Fruit Crops Appear on Track for a Good 2016

Fruit growers continue to monitor possible problems with weather, disease and pests but conditions so far bode well for 2016 crops, said Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.

Dr. Larry Stein, AgriLife Extension horticulturist in Uvalde, said individual growers should be wary of disease and pests but that conditions are shaping up for a good year.

Bloom across the state was fairly strong and good moisture levels should help fruit set, he said.

Stein said trees bloomed earlier this year because of the mild winter, and the protracted bloom may be the result of marginal chilling.

Stein said he and other specialists feel pretty good that fruit crops have made it past the critical cold stage where freeze damage might occur. He said spring storms with heavy winds and hail have become a concern but there have been few reports of losses due to those weather events.

Jim Kamas, AgriLife Extension horticulturist in Fredericksburg, said some vineyards in the Hill Country sustained damages from hail and high winds.

Stein and Kamas said mild temperatures are causing some concerns for peach producers.

One early concern for peach producers has been the lack of consistent chill temperatures, which are needed for peaches to bloom. Kamas said peaches need chilling temperatures to exit dormancy. The lack of a chill can affect fertility, and temperature fluctuations from cold to hot coupled with too much moisture can affect fertilization, he said.

The mild winter and lack of effective chilling temperatures has caused some fruit to drop already, Stein said.

“The chill we had was borderline,” he said. “We had cool temperatures but in some places it might not have been enough. I don’t think it will be extensive but we’re watching that statewide.”

Another challenge could be disease, Stein said.

Winter and spring rains have been good overall for the state, Stein said, but too much moisture creates prime environments for diseases to spread in orchards.

“Too much of a good thing can be bad,” Stein said of the recent rains. “It’s been cloudy, muggy and warm here and that creates prime disease conditions.”

Kamas said there was a high level of disease pressure in 2015 and that a relatively high number of inoculums remain in trees and vines. The right conditions could cause problems for growers who are not monitoring and proactively addressing diseases.

Stein said growers should stay on top of their orchard programs because diseases are easier to prevent than cure. He said some growers are spraying for diseases now.

Insect pests could be a problem in the future, but Stein said most early season pests have enough green spring vegetation to consume that their effect on fruits has not been significant to date.

“The bottom line today is that fruit crops in Texas look pretty good,” he said. “That can change and growers need to be proactive in their management but overall it looks good.”

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

CENTRAL: Overall, crops were in good condition. Some corn was replanted due to hard rains and hog damage. Hail was reported in some counties. Farmers planted hay and grain sorghum. Livestock were in good shape with some supplemental feeding taking place. Cattle were leaving hay for short winter grazing. All counties reported good soil moisture. Pastures were greening up but warmer days were needed to promote season grasses. Tanks, creeks and rivers were full.

ROLLING PLAINS: Scattered showers and warmer weather had the winter wheat crop looking good in some areas, but a lack of moisture in other areas started to affect its progress. Some producers moved cattle to wheat for grazing. Some wheat was affected by stripe rust. Livestock were in good condition as pastures began to green up, offering plenty of grazing. Wildfires were a concern with the recent dry weather and abundance of fuel in some areas. Farmers began preparing fields for this year’s cotton crop. There was plenty of soil moisture, however, timely rains were needed to keep levels up through planting season.

COASTAL BEND: High winds in the region significantly reduced topsoil moisture. Overall, livestock and pastures were doing well and some winter hay pastures were being prepared for cutting. Cotton and rice planting commenced. Corn and grain sorghum were looking good and cotton was emerging in areas where it had been planted. Rootless corn syndrome was found in corn planted on heavy clay soils. Corn planted in heavy soils struggled to set a root system and have fallen over. A good, saturating rain would help corn roots settle.

EAST: Conditions around the region were wet. Several counties received more rain with totals up to 1 inch. Pasture and range conditions were fair to good. Subsoil and topsoil were reported as adequate with only Houston County reporting a surplus. Ponds were full. The moisture was good for forage growth. Warm-season weed control started. Cooler temperatures continued to make good growth conditions for winter forages like ryegrass. Warm season forages continued to make good growth as well. Livestock were doing fair to good with some supplementation taking place. Cattle had stopped eating hay in most places. Spring calving continued along with selling of cull-cows and market-ready calves. The cattle market was lower on some classes of feeder calves in Houston County. Prices in Gregg County held steady. Temperatures ranged from highs in the mid-70s to low-80s and lows in the mid-40s. Feral hogs were active and continued to pose problems. Houston County reported problems with gnats and flies.

