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Rains Continue to Bring Mixed Bag to Producers


Each step farmer Malcolm Williams took into his pasture announced the presence of water and soft, saturated topsoil. He left his flatbed truck at the gate knowing it wouldn’t make it far without damaging the knee-high grass or getting stuck.

There was standing water on three of Williams’ pastures he typically uses for hay production. Williams doesn’t expect to be able to access the pastures any time soon, so he’s moved cattle on them for grazing.

“It’s too wet to fertilize and it’s too wet to cut for the producers that were able to fertilize,” he said. “Whenever you think you might have a window to work with…it rains.”

Spring storms have created a dilemma for crop and forage producers who can’t access their fields to tend to pests and weeds or find a window of time to cut, cure and bale forage. Some fields in east and southeastern Texas have been drowned out or washed away and likely won’t be replanted, according to various producer and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension reports.

Producers are doing what they can to work around the soggy conditions.

A helicopter applied treatments to an 85-acre corn field west of Tyler late last week because the producer could not access the field with equipment. One producer risked forecasts of late weekend rain to cut a coastal Bermuda grass meadow. The gamble worked out.

Chad Gulley, AgriLife Extension agent in Smith County, said producers around the area are in an awkward spot.

Some fields have hip-high cool-season grasses that need cutting to allow warm-season grasses to emerge, Gulley said. Cool-season and warm-season weeds are converging on fields that have been stunted by cooler temperatures or taller growth.

But wet fields won’t allow them in fields to address the various situations without risking damage to equipment or fields, he said.

“I had one vegetable producer who told me they were just able to get back into their fields and it started raining again,” Gulley said. “There are a lot of hay producers who want to get into their fields but were worried about there being enough time for it to cure before the next rain.”

Gulley said some producers have put off cuttings because of the forecast only to see a window of opportunity pass by.

“Some producers are getting to the point where they might take their chances to get hay in,” he said. “They say they’re going to cut and hope for the best.”

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

CENTRAL: Weather has been wet and cool. Some cotton was planted, and corn crops looked good to excellent. Well drained and early planted fields were in good shape. Hay passed correct maturity in many fields because it was too wet to harvest. Some hay producers had cut at least once, and some twice.

Harvested oats showed good yields, up to 70 bushels per acre. Some Bermuda grass maggot activity was reported. Grain sorghum remained good. Stock tanks were full, and cattle were in good body condition. Brush work was being done to eradicate cactus. All counties reported good soil moisture and overall range and pasture conditions.

Overall crop conditions were good in 90 percent of the reports, and 100 percent of cattle and livestock were in good condition.

ROLLING PLAINS: Wet weather persisted. Areas received an abundance of rainfall, between 2-4 inches. The moisture was welcomed by producers and residents.

Pastures, rangeland and lawns were greening up, growing and in good to excellent condition. Livestock were moved off winter wheat into pastures, and the recent rainfall assured producers there would be plenty of grazing for a while.

Cotton farmers appreciated the moisture, which should be plenty to begin planting. The only negative has been farmers’ inability to access fields because of the rain and little sunshine. Water levels in tanks, ponds and rivers were replenished and were in good shape.

Some wheat had been swathed and baled for hay. Harvested wheat was still in the curing stage. Some wheat was laying over, but should recover with sunshine. Combines were expected to be harvesting wheat as soon as the ground dries enough.

COASTAL BEND: Scattered rains brought between 4-12 inches of rainfall to the district. Conditions were wet and soggy around most of the district and soil conditions were too saturated to allow much field work but moisture was needed in some fields. Fields with low drainage suffered.

Conditions in some areas hampered oat and wheat harvest and diminished seed quality. Crops looked very good, but there was some concern about how standing water may affect some areas. Rice planting finished up and grain sorghum was flowering. Producers expected a good harvest for corn. One area reported 50 percent less planted cotton, with some spraying for weeds in cotton crops.

Some hay fields were ready to be cut and baled. Livestock were doing well and most cow calf operations produced a good spring hay crop. Cattle remained in good to excellent condition, and cattle working picked up and will continue into June.

EAST: Most counties in the district were saturated.

Rain prevented Shelby County producers from baling ryegrass. Producer were having trouble getting into pastures to fertilize and apply weed control. Those who put fertilizer out earlier were reaping the benefits. Cooler weather patterns continued to hang around some counties in the area. Winter cool-season grass continued to be strong while warm-season grasses struggled to get a jump. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were mostly adequate. Pasture and range conditions were mostly good.

Predicted rain in Houston County did not fall so producers were able to cut and bale the remaining rye and clover fields. Some counties did not receive any rain and warm-season forage was making good progress with adequate moisture and warm conditions.

Hay harvest was in progress in Polk County. Cattle were finding plenty to eat. Cows were calving and calves were growing. Producers were working new calves and selling market-ready calves and cull cows.

