Texas Field Reports: Hail Damage Across High Plains Being Evaluated

    Hail shredded corn

    Waves of hail storms across the High Plains and South Plains damaged many acres of crops as recently as July 4, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

    Everything from mature wheat awaiting harvest to growing fields of cotton, corn, sorghum, sunflowers and vegetables have been shredded to varying degrees by the hailstones ranging from pea- to golf ball-size, according to the AgriLife Extension reports.

    “For all crops, it is best to be patient and assess damage several days after the storm,” said Dr. Jourdan Bell, AgriLife Extension agronomist in Amarillo. “Although at this time, it appears the biggest losses are in cotton.”

    Much of the cotton hit by hail may suffer significant yield loss, Bell said.

    “We have plots on the Bushland research station where we lost all of the leaves and the terminal is damaged. Because we do not have sufficient growing season left for a full recovery, these plots are a full loss in our region.”

    Forage and grain sorghum in earlier vegetative growth stages will most likely recover with minimal yield loss, she said. Especially for grain sorghum, yield losses are reduced when the growing point is below the soil surface.

    Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Dr. Qingwu Xue Wheat awaiting harvest shattered by hail stones. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Dr. Qingwu Xue)

    Corn’s growing point is below ground until the plant reaches the six-leaf stage, Bell said. When the growing point moves above the soil surface, the plant is more susceptible to hail damage. The growing point is the area in the stem where the leaves and the tassel initiate.

    When assessing damage in cotton, research has shown that a population as low as 20,000 plants per acre can partially compensate for the reduced stand, although this will vary with the degree of damage, she said.

    If Panhandle producers decide to replant, Bell said they will need to evaluate the optimum planting dates for crops such as sunflowers and grain sorghum because early July is generally the last planting date. Silage might be an option for the damaged corn crop for producers located close to dairies and feedyards, but will depend on contract availability.

    “If you are considering replanting with sorghum, you will need an early maturing hybrid to finish before the freeze in the fall here in the Panhandle,” she said. “Generally the week of July 4 is considered the last planting date for early maturing grain sorghum in the Panhandle region due to the risk of the crop not maturing before a freeze.”

    Dr. Ed Bynum, AgriLife Extension entomologist in Amarillo, said producers planting grain sorghum need to be aware the sugarcane aphid will still be a concern in late-planted sorghum.

    Bell said producers will also need to consider the herbicides they used in cotton when considering their cropping rotation.

    Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Dr. Jourdan Bell Nothing but sticks remain after at hail storm swept through the Texas A&M AgriLife Research station near Bushland. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Dr. Jourdan Bell)

    “We have a lot of late-planted corn that was in vegetative stages of development that will survive with varying degrees of yield loss,” she said. “But there is some that was planted in early May and has reached tassel – tasseling corn will likely be a 100 percent loss if hit by hail because there is no longer a pollen source for fertilization.”

    For corn and sorghum, when the crop is still in the vegetative stages, producers are generally not looking at 100 percent crop loss, Bell said. Corn hit before the six-leaf stage will generally recover with less than 10 percent yield loss. For those with more mature corn, yield losses will increase with each advanced leaf stage and leaf loss until tasseling.

    “During the later reproductive stages especially after blister, maximum losses due to hail damage are usually less than 75 percent in the most severe cases to less than 10 percent in situations where fewer leaves are lost,” she said.

    However, final crop loss will be dependent on the growth stage when the damage occurred, producer inputs and continuing growing-season conditions, Bell said.

    “Damage will also depend on the size of the hail,” she said. “Corn hit by small hail that just shreds leaves will recover more quickly with less yield loss than corn hit by larger hail stones that bruise the stalk and make the corn more susceptible to lodging and diseases later in the season.”

    After the eight- to nine-leaf stage, significant injury can occur in the development of the ear shoot, Bell said. The growing point is above the soil surface and the developing ear shoots are in the lower regions of the stalk where they are still susceptible to damage from large stones.

    “One of the challenges for our corn farmers who have experienced hail damage, ultimately, will be that at the current lower commodity prices, any reduction in yield potential is significantly affecting their very narrow profit margin,” she said.

    For more extensive planning, Bell said farmers can access these publications: here, here, here, and here.

    AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

    CENTRAL: Overall the region had good soil moisture, range and pasture conditions, and crop and livestock conditions. It received much-needed rain and field work harvest, fertilization  and insect and weed control — were underway. Producers were cutting and baling hay.