SOUTH PLAINS: Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels in Cochran County continued to decline due to lack of rain. Pasture, rangeland and winter wheat all needed moisture. Producers prepared for spring planting. Garza County received rainfall with amounts ranging from a half inch to nearly 1 inch across the county. Farmers continued to prepare land for planting cotton. Range and pastures were mostly in fair to good shape as showers helped with topsoil moisture. Warm-season grasses began to come on with the warmer temperatures and deeper soil moisture. Rainfall will be needed in the next few weeks if temperatures continue to climb and winds continue to blow. Livestock was in mostly good condition with no supplemental feeding reported. It rained in Scurry County but it did not improve moisture levels much. Temperatures were warm and more rain was needed.

PANHANDLE: The region was dry and windy with near-average temperatures. Some moisture was received but fire danger remained high. Soil moisture was mostly short. A good general rain was needed throughout the region. Irrigation was active. Dry conditions further depleted soil moisture levels in Collingsworth County. Farmers planned water allocations to improve soil moisture conditions when planting if no rain was received. Areas of the county began to see stripe rust in wheat. Ranchers started spring roundups. Pasture conditions were fair. Dallam and Hartley counties received 2.5-6 inches of wet snow followed by windy conditions and mild to cool weather. Conditions remained dry. Irrigation was active on winter wheat. Farmers fertilized, cultivated and sprayed pre-emergence herbicides in preparation for corn planting to begin soon. Heavy stockers were coming off wheat fields and going to local markets. Ranges tried to green but soil moisture was not sufficient. Supplemental feeding and spring calving continued. Deaf Smith County producers waited on planting corn but continued with field preparations. Producers will begin planting corn very soon, depending on weather. The wheat crop actively grew but needed moisture. Producers ran irrigation pivots. A freeze in Hutchinson County did not appear to damage as much wheat as expected. Lipscomb County needed moisture. Some freeze damage was found on early planted wheat. Ochiltree County summer crop pre-plant field work continued. Cattle on range continued to receive supplemental feed. Wheat fertilization and weed control stopped. More rain was needed. Rain was needed in Wheeler County for drought-stressed wheat as well as to improve rangeland and prepare land for spring crops. Cattle remained in fair shape. Producers were beginning to fertilize improved pastures. Wildfires burned approximately 10,000 acres due to dry, windy conditions.

NORTH: Topsoil moisture was mostly adequate. Temperatures were mild and about 1.5 inches of rain fell. Bottomlands were still very soggy. Corn farmers continued to plant with about 50 percent of the crop in the ground. Ground temperatures were between 55-60 degrees and milo farmers decided to plant despite it being early. The mild winter and warmer-than-average temperatures prompted all farmers to consider planting early. Wheat was doing well. Winter pastures continue to also do well. Rust was seen and treated on wheat. Horn fly numbers on cows increased. There was a report of small grasshoppers in the northern part of the county.

FAR WEST: Andrews County received a trace amount of rain with a cold front. Glasscock County experienced high winds, which dried out the upper portion of the soil profile. Field work continued on cotton and sorghum fields. Stripe rust continued to build in susceptible wheat varieties. Cool, wet weather was expected to help the rust spread. Greenbugs were spotted in a wheat field near St. Lawrence and were being monitored. Culberson County had seasonal temperatures but no rainfall. Presidio County continued to be under high fire danger because of windy conditions. Weeds were dominating pastures with little to no greening. Cattle were on supplemental feed. Terrell County received no rain and temperatures varied all week. Deer started fawning. Mesquites in Ward County had budded out. Perennial grasses began to green up from moisture received in previous weeks. Temperatures were seasonal to cooler from a passing cold front that also brought a half inch of rain. Winter wheat in Upton County was in the boot stage and some had been cut for hay. Working sheep and goats started along with cows. Goats and lambs continued to kid and lamb out. Livestock and wildlife continued to receive supplemental feed. Pasture and range conditions were fair with topsoil and subsoil short.