Houston County reported the feeder calf market was steady. Slaughter cattle were $5 higher, bred cows topped out at $1,550 and cow/calf pairs topped out at $1,600.

Gregg County reported cattle prices were up a little.

Cattle numbers were lower at the sale barn in Shelby County. Livestock were in fair to excellent condition. Wild pigs were active.

SOUTH PLAINS: Recent rainfall improved moisture levels in subsoil and topsoil. Rain amounts ranged from 0.5-3.5 inches. Rains should also help cotton and warm-season grasses. Cotton was 25-30 percent planted before the rains.

Field conditions were too wet for planting progress to be made, but planting should resume soon. Producers were grateful for the moisture but were feeling pressure to get fields planted prior to planting deadlines. Temperatures ranged from lows in the upper 40s to highs near 80 degrees.

Winter wheat, pasture and range conditions were improving. Cattle were in good condition. Range conditions were mostly good to fair, and livestock conditions were good.

PANHANDLE: Weather conditions were cloudy with below normal temperatures before returning to near normal. Moisture was received in most areas. Amounts varied from a trace to 4 inches in some isolated areas. Soil moisture was mostly short to adequate.

Collingsworth County cotton planting was at a standstill with cool temperatures. Some areas in the county received hail damage to wheat crops. Extensive rainfall occurred over much of the county, which will lead to many replant acres.

Deaf Smith County producers made good headway with planting and field preparation work. Corn planting was all but complete with a few late fields yet to be planted. Cotton plantings were going full blast with the end of May looming. The winter wheat crop was starting to dry down and producers were curious about potential yields.

Some irrigated wheat was being chopped for silage and baled for feed purposes. High winds and warmer temperatures stressed emerging crops, especially cotton because of low temperatures. Grain sorghum plantings were underway, but planted acres were reduced because producers feared sugarcane aphid problems.

Wet, cool conditions slowed planting progress in Hall County but were needed for pastures and future crop growth. Cattle conditions were expected to improve as range conditions improve.

Weather delayed all field work in Ochiltree County, but rains helped wheat and range conditions there.

In Randall County, weather was cloudy and cool with highs reaching the lower 50s.

Wheeler County received 1-2 inches of rain, which slowed cotton planting. Cool weather there caused emergence concerns in cotton already planted. Cattle condition and pasture conditions continued to improve. Rains should improve winter wheat yields. Pastures and range were rated mostly fair to good.

NORTH: Topsoil moisture was adequate to surplus throughout the counties. The ground was supersaturated in some areas. Temperatures were cooler. All wheat had headed out and turned but there were no reported harvests due to wet conditions.

Corn showed signs of too much water with fields turning yellow in low–lying areas. Grain sorghum and soybeans looked a little better than corn.

Pastures looked very good. Most winter annual pasture grasses had matured, but hay harvest was slowed by rain. Hay baling was heavy. Livestock were in good condition but bothered by fly populations.

Calf weights were really good because of available forage. Fly and mosquito numbers were up. Small grasshoppers were reported and wild pigs were still causing major damage.

FAR WEST: In Culberson County, conditions were windy with rain across the county from a trace to 0.05 of an inch.

Cold, wet conditions in Glasscock County halted cotton crop planting, which will resume when soil temperatures warm up. Rainfall up to 0.07 of an inch was reported across the county. Wheat harvest was underway and preliminary yields looked good.

Howard County received a surplus of rain and reported two tornadoes.

Hail and rains delayed cotton planting in Hudspeth County.

Pecos County wheat crops were being harvested and cotton was being planted.

Rain totals of 1-2 inches were reported in Presidio County.

Reagan County had thunderstorms that produced 4-5 inches of rain, high winds and hail.

Thunderstorms produced high winds, cooler temperatures and hail in Upton County.

Brewster and Jeff Davis counties had thunderstorms that produced up to 2 inches of rain.

Ector County had cooler temperatures and light rain showers.

Winkler and Loving counties reported light rain showers and cooler temperatures as well.

WEST CENTRAL: Days were warm and very humid with mild nights. Temperatures were well below normal due to rainy conditions. Rainfall saturated fields and pastures making them inaccessible for most producers.

Producers look forward to some dry days to get the wheat out of the fields and plant cotton. Wheat and oats looked good with plenty of moisture for kernel fill. Rust was reported in some areas. Harvest should begin in the next few weeks. Good yields were expected unless damaging storms come through.

Farmers tried to get seed beds prepared for cotton planting, but it was too wet to get into fields. Corn and sorghum crops were in mostly excellent condition. Some grain sorghum had not been planted but will go in as soon as weather permits.

Hay crops progressed very well. Some producers started cutting and baling. Range and pastures improved to mostly excellent condition due to rainfall. Warm-season grasses were slowed by cooler days and nights, but should improve rapidly with sunshine and warmer temperatures. Pastures and fields were green and lush providing very good forage for cattle.

