Texas Field Reports: Vineyards Poised for Banner Year

    Photo: Texas AgriLife Extension

    Texas vineyards could experience a banner year as wine grape quantity and quality are expected to reach new heights, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

    Jim Kamas, AgriLife Extension fruit specialist, Fredericksburg, said producers faced some concerns and minor struggles early this season, but overall Texas wine grape growers are on track to produce a surplus of quality fruit.

    Earlier this year, there was concern about frost among producers around the state when vines broke dormancy early due to mild winter conditions, Kamas said. But temperatures remained mild.

    Spring rains created conditions for disease, but Kamas said most vintners are aware of the fungal threat and kept their grape clusters clean and treated against diseases.

    “The high rainfall early meant some producers struggled to keep their grapes clean and then the hot, dry weather set in and conditions were good,” he said. “The early conditions were just something they had to endure, and most producers know what their weaknesses are.”

    Kamas said Gulf Coast wine grapes have been harvested, and Hill Country harvests were wrapping up. Producers in the Gulf Coast reported average yields and good quality while Hill Country yields were above average and quality was exceptional.

    Michael Cook, AgriLife Extension viticulture program specialist, Denton, said North Texas vineyards avoided frost and have performed well under wetter-than-normal conditions. One vineyard reported hail damage.

    Bloom occurred uninterrupted, Cook said, and the majority of growers are experiencing a large crop of very high quality.

    “Winery reports thus far have confirmed healthy crop loads with excellent wet chemistry parameters and very good aromatic potential,” he said. “Overall, this year has been a good year for growing grapes in North Texas.”

    Producers in the High Plains just began harvesting white grapes, Kamas said. Harvests should continue in the region over the next six to eight weeks.

    Kamas said new growers have expanded vineyard acreage in the High Plains in recent years and many young vineyards in the region produced fruit for the first time.

    “There are several hundred acres with young vines that will have quality grapes for the first time,” he said. “There are new growers getting into the game and as they get it figured out, they’re putting in more blocks of grapes as are numerous experienced growers.”

    Kamas said the Texas viticulture market could face lower grape prices due to the rise in acres and quality of grapes being produced.

    “We may be entering a phase where we see surplus grapes and less capable growers may find it difficult in that market,” he said. “The quantity and quality of Texas wine grapes is improving. There are more growers and they are becoming increasingly proficient at what they are doing and therefore more profitable.”

    AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

    CENTRAL: Area conditions remained excellent. Scattered, heavy showers caused pastures to be uncharacteristically green for this time of year. Temperatures were below normal for August. Producers were cutting and baling hay. Brush work was being done. Corn harvests continued. Yields were great with many fields over 100 bushels per acre. Cotton was doing well with a few bolls opening, but some signs of cotton root rot were reported in area fields.

    Cattle and other livestock remained in excellent condition. Stock tanks and rivers were full. All counties reported good moisture, livestock and overall rangeland and pasture conditions. Nearly all counties reported good overall crop conditions.

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    ROLLING PLAINS: Parts of the district received rain along with cooler temperatures. Rainfall amounts ranged from a trace to 2 inches. Armyworms were reported in hay fields. Rangeland conditions varied depending on moisture received. Fire dangers were steadily increasing in drier areas. Livestock were in good condition.

    COASTAL BEND: Scattered rains improved overall conditions in many areas, but some areas didn’t receive any showers and continued to experience extreme dry conditions. Corn, sorghum and soybean harvests were near completion, while cotton and rice harvests continued as weather permitted. Livestock were in good condition.

    EAST: Timely rainfall continued around the region with some heavy rain occurring at times. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were adequate in most counties. Angelina and Marion counties reported surplus conditions and Wood County reported short conditions. Marion County reported some areas received 5-8 inches of rain. Temperatures were cooler than normal for August with highs in the 80-90-degree range and lows in the high 60s. Ponds and creeks were full.

    Pasture and rangeland conditions were mostly fair to good with excellent conditions reported in Rusk, Shelby, Marion and Gregg counties. Pastures were lush and green with better than usual forage production for this time of year due to adequate moisture. Armyworm infestations were still being reported by some producers. Bermuda grass stem maggots were also reported. Hay production slowed down due to the rains. Young cotton was in the squaring stage with no insect pressure.

    Corn and grain sorghum was ready for harvest in Anderson County but was too wet to stand up in the fields. Wild pigs continued to be a problem in corn; activity increased in several counties. Fall garden sites were being prepared and planted around Smith County.

    In Jasper County, some fruit trees were having difficulty with summer rain and fungus. Cattle were in good body condition. Producers in Anderson County were feeding protein supplements. Weaning and selling of market-ready calves and cull cows and bulls continued in Polk County.

    Cattle prices were good at the sale barn in Shelby County and holding steady in Gregg County.

    SOUTH PLAINS: Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels remained adequate due to the amount of moisture received over the weekend. Fields were very wet with many standing in water. The rain came at a perfect time as cotton began to set bolls and will benefit greatly from the moisture. Cotton fields looked very good. Producers were facing high weed and pest pressure. Pastures and rangeland improved with recent moisture. Cattle were in good condition.

