes cotton a viable alternative to grains.”
Water availability could also be a consideration for corn producers who might view cotton as the “biggest bang per gallon” when it comes to irrigation, he said.
Welch said there is also still concern about sugarcane aphids among many sorghum producers. The costs associated with managing the pest on those acres and sagging prices will likely deter some from planting sorghum.
“I think we’ll see fewer grain acres planted and see those acres go to cotton,” he said.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
CENTRAL: Much needed, heavy rains halted some field work. Subsoil and topsoil was replenished. Stock tanks were full. Livestock were in good condition with spring grass coming up. Small-grain fields were being grazed, but supplemental feeding was still needed on rangelands. Some leaf rust was observed in southern areas of the county.
Bermuda grass began to break dormancy in some locations. Trees were also beginning to bloom. More rain was in the forecast. Counties reported all livestock were in good condition. Soil moisture and overall crops and pasture conditions were good in most counties.
ROLLING PLAINS: Widespread rain fell across most of the Rolling Plains with reports of up to 6 inches in some areas. Soil moisture profiles increased tremendously. The moisture and warmer weather improved winter wheat crop conditions. Top dressing fertilizer and herbicide were applied. Some ranchers began to move cattle to wheat fields.
Cotton farmers began to prepare fields for this coming year’s cotton crop. The rainfall brought relief to residents and landowners as wildfires were beginning to become a threat in some areas. Cattle were in good condition as supplemental feeding continued on a small scale.
COASTAL BEND: Heavy rains, from 2-4 inches, fell in most areas, and windstorms reportedly damaged farm buildings, equipment and trees in some areas. A cold front brought temperatures down to near normal for this time of year. A lack of topsoil moisture had slowed sorghum planting.
Corn planting began, but field work will be slowed by heavy rains. Rice farmers began field preparations. Pastures continued to green rapidly, and cattle were finding plenty of green forage. Mesquite trees were budding, indicating an early spring. Cattle continued to be fed hay and protein and were in good shape.
EAST: Warmer temperatures and recent rainfall caused grasses to start emerging. Pasture and rangeland condition reports were from excellent in Rusk County to very poor in Anderson County. Most counties reported good to fair conditions. Several counties across the region received small amounts of rain.
Shelby County reported a nice rain with winter pastures doing well. Most other counties needed rain for winter pastures to grow. Both subsoil and topsoil were mostly adequate. Producers continued to feed hay and supplements.
Winter pastures were not looking good in Trinity County. Anderson County reported lots of Bermuda grass being planted. Field corn was 90 percent planted. Fruit growers were pruning peach and plum trees and applying dormant oil. Some producers were concerned the lack of cold weather would affect chill hour requirements for some fruit varieties. Pecan producers were applying dormant oil and fertilizer. Vegetable growers were planting onions and potatoes. Cotton fields were being prepared. Spring calving continued. Cattle were in good body condition. Weaning and selling of market-ready calves and cull cows continued.
Cattle prices were holding steady in Gregg County and were up slightly in Shelby County, with light numbers at the sale barn. Some producers in Polk County were turning out bulls. Others continued to wait until early March. Wild pigs continued to be a problem.
SOUTH PLAINS: Temperatures reached a high of 91 degrees on Feb. 11, but a cold front brought near-freezing temperatures and widespread rain days later. Rainfall ranging from 0.5-1 inch was received. Water stood on the surface of many fields. The unusual winter rainfall should be beneficial for wheat and spring-planted crops.
Subsoil has held moisture due to soil breaking well. Topsoil improved with recent moisture. Winter wheat continued to mature and responded positively to recent moisture. Pastures and rangeland were in fair condition. Near-freezing temperatures stressed livestock.
PANHANDLE: Conditions were windy with up and down temperatures. Temperatures were cold with some wintery mix of precipitation before temperatures warmed to above normal. Precipitation amounts were 0.5-2 inches. Soil moisture was mostly adequate. Field preparations were on hold due to recent weather conditions.
Deaf Smith County producers were starting to apply fertilizers and finished compost spreading. Dryland winter wheat fields started to green some after the recent moisture events. Stocker cattle operations were grazing as much irrigated wheat as possible and looking to stock more cattle in the near future. Land preparations continued for spring planting. Most cattle were being fed hay or cake. Field work has slowed, but as warmer weather returns field work will resume.
NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels ranged from mostly adequate to short. Some rain was received. Temperatures were fluctuating between lows in the 40s to highs in the 80s. Winter pastures were beginning to flourish due to the warmer weather and rain. Runoff water helped replenish watering ponds that were very low. The rain also helped soil conditions for corn farmers who will start planting after the soil dries enough.
Wheat looked good. Grain sorghum, cotton and soybean planting will start a little later in the spring. Ryegrass and clover were growing after a late start. Cattle were in good condition.
FAR WEST: Temperature highs were in the 80s and lows were in the 30s. Rain reports averaged less than 0.5 of an inch, but precipitation improved pasture conditions. Windy conditions continued. Producers continued to feed livestock and wildlife.
WEST CENTRAL: Good, heavy rainfall was reported in most areas. Some areas reported high winds and small hail. Warm, sunny conditions returned after the rainfall. Soil moisture levels improved for spring planting of crops and pastures. Producers were worried that crops and grasses would respond to spring-like conditions and a late freeze would have a devastating impact. Field preparations for spring planting slowed due to recent rain, but will resume as fields dry out.
Small grains were being grazed by livestock. Cotton ginning was near completion. Rangeland and pastures were in good condition. Cool-season pastures were growing. Stock ponds filled from run-off. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Supplemental feeding continued. Cattle markets were active and steady following the good rains.
SOUTHEAST: Rain in some areas helped improve soil moisture levels and pasture conditions. Livestock were in good condition. Overall conditions were good, even though some areas were overly saturated. Pastures looked good, but some weeds were emerging due to the mild temperatures. Soil-moisture levels throughout the district ranged from adequate to surplus with most ratings in the adequate range.
SOUTHWEST: Weather conditions were favorable. Recent rains provided adequate moisture to lift the burn bans in some areas. Rains were good for topsoil and subsoil conditions. Small grain fields and pastures should start to come alive. Trees were starting to bud out. Pastures also looked good and planting of row crops continued. Lambing and kidding were underway. Livestock continued to be in good conditions.
SOUTH: Dry and windy conditions continued throughout the district. Unusually hot temperatures for this time of the year also continued. Winds and high temperatures dried topsoil. Light showers occurred in parts of the region but were not significant enough to improve fields and pasture conditions. Potato planting continued in some areas. Wheat and oat crops were under irrigation. Mesquite bud break occurred in some locations.
Some pastures and rangeland were starting to green as a result of the rainfall received. In some areas, native forages were growing and in good condition. Some landowners in Jim Hogg County were still conducting prescribed burning on sections of their property to get native forages off to a good start for the upcoming spring growing season. A few early planted corn fields emerged but missed their first chance for additional moisture.
Good stands of corn were reported and many fields were expected to be planted within the next two weeks. Body condition scores on cattle remained fair, and supplemental feeding remained steady. Cattle were being marketed and still in fair to good condition. Market averages were 5 cents higher per pound for 500-pound feeder steers. Spinach harvests were active again for both fresh and processed varieties. Onions also made good progress. No insect pressures were reported on fields.