While rainfall is important for crop production, the amounts falling across the High Plains have negatively impacted row crops and agricultural operations, with potential effects extending into the summer growing season, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.
Dr. Jourdan Bell, AgriLife Extension agronomist in Amarillo, said a significant amount of this year’s cotton has been affected by extensive rainfall during the month of May.
While crops all across the Texas High Plains have been affected, the northeast Panhandle has suffered to the largest degree, Bell said. There are reports of rainfall in excess of 15 inches on some fields in that region since May 1.
“We are receiving daily reports of unplanted cotton fields, fields of both cotton and corn that are failing due to saturated conditions, poor stands and poor vigor,” she said.
Bell said the growth in cotton infrastructure throughout the region in response to an expansion of cotton acreage in the past year or so will certainly be affected by the rainfall.
Planting stopped across most of the northern High Plains in the past two weeks for all commodities, so all crops are behind average, and some of the intended crops will not be planted. At this point, it is too late to plant cotton due to the narrow production window, which is restricted by insurance dates and the timing of the first fall freeze, she said.
“I had one producer tell me this will be more economically devastating than the drought of 2011.”
Another issue is many producers unable to get in fields to plant have already incurred expenses such as preplant fertilizer and herbicide costs, Bell said. The heavy rains may have now leached the fertilizer or washed the herbicide away.
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“But even with concerns these inputs may have been lost in many cases, it’s not a guarantee,” she said. “Producers will need to be cautious about the plant-back intervals required for herbicides that were used with the original crop when determining their alternative crops.”
Also, soil crusting has occurred in some areas, magnifying germination issues and poor stand establishment, Bell said. Where the moisture permitted the crust to soften and allowed the seedlings to emerge and establish, growth has been slowed by abnormally cool conditions. And now, there are seedling diseases in many cotton fields.
Some corn fields planted in late April and early May during the break in rains have experienced extended periods of waterlogging, she said. Under extended saturated conditions, oxygen becomes depleted and the roots are not able to respire and take up water and nutrients. With root growth either slowed or stopped, these fields may be predisposed to more problems later in the season, such as nutrient deficiencies, water stress or even lodging.
And when the drying process does start, Bell said, if producers get in too big of a hurry and plant in overly wet fields, equipment can cause soil compaction. The planter’s furrow openers can cause compaction to the furrow side walls, which also restricts root development, resulting in symptoms of nutrient deficiency and water stress later in the season.
Even with wheat, which is almost ready for grain harvest, problems can occur due to the heavy and extended rains, she said. Precipitation at this time can enhance wheat test weights and yields, but extended amounts can prevent fields from drying down and cause some lodging.
“Also, producers who had contracts for wheat silage are not able to cut,” Bell said. “While they still have the opportunity to cut those wheat fields for grain, at current prices silage was a much more profitable option for many producers.”
Producers now are looking for secondary crop alternatives, she said. Some considerations are soybeans, grain sorghum, short-season corn and sunflowers. However, Bell cautioned again that preplant herbicides will be an important consideration as producers make this decision.
While some situations are dire, she said not all is lost.
“On the brighter side of things, dryland acres that have not been planted will have a good soil moisture profile, and that will be very beneficial for late-planted grain sorghum and sunflowers,” Bell said.
“And, we are starting to see the first true leaves appear in some cotton fields, so hopefully over the next few weeks, with warmer and drier conditions, we will see cotton development progress where it was successfully planted.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
CENTRAL: Rains continued to delay planting and harvesting hay. Producers baled hay where they could. Livestock were doing well. Wheat and oat harvests began in some areas and was completed in others. Corn was in the silking stage. A lot of wheat and oats were harvested. Cotton was emerging.
Pasture conditions continued to be good. Daytime high temperatures were in the low- to mid-90s with a heat index nearing 100. Pastures and rangelands were doing well. Nearly all counties reported adequate soil moisture levels.
ROLLING PLAINS: Producers saw a wet and windy week. Producers began cutting wheat and planting cotton. Some fields still had standing water. High numbers of grasshoppers started their first wave in some areas. Livestock were looking well, but some producers were fighting pink eye in sheep and cattle. Forages were in good condition, and stock tanks were full.
COASTAL BEND: Rainfall was received over most of the reporting area, which brought soil moisture levels up in pastures and on cropland. Wharton County, specifically, reported some flooding rain, which has impacted corn, cotton, rice and soybean fields, with rice fields still submerged and severe damage to rice field levees being reported.
Severe nutrient leaching is expected in corn and cotton. Otherwise, crops are progressing well throughout the region. Some spraying for fleahoppers in cotton and headworms in grain sorghum has been occurring. Some sugarcane aphid pressure has been observed and cotton aphids have been an issue in many cotton fields.
Haymaking was in full swing with a large first cutting. Range and pasture conditions continued to be good. Livestock were in excellent shape, but the prices were waning.
EAST: Temperatures were higher across the district. Subsoil and topsoil were mostly adequate with a few counties reporting surplus. Hay production was in full swing for much of the district though a few areas were slowed by rainfall. Cherokee County reported some producers were cutting hay as silage due to more rain.