    PANHANDLE: Temperatures were below average for most of the district. Daytime highs were in the upper 70s to mid-80s in some areas. Some moisture was received. Some areas received 2-3 inches of rain over the past 10 days, with no severe weather. Hall County experienced cooler temperatures, and scattered showers aided the progress of cotton and peanut fields. Rains also benefitted pasture and livestock conditions.

    Lipscomb County needed moisture. Conditions in Ochiltree County were drier and temperatures were very mild keeping crop conditions very favorable. Cool weather was excellent for corn and sorghum but not what cotton needed. Corn reached the tassel stage, and grain fill was near completion. Corn yields were expected to be higher than the 2016 average of 166 bushels per acre.

    Cotton fields were behind on heat units due to cool overcast weather the last 10 days and needed some sun and much warmer temperatures. Silage harvest will get underway within the next three weeks. Sorghum was progressing well due to recent rains. Most sorghum had headed out and neared completed grain fill. The sugarcane aphid levels were beginning to build, but very little spraying had occurred. Wheat planting should begin soon.

    NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels ranged from mostly adequate to short, with a few counties reporting surplus. Most counties received rain ranging from 2.5-6 inches. Hopkins County received more than 8 inches of rain in 72 hours.

    Pastures looked excellent for this time of year, and the hay harvests were heavy. Corn was doing well with around 75 percent harvested with yields of 110 to 140 bushels per acre. Prices were around $3.50 a bushel for corn. Sorghum continued to look good and was making 3,500 to 6,000 pounds per acre. Local prices were around $6.50 per hundredweight.

    Soybeans looked good and have bloomed and will be ready to set pods soon. Wheat and oat farmers will start planting in the next couple of weeks. Livestock were in good condition. A heavy infestation of ticks was reported in Kaufman County. Damage from armyworms was reported in Delta County.

    FAR WEST: Temperature highs were in the 90s with lows in the 70s. Rain reports ranged from 0.45-6 inches for the week. High winds and heavy rain caused power outages in the area along with some damage to structures, loss of large tree limbs and uprooted trees.

    Corn and sorghum harvests started. Sugarcane aphids were detected. Cotton needed rain to maintain good yield potential, especially on dryland. Cooler temperatures helped tremendously. Boll shedding could begin in both irrigated and dryland cotton fields if rain does not arrive soon. Sugarcane aphid numbers were elevated in areas where fields were previously treated for cotton fleahoppers.

    Pecans looked good and were going through natural shedding. Pecan weevil applications were ongoing. Pastures were knee-high and thick with native grasses. Producers continued to feed livestock and wildlife.

    WEST CENTRAL: Weather was very seasonal. Conditions were hot, dry and windy, which continued to dry out soil moisture in most areas. Some areas reported scattered showers and cooler temperatures. All areas needed rain. Early planted cotton looked very good. Some farmers and ranchers started plowing and preparing land for planting winter wheat and oats. Some fertilizers were applied. Cutting and baling of hay continued.

    Rangeland and pasture conditions continued to decline in some areas due to lack of moisture. Other areas that received rainfall have experienced green-up. Summer forages needed some rain to increase growth. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Cattle markets were good but slightly soft. Pecan trees were looking good and expected to provide heavy crop production.

    SOUTHEAST: Fields were very wet in some areas, which made harvest slow and messy. There were farmers with all types of equipment stuck. Combines that did not have tracks had a difficult time cutting. Rains caught some hay producers off guard and cut hay was wet on the ground. Higher ground seemed to be drying out. Livestock were in good condition.

    The first cotton of the year was at the gin and yields looked to be over 2 bales per acre. Corn and sorghum harvests were close to being finished and did well. More cotton was expected to be defoliated soon while many fields were still three to four weeks away. The burn ban in Waller County was lifted. Soil-moisture levels throughout the region ranged widely from adequate to very short with most ratings in the adequate range.

    Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely too, from excellent to very poor with fair ratings being the most common.

    SOUTHWEST: Recent rain made forages in rangelands and pastures much more plentiful in some counties. Temperatures dropped slightly in the beginning of the reporting period and ended in the 100s. Corn harvests slowed due to rain, but were now complete. Livestock remained in fair condition.

    SOUTH: Showers and adequate soil moisture levels were reported in the northern parts of the district. The western part of the district was short on moisture and reported trace amounts of rain. Temperatures were around 100 degrees every day in areas. Conditions were hot with steady rainfall in Frio County with 2-2.5 inches reported across the county.

    Some other areas reported 1-2 inches of rain. Conditions were hot, and soil moisture was very short in the southernmost parts of the district. Small amounts of peas were planted, and cultivation was being done for winter wheat and oats. Hay producers should get at least one more cutting. Overall, conditions were good.

    Cotton continued to develop and was in the boll-opening stage. Peanuts were in the pegging stage. Pasture and rangeland conditions improved with recent rainfall. Supplemental feeding was steady in some areas as pastures declined in quality. Body condition scores on cattle declined, but most herds remained in fair condition.

    Irrigated fields of Coastal Bermuda grass, some watermelons and cantaloupes with canal systems were in good condition. Sorghum and corn harvests were expected to wrap up soon. Cotton made good progress. Cabbage planting was around two weeks out, and pecans continued to make good progress. Offerings at local cattle auctions were slightly above normal, and prices continued to be steady for all classes of beef cattle.

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