COLLEGE STATION – From all indications, 2014 Texas cotton plantings will be a double-digit percentage increase over those in 2013, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomist.
The expectations are for plantings to be 6.5 million acres or more, well above the 5.8 million acres planted in 2013, said Dr. Gaylon Morgan, AgriLife Extension statewide cotton specialist, College Station.
Morgan said he believes plantings are still going to follow the trend that was predicted two months ago by the National Cotton Council’s preplant survey.
“Cotton acres will be up in Texas, and as far as that goes, I think as well as most of the Southwest, including Oklahoma and Kansas,”Morgan said. “Part of that is due to corn prices still not rebounding. And cotton prices have inched up, even in the last couple of months.”
Cotton planting started in the Rio Grande Valley about two weeks ago, then was halted by rain and cold weather, he said. Recent rains delayed planting again, but improved the prospects of a successful crop.
“The Upper Gulf Coast has planted cotton in mid-March in some recent years, but their soil temps are cooler this year,” Morgan said. “Additionally, cotton planting will follow the corn and sorghum planting that has been delayed by recent rain events.”
In Central Texas, producers also delayed their corn planting due to the cold weather last week and recent rains, and this may push cotton planting a couple of weeks past a typical start planting date of the first of April, he said.
“A delay in cotton planting will likely help in stand establishment and early season growth due to warmer soil temperatures at planting,” Morgan said.
For successful stand establishment, the top 4 inches of soil should be a minimum of 65 degrees, and there needs to be a favorable weather forecast with low and high air temperatures greater than 50 and 75 degrees, respectively, he said.
For the Texas High Plains, there will typically be a “hodgepodge” of planting dates starting about mid-May and continuing through mid-June, he said. In those regions, which include the Panhandle, South Plains and Rolling Plains, low soil temperature is usually not a problem — soil moisture will be the primary limiting factor. Large parts of all the regions are still in severe to extreme drought.
“But it definitely looks better for most of Texas than it has in a couple of years,” Morgan said. “We’ll know more in a month, because the Blacklands and upper Gulf Coast should be in the middle of or wrapping up planting by then.”
More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Central: Most counties reported 75 to 100 percent adequate soil moisture. Overall, range and pasture conditions were rated fair, while general crops were in good condition. Livestock were in good conditions and still being heavily supplemented with feed and hay. Some counties reported extremely cold weather with freezing rain and ice, which may have damaged early budding trees and shrubs. Pecan trees were still dormant and suffered little if any damage from the freeze. Livestock were being supplemented heavily with protein and hay. Livestock tanks levels were adequate. Corn planting neared completion in some areas.
Coastal Bend: The region received from 0.5 inch to 4 inches of rain. Very little fieldwork of any kind took place due to cold weather and wet conditions.
Producers were waiting for warmer temperatures and drier soils to begin planting but were otherwise ready to go. Most corn and grain sorghum was already planted. Some corn and grain sorghum had emerged before the cold snap. There were reports of some leaf burn, but it was too early to categorize the extent of any permanent damage. Pastures greened up, but there was still very little forage available. Cattle were still being fed hay and given protein supplements.
East: The region had cold weather with thunderstorms, ice and sleet. There were reports of tree limbs breaking electric lines, causing power outages. Livestock producers had to dramatically increase the feeding of hay and supplements due to the cold, icy weather. The freezing temperatures burned back some winter forages, but warmer temperatures near the end of the week improved growth. Cattle remained in good condition. Spring calving was well underway. Vegetable growers continued to plant warm-season crops. Peach growers reported damage to early blooming peaches, but damage to late blooming varieties was yet to be determined. Ponds were full in many areas.
Far West: Temperatures were highly variable, with highs in the low 30s to high 80s. The combination of cold and warm days, along with very dry and windy conditions, had a profound drying impact on both vegetation and soils. Alfalfa resumed growth. Cotton growers prepared land for planning, but were waiting to prewater. Pecan growers were cleaning and irrigating orchards. Fall-planted onions came out of dormancy, and some were already at fourth leaf stage and growing. Cattle were holding condition on feed, while producers put bulls out on herds.
North: Topsoils continued to be dry across the region. The beginning of the week brought some ice and sleet, with accumulations ranging from 0.25 inch to 4 inches. Because of dry soils, farmers in some counties had to delay planting corn. The cold weather also slowed wheat growth. The ice also damaged ryegrass in Van Zandt County and wheat in Grayson County. Livestock were in fair condition across the region. There were no reports of supplemental feeding of cattle. Camp and Titus counties reported feral hog activity.
