Sorghum acres are expected to decrease amid excellent growing conditions because of an ongoing trade dispute, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

Texas sorghum is off to a good start following timely spring rains throughout the state. (Texas A&M AgriLife photos by Jim Bordovsky)

Dr. Calvin Trostle, AgriLife Extension agronomist, Lubbock, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture prospective plantings report estimated 1.35 million grain sorghum acres to be planted in Texas in 2019. Texas sorghum producers planted 1.55 million acres in 2018 following a USDA projection of 1.6 million acres for the state.

Trostle said the 13 percent projected decrease is related to the ongoing trade dispute with China. Texas has typically produced around 25 percent of U.S. sorghum exported to China, about $209 million annually.

“Many Texas producers are concerned that the trade dispute could cut up to $1 per bushel off of domestic prices,” he said. “We send so much sorghum to China, the sooner the dispute is resolved the better.”

Trostle said the fact that nearly all the state, including parts of the High Plains that were experiencing drought conditions, have a good, deep soil moisture profile bodes well for growers. He doesn’t want to jinx the 2019 growing season, but said conditions look excellent so far.

Some producers are still hesitant to plant sorghum because of disastrous sugarcane aphid infestations in 2014 and 2015, Trostle said. But he said plant hybrids introduced to combat the pest, earlier planting dates, proper crop monitoring, treatments and beneficial insects have mitigated much of the pest’s impact since.

“Their impact has been sporadic the last few years,” he said. “Around 25 percentof Texas sorghum acres are planted with sugarcane aphid-tolerant varieties and growers are more vigilant in their monitoring. That has reduced their impact to the point some producers believe we have them whipped. But producers still need to be wary because Mother Nature can humble you.”

Trostle said sorghum plants in South Texas have reached at least the six-to-seven leaf stage with some fields flowering. Sugarcane aphids were noted in those fields with a few adults and newborns at low levels.

“That’s a dramatic change,” he said. “Probably over half the acres in South Texas were recommended for spraying at this point in 2014.”

Along the Coastal Bend, Trostle said sugarcane aphids have been scouted in Johnsongrass but no reports of the pest in sorghum fields. Most sorghum in Central Texas has emerged, and High Plains sorghum plantings were expected to begin in earnest soon.

“This is one of those one in eight years or one in 10 years that makes farmers eager to get their summer crop in the ground,” he said.

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Districts

CENTRAL: Rainfall totals were 3-7 inches in many areas. Some flooding in bottoms and fields was reported. Most corn and vegetable crops continued to struggle. Producers were unable to plant cotton and soybeans. Livestock were in good condition. Corn was growing rapidly due to timely showers. Nearly all counties reported good soil moisture. The vast majority of counties reported good overall crop, rangeland and pasture conditions.

ROLLING PLAINS: Conditions were favorable for producers. Beneficial rainfall covered most of the district with totals ranging from 1-4 inches. Rains helped boost pastures and rangeland as grasses continued to emerge. Some area producers reported rust in wheat fields and were deciding on the benefits of spraying fungicide to protect yields. Overall winter wheat conditions were good to fair. Livestock were also in good condition, and supplemental feeding had just about come to a halt. Farmers were beginning to prepare fields for the upcoming planting. Soil moisture levels were adequate.

COASTAL BEND: Rain showers delivered needed topsoil moisture. Corn and sorghum looked good and were progressing well. Most cotton looked good, but a lot of replanting occurred due to wind damage. Some wheat was near harvest. Some rice was still being planted. Producers were controlling weeds in all crops. Forage conditions in rangelands and pastures continued to improve rapidly with good moisture and warmer weather. Cool-season annuals were beginning to dry down, and warm-season grasses were beginning to grow. Fertilizer applications were being made on hay fields. Livestock were in great shape.