The downside of good conditions was that more invasive weed species showed up. Fly populations increased and were causing a major nuisance everywhere. Stock tanks were full. Winter wheat was mostly grazed out by livestock.

Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Cattle were heavy, and prices were good. Pecan crops started very well.

SOUTHEAST: Brazoria County received a lot of rain, but water can no longer be absorbed due to oversaturation.

In Chambers County, some rice was planted in the higher parts of the county. The county received 2 inches of rain on average and additional rice may not be planted before June. The wet weather kept ducks in the area and made it a gamble to plant in the water.

Rice in Jefferson County looked good.

Storms delivered 2-6 inches of rain across Fort Bend County. Ditches held water and soils were saturated, which slowed cotton growth. Livestock were in good condition.

Brazos, Waller, Walker and Galveston counties received heavy rains and water was still standing in numerous areas.

In Grimes County, livestock producers started fertilizing hay fields. Producers predict a great second cut of hay. Most pastures had plenty of water and needed sunshine. Soil moisture levels throughout the district varied widely, mostly in the adequate to surplus range with surplus being the most common.

Waller, Fort Bend, Galveston and Liberty counties reported 100 percent surplus. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely too, mostly from excellent to good, with fair ratings being the most common.

Jefferson County reported 100 percent fair.

SOUTHWEST: Rainfall ranged from 2-4.5 inches. Some areas experienced strong winds that damaged structures. Rain slowed down wheat and hay harvests but pastures, corn, milo and cotton looked good. Livestock continued in good condition, but sheep and goat herds were expected to sustain stomach worm infestations due to heavy rain.

SOUTH: Beneficial rainfall was received throughout the district.

Atascosa County received 1.5-7 inches of rainfall. Peanut and sesame plantings were slowed by rain.

In Frio County, temperatures were mild and heavy rainfall occurred throughout the county. Potato, wheat and corn for food processing continued to be harvested but were halted by rain. Some peanut planting also took place before rainfall arrived.

McMullen County received about 3 inches of rain. Pasture and range conditions were good to very good, and soil moisture conditions improved. Rainfall amounts in the southern portions of the county still lagged. Range and pasture conditions continued to improve, but aerial foliar treatments of mesquite will be delayed at least a couple of weeks. Body condition scores on cattle remained fair.

Soil moisture conditions were 50 percent adequate in Atascosa County. Subsoil was 100 percent adequate and topsoil was 75 percent surplus in Frio County and 90 to 100 percent adequate in McMullen County.

Conditions were good for range and pastures in Brooks County. Temperatures stayed low. Some rainfall improved soil moisture throughout the area.

Timely rains fell in Jim Wells County. Most areas of the county averaged close to 3 inches of rain. Row crops and pastures benefited from the moisture.

Kleberg and Kenedy counties also received 3-8 inches of rainfall. Grain sorghum and cotton crops were expected to benefit from the rain. Overall, crops looked good. Corn harvesting should start in a month. Rangeland conditions should improve drastically with 100 percent adequate soil moisture in Brooks, Jim Wells, Kleberg and Kenedy counties.

Dimmit County received 6 inches of rainfall.

Maverick County reported a few showers and conditions were cloudy overall. Range and pastures looked very green and in good condition. Crop fields were also in good condition. A lot of round hay bales of coastal Bermuda grass were produced throughout the area. Producers were having a difficult time selling bales of hay because of rain.

In Webb County, temperatures were cooler and about 2-3 inches of rainfall fell. Range and pastures were in decent condition and recovering from the rain.

Weather was very hot, humid and wet, with steady showers in Zapata County.

In Zavala County, all farming activities such as wheat and oat tilling, cabbage and onion harvesting and other field work were halted due to very heavy rainfall. Producers reported it would take 3-5 days before fields were dry enough to work in. Native range and pastures were expected to respond very well to the rains and provide an abundance of good quality grazing. Pecan producers were able to save money on irrigation due to rain.

Soil moisture conditions were 75-90 percent adequate in Dimmit County, 50-60 percent short in Maverick County, 60 percent adequate in Webb County, 60-100 percent adequate in Zapata County.

Conditions were favorable throughout Cameron County. Some areas received moderate to limited moisture. Some irrigation occurred in those areas. Livestock were in excellent condition due to good to excellent grazing conditions.

Some areas in Hidalgo County received beneficial rainfall, but many did not. Grain sorghum was in good condition and harvest was expected within three weeks.

In Starr County, rainfall ranged from 1.5-4 inches. Range and pastures responded well to recent rains, and row crops were progressing well.

Soil moisture conditions were 100 percent adequate in Cameron and Hidalgo counties and 90 percent adequate in Starr County.

Source: Adam Russell, Texas AgriLife Extension 

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