Panhandle: Temperatures varied widely. Soil moisture continued to be mostly rated very short to short. Producers were preparing for spring planting and tilling fields to slow soil blowing. Fieldwork was delayed throughout the region because of frigid weather. Rangeland and pastures continue to be rated mostly very poor. Livestock producers were supplementing cattle. There was no insect activity on wheat reported.
Rolling Plains: Extremely cold weather prevailed for most of the week. The low temperatures caused leaf burn on much of the struggling winter wheat crop, and it may have put the last nail in the coffin of the canola crop. There were earlier concerns about the peach crop, but most trees were still in tight-bud stage and appear to be undamaged, but another cold spell was forecast. Cotton producers reported soil moisture was declining, and plowing fields was becoming a chore as the ground turned harder. Pastures and rangeland were in poor condition. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued on a daily basis. Runoff water was desperately needed for lakes, stock tanks and ponds.
South: Cold temperatures and dry conditions continued throughout the region. Some counties received light showers. In the northern part of the region, soil moisture was short to very short. Rangeland and pastures were in fair to poor condition. In Frio County, producers continued irrigating wheat, oats, potatoes and corn. Most corn planting in that area was completed. Sorghum planting began. Livestock producers were providing supplemental feed to cattle at a steady pace. Cattle body condition scores declined somewhat but mostly were in fair shape. In the eastern part of the district, many areas reported good rains. Wheat benefited from the rain, which also helped other crops recover from some stress. In Kleberg and Kenedy counties, no rain was received. Soil moisture was short, and rangeland and pastures were in fair to poor condition. The western part of the district remained largely dry. Soil moisture was short to very short. Range and pastures were in fair condition. Livestock producers continued providing supplemental feed and protein. In Maverick County, winter oats were green and in good condition for cattle consumption, and crop producers were preparing land for planting. In Zavala County, crop producers took advantage of the dry conditions to prepare seedbeds for corn, cotton and sorghum planting. However, they were held back from planting due to low soil temperatures. Also in that area, fresh-market spinach harvesting was active as demand for the crop increased. Dimmit County reported cattle losses due to toxic weeds and bloating from clover consumption. In the southern part of the region, soil moisture was mostly adequate. Some planting was done where fields began to dry out. In Hidalgo County, the harvesting of citrus, vegetables and sugarcane continued. Also in that area, row crop planting was interrupted due to wet, cold field conditions. In Starr County, growers were preparing to harvest onions. Tomato transplanting continued. Supplemental feeding of cattle continued. In Cameron and Hidalgo counties, range and pastures were in fair condition, but poor in Starr County.
South Plains: Except for Garza County, the region remained very dry. Thanks to recent snows, Garza County saw the recovery of cool-season grasses. Livestock conditions were mostly good, with supplemental feeding continuing. Several counties reported a light rain, but it evaporated quickly because of wind. Temperatures continued to be widely variable, with very big swings between lows and highs. Despite the ongoing drought, producers were trying to prepare for the next cotton crop. Winter wheat was suffering from drought in most counties.
Southeast: Soil moisture varied widely throughout the region but was mostly in the adequate range, with some counties reporting from 10 percent very short levels and others as much as 100 percent adequate. Rangeland and pasture conditions varied widely too, from very poor to excellent, with good to fair ratings being the most common. Much of the area had wet and freezing weather. Many areas received as much as 1 inch of rain along with the ice storm. In Brazoria County, recent rains contributed to an increase in local pasture growth. Livestock there were reported in good condition, but planting of row crops was halted due to cool and wet weather conditions. In Chambers County, the pastures and soils were very wet and not conducive to fieldwork. Producers were ditching fields to drain off water. In Montgomery County, winter annuals responded well to warm weather after the freeze and ice earlier in the week. Many weeds were damaged by the freeze. Blooms on trees were holding — a covering of thick ice may have protected them from below freezing temperatures. In Walker County, the topsoil was saturated. Clovers, ryegrass and small grains were looking good and were expected to produce well with warmer weather. In Grimes County, some vegetable crops showed signs of damage from last week’s freeze.
West Central: Temperatures continued to fluctuate from freezing to warm, which was taking a toll on all livestock, crops and pastures. Dry, windy conditions further decreased soil moisture that was already critically short for early March. The danger of wildfire also increased. Farmers were in the fields preparing for spring planting. Producers were applying yellow herbicides to control winter weeds on cotton fields. Wheat was in poor condition due to the dry, cold weather. Without rain, most farmers will soon graze out wheat rather than harvest it for grain. Range and pasture conditions continued to decline. Cool-season forage growth slowed. Stock tank levels were rapidly dropping. Livestock remained in fair to good condition with heavy supplemental feeding of hay and proteins. Some fruit trees began to bloom.