    Corn and grain sorghum continued to look good but farmers were warned to watch for sugarcane aphids. Corn ear weights were positive. Pasture conditions were prime and cattle were in excellent body condition. The number of cattle moving to sale barns increased due to a higher-than-normal spike in price. Tanks were full.

    ROLLING PLAINS: Beneficial rains fell over areas that were really dry, but not before several wildfires were set off by lightning and burned about 7,000 acres and 2,500 round bales of hay. Cotton looked good but some farmers noted they were having difficulty with slow emergence and lower-than-average plant vigor early on.

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    Corn, alfalfa and peanuts under irrigation looked good while dryland fields were starting to show some stress. Range and pastures were in good condition, as were livestock.

    COASTAL BEND: Rain due to a tropical low in the upper Gulf Coast area produced scattered showers. As a result, soil moisture conditions in the northern portion of the region were excellent, especially for this time of year.

    Much of the corn crop was nearing harvest and grain sorghum was being cut in some areas, with other producers applying harvest aids. Cotton was loading up with bolls and some was near cutout stage. Some hay harvest continued and livestock were in good condition, however cattle prices dropped from the previous week.

    EAST: Recent rainfall helped the dry conditions that were starting to return. Pastures and hay fields were in good condition. Subsoil and topsoil were adequate. Anderson County reported cotton and corn crops were doing well. Producers were baling hay at a rapid pace. Some producers were spraying for forage pests.

    Armyworms were reported in several counties. Farmers were harvesting vegetables from home and commercial gardens. Summer vegetables, especially tomatoes, were starting to return to regular production. Cattle were in good condition and prices were holding steady. Weaning and selling market cows and market-ready calves continued.

    Farm pond owners were testing water for fish production to maintain water quality levels. Wild pig control was underway. Anderson County reported wild pigs were moving in on the corn crop. Cherokee County reported wild pig activity had increased in pastures and hay meadows.

    SOUTH PLAINS: The region finally received significant rainfall, ranging from 2 to 5 inches over three rain events. However, the rain was too late for many dryland fields already appraised as “failed.” The moisture, however, was timely for irrigated crops moving into the reproductive stages and will be beneficial for subsequent crops.

    PANHANDLE: There were near-average temperatures and moisture was received off and on during the week throughout most of the region. Deaf Smith County producers had a challenging week with hail and strong winds along with 1-4 inches of rainfall. Some areas in the northwest part of the county were hailed out and there was damage to homes, equipment and center pivots.

    Most of the wheat crop was harvested but some wheat in the hail-damaged area was a total loss. The rainfall in most areas was beneficial to the corn crop, and insect problems in corn and cotton were light this week.

    Hall County storms and high temperatures destroyed some of the cotton crop and slowed progress in planting. Some replanting was in progress. Pasture conditions and cattle conditions were fair with the rain and some cooler temperatures helping the livestock.

    Ochiltree County showers early in the week halted the wheat harvest and other farming activities. Irrigation of all crops except cotton was ongoing. Rangeland dried down due to hotter, windier conditions. Stocker cattle performed well on summer grass and no supplementation was needed. Grain sorghum planting continued.

    NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels ranged from mostly adequate to some reporting surplus. Most counties received rain this week, with amounts ranging from 1-3 inches. Due to the high humidity, the heat index was elevated. Crops and pastures looked very good. Summer grasses were growing well.

    There were a large number of insects on vegetable gardens and some immature grasshoppers were starting to appear. Cotton fields looked good and the wheat fields were finished. Hay producers were wrapping up their first cutting and starting a second.

    Cattle were in good condition and did not show any signs of stress. Fly and mosquito numbers were high and there were some reports of feral hog activity.

    FAR WEST: Temperatures got into the 110s with lows in the 70s. Rainfall totals averaged 0.3 to 2.5 inches. Cotton rebounded and was looking much better. Early planted cotton now has a decent square set, but the intense heat has affected some of it. Sorghum looked good and was making progress.

    Corn was showing some stress from the high heat and hot winds during this heavy water-use period. Many fields had a difficult time keeping up with water demand and were showing the effects. Pastures were starting to freshen up and producers were starting to ship lambs and kid goats. Producers continued to provide feed for livestock and wildlife.

    WEST CENTRAL: There were hot, dry, windy conditions all week. Rain was reported over the weekend in most areas and soil moisture improved due to recent rains. Wheat and oat harvest were near or at completion. Cotton crops emerged and looked good, even though several farmers had to replant after storms.

