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Texas Vegetable Crops Faring Well Under Prime Conditions


It will be some time before Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economists have a solid tally for total vegetable acres planted and their value to producers, but their initial assessment is most crops look good on the ground.

Dr. Robert Hogan, AgriLife Extension economist in Uvalde, said producers had plenty of rainfall to assist irrigation in the southwest portion of the state where almost all vegetable fields are irrigated.

“It’s been marvelous,” he said, describing vegetable crop conditions this year. “Prices paid to producers depended on whether the producer was part of the first batch where there are typically better prices or later when the market can be saturated.”

Hogan said some producers plowed up some fields, specifically onions, due to low prices.

Dr. Samuel Zapata, AgriLife Extension agricultural economics specialist in Weslaco, said results for this year’s vegetable crops could vary greatly based on their location but that producers in southern Texas fared well.

The southern and southwestern regions of the state produce the bulk of the state’s major vegetable crops.

The 2015 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Increment Report estimated combined vegetable and melon values to drop to $415.4 million this year. The five-year peak for those crops was $458.9 million in 2013.

Vegetable values were expected to drop to $280.7 million in 2016 compared to the five-year peak of $344.1 million in 2012, according to the report. Watermelon values were expected to increase to $133 million compared to the five-year high in 2014 of $100.2 million.

Zapata suspects the low estimate for vegetable values was related to producers’ choice of crops. The distribution and acres of vegetable crops changed the expected value.

But on the ground in much of the state, Zapata said success depended on location and timeliness of planting.

Crops in the Rio Grande Valley, including cabbage, onions and watermelons, performed very well, he said. Timely rains and lower than usual pest pressure create good conditions for vegetable crops to succeed.

“It was a good year compared to previous years when it comes to vegetables,” he said. “In terms of weather, the Valley had good water but that may not have been the case in other areas of the state, depending on where you are.”

Hogan said fresh and chip potatoes, market-fresh spinach, cucumbers, broccoli and cabbage all performed well under 2016 conditions.

Other parts of the state where flooding occurred in the spring likely produced mixed results, he said. Rains helped fields on higher ground and that drained well, while low-lying areas may have experienced damages and subsequent poor conditions due to high moisture levels.

Zapata said specialists have observed changes in the traditional weather patterns which has made it more difficult for producers to predict when and how much rain will fall.

The final numbers for acres planted will be available in January, and the values will be finalized in May, he said. The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency report shows total vegetable acreage for crops, including peas, cucumbers, radishes and broccoli, have remained steady, between 70,000-83,000 acres, the past five years. But those numbers are down compared to 2009 when 130,000 total vegetable acres were planted in Texas.

AgriLife Extension district summaries can be found here.

Source: Texas AgriLife Extension

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