EAST: Thunderstorms continued to provide almost optimal pasture and hay field conditions in several counties. Rainfall varied from a quarter of an inch in Polk County to 5 inches in Cherokee County. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair to good, with Marion and Panola counties reporting mostly excellent conditions and Anderson and Tyler counties reporting poor conditions. Panola County producers worked to make an early harvest of hay. Ponds were full, and some flooding was reported in Marion County. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were mostly adequate. Anderson County reported about 70 percent of cotton fields were underwater. Straight line winds downed some timber. Tornado recovery in Cherokee County continued. Cattle were in good condition. The cattle market improved. Fly numbers continued to rise. Wild pigs were very active, and damage reports increased.

SOUTH PLAINS: Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels continued to be less than adequate due to minimal moisture fall, dry and windy conditions. Some counties received half an inch to 2 inches of rainfall. Pastures, rangelands and winter wheat needed additional moisture. Producers continued with spring planting. Wheat was looking good. Cotton planting was expected to start soon, and corn planting continued. Cattle were in good condition.

PANHANDLE: Producers received rainfall. Moisture allowed pivots to shut off for a few days. Winter wheat fields improved, and many fields reached flag-leaf stage. Corn planting has begun in some counties. Cattle conditions improved as green-up continued.

NORTH: Counties reported receiving 2-7 inches of rain. Soil moisture was adequate for most counties with a few reporting surplus moisture. More precipitation was in the forecast. Pastures were full of weeds, and producers were unable to get equipment into fields to spray due to wet soils. Wheat maturation was about 10 days behind normal. Cool-seasonal temperatures kept warm-season grasses from growing. Pastures were full of green winter forages, but producers were having issues getting ryegrass and wheat cut and cured. Corn and sorghum started well, and producers hoped to limit insect and disease damage. Cotton and soybeans should be planted soon. Cattle looked better each day with abundant winter grasses to graze on. Calves were scouring a little. Flies were beginning to stress livestock. Feral hogs were active and damaging to many pastures and hay meadows.

FAR WEST: Temperatures were in the low 90s with lows in the upper 40s. Precipitation amounts ranged from 1-4 inches. Severe hail caused damage to trees and buildings. Recent rains improved topsoil and subsoil moisture levels. Soil temperatures were barely warm enough and dropped considerably with inclement weather. Corn and sorghum emerged and looked good. Pecan tree leaves were fully developed and will be putting on catkins soon. Pecan nut casebearer pheromone traps were set. Watermelons were planted. Pastures greened up considerably, but weed management was expected to be necessary in some areas. Producers began to work lambs and ship them to market.

WEST CENTRAL: Rainfall ranged from 1-6 inches. Stock tanks were full. Some parts of the district received hail damage. Spring planting continued. Most oat and wheat pastures were grazed out or baled for hay. Weeds continued to be abundant, requiring control in most cases. Livestock body conditions continued to improve. Cattle demand continued to be strong with steady prices on stocker steers, while stocker and feeder heifers, packer cows and feeder steers were $3 higher per hundredweight.

SOUTHEAST: Areas received half an inch to more than 3 inches of rain. Plant growth was good. Some pastures were wet while others were relatively dry. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely — from excellent to poor — with good being most common.

SOUTHWEST: Rain was hit or miss with some counties getting zero rainfall and other areas receiving 2 inches of rain. Areas with rainfall and warmer nighttime temperatures were improving row crop and pasture conditions. Livestock were in fair condition.

SOUTH: Northern and eastern parts of the district reported mild weather conditions with adequate soil moisture levels. Southern areas reported mild weather and short soil moisture levels. Western parts of the district reported up to 1 inch of rain, wet weather conditions and adequate moisture levels. Cotton planting continued. Wheat fields were maturing and turning color. Harvest was expected to begin soon. Corn fields continued to develop. Ranchers were planting haygrazer. Pasture and rangeland conditions continued to improve following recent rains. Native rangeland and pastures were providing plenty of forage for livestock. Very little supplemental feeding of cattle was reported, and some producers started to haul water. Cattle were doing well. Some farmers replanted cotton, and others were waiting to replant. Irrigated Coastal Bermuda grass was producing hay bales. Most of the vegetable crops were planted. Pecan trees were green with fully developed leaves. Corn, sorghum and onions made good progress. Cotton ginning was complete.

Source: Texas AgriLife Extension