Pasture and rangeland conditions were good to excellent. Vegetable harvesting was in full swing in Polk County. Cattle were doing fair to good in most counties. Houston County reported an extremely high hornfly population. Wild pigs were very active in Upshur and Trinity counties.
SOUTH PLAINS: The district received 1-2.5 inches of rain. Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels were adequate to surplus in many areas. Pastures were in excellent shape, but cotton was struggling with so much water and flooding. High winds and sand caused some replanting of cotton.
Producers will plant and replant as soon as they can access fields, but the planting window was near closing. Corn, peanuts, sorghum, winter wheat, pastures and rangelands were in good condition. Cattle were in good condition.
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PANHANDLE: Conditions were unseasonably cool with rainfall throughout the reporting period. Many acres of irrigated wheat were chopped, baled or swathed down. Cotton acres suffered from the wet weather, and a large percentage of the crop rotted shortly after germination. Due to time restraints, many farmers decided to not replant cotton.
NORTH: Soil moisture was adequate to surplus across the district. Several counties received trace amounts of rain up to 4 inches. Some storms brought winds in excess of 70 mph and hail damage, though there were no reports of crop damage. Pastures and hay meadows looked great but were too wet to get into. Some producers were able to cut hay. Wheat and oat harvests began in some areas. So far, yield reports were 45-75 bushels of wheat per acre and oats at 70-80 bushels per acre. The majority of the corn was in the early reproductive stage. Sorghum and soybeans were looking better as fields dried out some. Cows and calves were doing well, but fly numbers were high and causing stress. Horn flies in livestock were also abundant. Winter grasses finished, and summer grasses were coming on and looking much better.
FAR WEST: Temperature highs were just over 100 degrees with lows in the mid-50s. Rains were constant in many counties. Some rain totals averaged up to 3 inches while other areas received less than a quarter inch. There were some severe storms and hail. The soil was too saturated to plant cotton seed in some areas.
In drier areas, cotton planting was moving along as the deadline came. Producers experienced some trouble establishing stands due to rain, crusting and soil insects. Corn and sorghum were coming along with very few issues. A first treatment for pecan nut casebearers was sprayed, and growers were monitoring traps. One producer reported a big catch and was preparing to spray a second treatment.
Jumbo grasshoppers were reported in eastern parts of the district and producers were attempting to control them. Weeds were becoming an issue in urban environments. Warm-season grasses were starting to take off. Many cow/calf producers were preparing to wean their calf crop.
WEST CENTRAL: Additional rainfall was reported. Wet conditions continued to stall fieldwork. Wheat harvest was underway but slowed by wet conditions. Cotton planting was behind schedule. Rangelands and pastures were in excellent condition. Sorghum and hay crops were in excellent condition. Pecans were off to a promising start.
Livestock looked healthy with very good grazing conditions. Cattle market trends were steady on most classes of cattle with the exception of new crop calves weighing 500-800 pounds selling $2 to $4 lower per hundredweight. Body condition was the driving force amid a very fleshy new crop of calves. The corn market was volatile due to weather-related planting issues in the Midwest and ongoing trade dispute.
SOUTHEAST: The hay harvest was underway in Walker County. Brazos County received lots of sunshine. Some areas of the district were getting dry. Timely showers brought pastures in Grimes County a much-needed drink. Chambers County received 5-7 inches of rain. Most water was running off, but the soil was still very wet.
Galveston County received heavy rains, which resulted in flooding in most areas. Livestock were in good health. Rice was planted except for a few organic fields. Some pastures and fields were completely submerged due to the excessive rains. Rangeland and pasture ratings were from excellent to poor with good being most common. Soil-moisture levels ranged from adequate to surplus with adequate being most common.
SOUTHWEST: Most counties reported much-needed rain. The rain benefited corn, sorghum and cotton. Vegetation was in abundance. Rangelands and pastures continued to respond to favorable conditions. Livestock were in good shape.
SOUTH: Northern parts of the district reported hot weather conditions with short to adequate soil moisture levels. Hot weather conditions and short soil moisture levels were reported in the southernmost part of the district. Eastern parts of the district also reported hot and dry weather with very short to adequate soil moisture levels.
Western parts of the district reported mild weather conditions along with rains and adequate to short soil moisture levels. Wheat harvest was completed in Frio County, and potato and sweet corn harvests continued. Peanut planting was in full swing. Cotton was squaring and a week from first bloom. Corn was maturing. Pasture and rangeland conditions remained fair to good.
Live Oak County reported high temperatures and scattered thunderstorms that delivered trace amounts up to 2 inches of rain. Some areas did not receive any rainfall. Cotton was improving, but pastures and other row crops were suffering. Coastal Bermuda crop fields were producing good hay bales. Watermelon and cantaloupe harvests were complete.
In Zavala County, the final fields of cabbage were harvested. Native rangelands and pastures responded favorably to rainfall and eliminated all supplemental feeding activities. Pasture conditions continued to deteriorate in other areas, and many producers began to haul water as tanks were starting to dry up.
Cotton made good progress as well. Wheat and oat harvests were completed. Sorghum was doing well with little insect pressure. Pecans also made good progress. Extreme high temperatures and daily heat indexes were forecast.