[AgriLife Today] Texas crop and weather report for March 23, 2016

Newly planted corn is beginning to emerge in Brazos County. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Kathleen Phillips)

By: Adam Russell

Farmers seek advice as ryegrass makes way for Bermuda grass

OVERTON – Call volumes increased for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service forage specialist Dr. Vanessa Corriher-Olson in Overton, as warm weather has farmers and ranchers looking for proactive ways to control weeds on ranges and pastureland.

At this point and with recent rainfall, annual ryegrass is active and producers want to manage it in Bermuda fields to allow the grass to take off, she said. They’re asking for recommendations to slow ryegrass growth – or are deciding to increase grazing pressure or harvest it.

Farmers continue to inquire about renovating, or lightly discing, land to allow moisture to get deeper. However, Corriher-Olson said there is limited-to-no comparative research data to show a Bermuda grass production advantage to discing. She said renovation practices should be done during grass dormancy in the winter, with care taken to conserve soil moisture, especially in a drought.

Renovation success is contingent on post-renovation rains.

“Keep in mind that anytime we disturb the soil, we are potentially promoting the germination of weed seeds so be prepared for weed control,” she said.

Corriher-Olson said there is concern about frost and freezing temperatures that might set back any actively growing Bermuda grass. There were reports of frost conditions March 21 but no subsequent reports regarding damages.

“It was hit or miss and I think it was a light frost, in unprotected areas,” she said. “Frost can set back Bermuda grass, but we would have to have a pretty substantial freeze before there was damage.”

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

CENTRAL: Corn planting halted due to wet field conditions, and forecasted rain could further delay planting. The region had some frost, but pastures continued to improve. Cattle remained in good condition, and green grasses emerged for grazing. Tank and pond levels remained full. Fruit and ornamental trees were in full bloom. All counties reported soil moisture and overall range and pasture conditions as good. Overall livestock conditions were rated 95 percent good while 85 percent of overall crop conditions were rated fair.

ROLLING PLAINS: Conditions were at both ends of the spectrum. The region experienced freezing temperatures to temperatures up to 80 degrees. The temperature swing wasn’t good for fruit trees and other plants susceptible to colder weather. Although this put a damper on lawn and garden work, producers have been busy preparing fields for this year’s crops. With cotton prices at a depressing low, some farmers were looking for alternatives but haven’t had much luck. Some producers moved stocker cattle to cultivated ground for grazing while those planning for cotton prepared the ground for spring planting. Livestock were in good condition with plenty of grazing as winter wheat and pastures continued to flourish. With the abundant amount of grazing available, ranchers fed supplement on a small scale and held on to hay supplies for the future. Wheat continued to grow and looked like a decent crop this year.

COASTAL BEND: Temperate days and cooler nights were the norm. A strong rain and wind-producing front passed with some small hail reported. Soil moisture conditions were good. Most corn and grain sorghum emerged and was growing. A small amount of sorghum needed replanting due to standing water. Some cotton has been planted, and some will also need to be replanted due to rainfall. Wheat continued to head. Rainfall perked up wheat but likely too late to improve yield. Rust pressure was observed in some wheat. Some producers applied fertilizer to hay fields. Pastures were green and growing with plentiful forage for livestock consumption. Cattle were in good shape, but mosquitos and flies were prevalent.

EAST: Wet conditions continued around the region. Rains and flooding destroyed corn planted in river bottom cropland in Anderson County. Several thousand acres of river bottom pasture was under water from both the Trinity and the Neches rivers. Shelby County had mandatory evacuations of residents living in low-lying areas due to flooding. Rain amounts in some areas exceeded 15 inches over a two-day period. Lake and pond levels were full to overflowing. Rain and cold weather hurt producers who planted early. Producers had trouble accessing pastures and crops. Pasture and range conditions were poor in the southeastern counties while other counties in the region rated them fair to good. Some farmers prepared spring gardens. Subsoil and topsoil conditions ranged from adequate to surplus. Upland vegetable crops were in good condition. Watermelons had runners and appeared to be three to four weeks ahead of schedule. Everything was budding out and blooming. Clover and ryegrass growth made good progress with adequate moisture and warmer conditions. Producers and homeowners were preparing for spring weed control. Producers were feeding less hay and supplementation. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Spring calving continued along with bull turn-out. Cow and calf sales were low at the sale barn. Fly populations were increasing in Henderson County, and Wood County reported serious problems with feral hogs.

SOUTH PLAINS: Borden County experienced windy conditions. In Cochran County, subsoil and topsoil continued to dry out due to lack of moisture and high winds. Producers continued to prepare for spring planting with chemical applications and listing. Crosby County received a light freeze over the weekend with a low of 31 degrees. Floyd County producers could use some more moisture. Producer were getting fields ready for planting. No rainfall fell in Garza County, and temperatures were near or below freezing with highs near 60 degrees. Rainfall was needed to improve topsoil moisture across the county for spring planting and green-up of warm-season grasses. Producers continued to prepare land for cotton planting in the next couple of months. Range and pastures were mostly fair to good with some green up of warm-season grasses in low-lying areas. As temperatures begin to rise, moisture will be needed for plants to grow. Livestock was in mostly good condition, and light supplemental feeding occurred. Conditions in Hockley County were dry and windy. Spring field work continued. Rust and a few aphids were found in wheat. Lubbock County experienced freezing weather March 19. The coldest minimum temperature was recorded at Abernathy at 23.5 degrees with a sub-freezing duration of six hours. Field preparation continued. Evidence of stripe rust was observed in two wheat fields. Yoakum County received no precipitation. Small grains under irrigation looked good. Oats in the area started to germinate.