WEST CENTRAL: The region was warm, dry and windy. A cool front brought a few scattered showers late in the week. Wildfire danger remained in effect due to low humidity and little to no rainfall. Winter wheat was grazed heavily and only a small portion started to head out. Most wheat looked good. Some winter wheat crops showed drought stress and rust was reported. Some fields were tested for wheat streak mosaic virus. Field activities continued to increase. Producers continued to spray for spring weeds and applied yellow herbicides. Some dryland corn was planted. Other producers began planting sorghum. Preparations for cotton planting was well underway. Some cutting and baling of small grain forages was underway. Range and pasture conditions were good. Warm-season grasses and forages broke dormancy. Spring green-up started. The forage load was very good and producers hoped it would sustain livestock and wildlife through the summer. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Livestock were grazing winter small–grain fields. Cattle prices remained steady. Most trees were budding and showing early leaves. Wildflowers were blooming also.

SOUTHEAST: Growing conditions were good in Walker County. In Brazos County, growing conditions were excellent for cool-season forages. In Grimes County, warmer temperatures and less wind provided great conditions to work in fields. Hardin County started to dry out from recent floods though some areas still held water. Winter annuals in Montgomery County showed good growth. Nighttime temperatures were just below average. In Fort Bend County, livestock were in good condition. Row crops had emerged and were growing well. Some corn recovered from superficial frostburn received in previous weeks. Some sorghum had to be replanted due to poorly timed rains. Soil-moisture levels varied widely: most were in the adequate to surplus range with adequate being most common. Brazos, Chambers, Fort Bend and Walker counties reported 100 percent adequate. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely as well, mostly excellent to good. Fair ratings were most common.

SOUTHWEST: Conditions remained favorable with spotty showers and cool conditions. Some early hotter temperatures allowed pests and fungus to move in and growers were concerned the combination of early moisture and heat could create issues with rust in corn plants. Lambing and kidding was almost complete and spring shearing was expected to begin soon. Livestock remained in good condition.

SOUTH: Cool nighttime and warm daytime temperatures continued. In Atascosa County, all corn fields were planted and 100 percent emerged; oats were in good condition with about 99 percent headed and 90 percent of sorghum was planted. In Frio County, 100 percent of the corn was emerged; oats were in good condition with 75 percent of the crop headed and 75 percent of the sorghum was planted. About 80 percent of upland sorghum in Live Oak County was planted and oats were in good condition. Winter wheat was in good condition with 90 percent of the crop headed. Soil moisture conditions were mostly adequate. Atascosa County reported 98-100 percent adequate. Moisture levels were 59-100 percent adequate in Frio County, 80 percent adequate in McMullen County and 80 percent short in Live Oak County. Range and pasture conditions were in overall good condition. Mild weather conditions persisted in the Jim Wells County area, where row crop farmers made good progress on planting. Forage production and quality improved with recent rains and warmer temperatures. Also in the Jim Wells County area, corn progressed well with 90 percent emerged; 40 percent of sorghum was planted, and wheat was in good condition with 100 percent of the crop headed out. Conditions in the Kleberg and Kenedy counties were cloudy and humid with occasional sunshine. Crops were in good condition with 100 of corn and sorghum crops planted. Soil moisture conditions were 100 percent adequate in Brooks and Jim Wells counties and 70-80 percent adequate in Kleberg and Kenedy counties. Range and pastures were in good condition. Conditions were favorable for forage production in Dimmit County. Producers were planting forage sorghum, corn and some vegetable seeds throughout Maverick County. Coastal Bermuda grass was almost ready for its first cut of the year, and pecan orchards were developing green leaves. Temperatures reached the mid- to high-90s in Zapata County. Mornings were cool and cloudy but no measurable rain was reported. Range and pastures were healthy but may start deteriorating soon as temperatures rise and drought conditions persist. Crops in Zavala County were doing well, with 80 percent of corn emerged, 40 percent of cotton planted, 90 percent of the oat crop headed out and 85 percent of winter wheat also headed. Soil moisture conditions were 50-60 percent adequate in Dimmit County, 70 percent short in Maverick County, 50 percent adequate in Zapata County and 40-60 percent adequate in Zavala County. Range and pastures were in good condition overall. In Hidalgo County, corn progressed well, with 100 percent planted and emerged. All cotton and sorghum crops had been planted as well. Spring vegetable crops in Starr County progressed well and range and pastures continued to improve as a result of prior rainfall. Also in Starr County, 100 percent of sorghum crops have been planted. Soil moisture conditions were adequate with Hidalgo County reporting 50-100 percent and Starr County reporting 90 percent adequate soil moisture conditions.

Source: Texas A&M AgriLife

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