    Small-grain fields were being readied for planting and family gardens were producing very well. Producers have resumed cutting and baling hay-grazing fields and hay reports have been good.

    Range and pasture conditions were very good due to recent rainfall in many areas, although many remained very dry. Stock tanks were in good shape heading into the heat of summer and livestock remained in fair to good condition. Cattle were in good body condition and pecan crops looked good.

    SOUTHEAST: Soil moisture levels throughout the region ranged widely from adequate to surplus with most ratings in the surplus range. Fort Bend, Jefferson, San Jacinto and Walker counties reported 100 percent adequate. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely too, from excellent to good, with good ratings being the most common.

    San Jacinto County reported  excellent rangeland and pasture conditions. Chambers County received a lot or rain but the rains were not ideal as much of the early rice was already headed and flowering. The rain has also prevented hay from being cut and baled as equipment could not enter the fields.

    In Fort Bend County, the livestock were in good condition. Some grain sorghum was ready to harvest with producers waiting on fields to dry. Cotton was doing well but had strong worm pressure in the past several weeks, requiring overspraying on many acres. Corn was doing well and maturing. The rains were timely for cotton, but producers were awaiting a drydown to harvest.

    Walker County received scattered rain around the county, which extended favorable growing conditions for all crops. Brazos County experienced hot conditions and in Montgomery County, hot, dry conditions stressed soil moisture. Forages cut for hay took additional time to dry down due to the high humidity. A few insect pests were present but not at critical levels.

    Jefferson County received a good amount of rain, and overall conditions were good for this time of year. Lee County was hot and dry.

    SOUTHWEST: Scattered showers across the region helped green up some areas, but topsoil and subsoil moisture continued to be low. For the most part, dry conditions continued and rangeland needed water to green up. The corn harvest was beginning in select locations. Milo had split emergence with some of the crop looking good. Some hay was being made and livestock remained in good condition.

    SOUTH: Hot temperatures continued throughout the region with some rainfall to help temporarily alleviate the dry conditions on some pastures and rangeland throughout the area. Dry conditions continued over most of the Atascosa County area and harvest was about to begin. Forage was being harvested across the county, and beef cattle mostly maintained good body condition.

    In the Frio County area, potato and sweet corn harvesting was completed and watermelon harvesting was almost completed. Also in Frio County, corn and sorghum was maturing with harvesting to begin soon. Cotton was in the blooming stage, and pasture and range conditions continued to decline.

    Parts of Live Oak County received 1 inch of rain and there were scattered showers in the McMullen County area, with rainfall ranging from 1 to 2 inches. Rainfall received, however, did not improve range and pasture conditions and forage quality continued to decline. Body condition scores on cattle remained fair.

    Pastures in the Brooks County area recovered the hot, dry conditions a little as temperatures were cooler and there were scattered showers. The cattle market remained steady for the week.

    In the Jim Hogg County area, light showers fell in the northern portion. In the southern, western and eastern parts of the county, pastures were generally in fair shape, but some turned brown and started to burn. Most pasture forage conditions were average and mixed with green to yellow vegetation. Wildlife populations of deer, dove, turkey and quail were in good shape.

    Heavy thunderstorms moved through the Jim Wells County area, providing 3 to 4 inches of rain, while other parts of the county received only half an inch of rain. Corn and grain harvesting continued at a slower pace due to the storms, but cotton fields benefited, as did range and pasture conditions. In Dimmit County, there were spotty showers throughout some parts.

    Maverick County also received rain and rangeland showed signs of improvement. Many Coastal Bermuda hay bales were seen throughout the county and in other hay producing areas. Also in Maverick County, watermelons, cantaloupes and pecans were in good condition and no pests were reported in pecan orchards.

    In Zapata County, dry conditions required producers to work on irrigation water applications on corn, sunflowers and sorghum crops. However, some scattered showers did fall across the county providing much-needed moisture for native range and pastures. Forage for livestock was still abundant and sorghum harvesting was nearing.

    Corn and sorghum harvest continued in the Cameron County area as showers halted the harvest in some areas, but good yields have been reported so far. Weed problems were reported in pastureland, and hay making continued. In the Hidalgo County area, grain sorghum harvest was still very active although it was past peak time. Corn harvesting was also very active and early cotton defoliation began.

    In the Starr County area, pastures and rangeland showed signs of improvement and hay baling continued. Willacy County had from 0.5 to 1 inch of rainfall.

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