PANHANDLE: The region was dry and windy with above-average temperatures most of the week, though a good general rain was still needed throughout the region. Collingsworth County reported dry, windy conditions, which dried out the soil profile significantly throughout the week. A burn ban was enacted to reduce the chance of wildfires due to the dry, windy conditions and fuel throughout pastures. Farmers prepared fields for planting by listing up rows, and putting down fertilizers, pre-plant herbicides and water. Deaf Smith County producers continued field work preparations for spring plantings. The winter wheat crop was actively growing as many producers ran water. Stocker cattle remained on graze-out wheat fields and were doing well. Decisions about what crops would be planted this season were still undetermined in some areas. Ochiltree County pre-plant activity for summer crops was reported. Wheat fields received weed control applications and were fertilized. Wheat will need rain soon but looked good. Producers scouted for insects in the wheat. Stocker cattle were moved off wheat fields to be harvested for grain. Randall County conditions were windy and dry. Rain was desperately needed as planting nears. Corn was expected to be planted within a week to 10 days. Meanwhile, field work continued in preparation for the upcoming planting season.

NORTH: Topsoil moisture varied from adequate to surplus. Temperatures reached beyond 80 degrees during the first part of the week, and more seasonal temperatures in the 60s and 70s returned during the latter half of the week. Rain totals were from a half inch to 1.75 inches. Warm temperatures and winds early in the week dried out topsoil so farmers could plant corn. Wheat and winter annual pasture grasses started to grow following rains from the previous week and warmer temperatures. Cattle pastures started to green up as well, which cut back on hay consumption. Livestock and spring-born calves were doing well. Wild hogs were still causing problems.

FAR WEST: Wheat in Glasscock County quickly progressed into the boot stage. Small portions planted early started to head out. Producers continued to work fields and most have started pre-watering cotton ground. Corn was planted and sorghum was expected to be underway shortly. Spring-like weather continued in Culberson County. A cold front blew in over the weekend but brought no precipitation. Fields in Pecos County have been planted with peppers and were being prepped for cotton. Range cattle continued to do well on open ranges. Presidio County was hot, dry and windy with no precipitation and winds gusting up to 50 miles per hour. Pastures were trying to green up, but non-grasses were the only green vegetation available. There were cattle dying due to the consumption of mustard weed. Winkler and Loving counties were drying out but received enough moisture throughout the winter to grow a good crop of spring weeds. Mesquite trees have not bloomed. Rangeland and pasture conditions in Reagan County started to green up from the warmer weather and rain. Lambing and kidding continued in Upton County. Supplemental feeding of wildlife and livestock continued. Some welcomed rains were received. Winter wheat was in fair condition. Pasture and range conditions across the district were poor. Topsoil and subsoil moisture were short.

WEST CENTRAL: Temperatures were much cooler at the end of the week. Some areas experienced frost and freezing conditions. Frost and freeze damage on warm season grasses and forages that had broken dormancy was noted. It was too early to tell if there was damage to wheat crops. Stock tanks and ponds looked good due to good runoff from the previous week’s rainfall. Field activities increased. Row crop producers were spraying winter weeds and applying fertilizers. Field preparations for spring planting were underway. Producers geared up to plant sorghum and summer forage crops. Some corn was planted late in the week. Wheat remained in good condition and was helped by recent moisture. Many producers grazed out their wheat pastures and expected to continue doing so as long as forage was available. Range and pasture conditions continued to improve and green up due to recent rains. Planned control burns were conducted. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Yearling cattle were doing very well. Cattle prices held steady.

SOUTHEAST: In Walker County, the pastures were growing well due to warm weather and moisture. Clover and other legumes were in active stages of growth and production. In Brazos County, warm temperatures allowed saturated fields to dry. Corn was emerging well. Hardin County began to dry out, but everything remained wet after weeks of flooding. Neighbors to the east along the Sabine River experienced flood conditions. Temperatures in Montgomery County were all over the board, but good growth was seen on winter annuals. Warm-season grasses showed some growth. In Chambers County, about 5 percent of the rice crop was planted. Cool weather did not help planted rice, and a considerable amount could be planted soon if rain stays away and high winds continue. Fort Bend County avoided forecasted rain and producers expected to plant soon if fields continued to dry. Livestock were in good condition. Soil-moisture levels throughout the region varied widely, but most were adequate to surplus, with surplus being most common. Galveston, Fort Bend and Walker counties reported 100 percent adequate. San Jacinto County reported 100 percent surplus. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely but most were rated fair to poor. San Jacinto reported 100 percent good rangeland and pastures.

SOUTHWEST: Rain provided much-needed moisture to topsoil levels and increased subsoil moisture levels as well. The cold weather damaged some peaches and small grains, and the light freeze could thin blooms. Wet weather had crops growing well. Producers in some counties continued to wait for fields to dry before finishing corn and milo plantings. Livestock were doing well and had plenty of forage.

SOUTH: Conditions were good overall. More rainfall was received, which improved soil moisture and range and pasture conditions. Temperatures were mild in the northern portions of the region, and some rainfall occurred in Frio County. Corn crops in Frio County were in the two-to-four-leaf stages and in good condition. Potato crops were also in good condition and about to flower. Wheat crops continued to develop during the week and were in good condition. Range and pasture conditions throughout the Frio County area continued to recover and were in good condition. McMullen County received scattered rainfall, which improved soil moisture and pasture conditions. Rainfall amounts of 1-3 inches, coupled with warmer temperatures, helped green up pastures. Summer perennial grasses came out of dormancy. Winter annual grasses made good growth progress. Livestock grazing conditions improved and provided ample forage. Supplemental feed declined, and body condition scores on cattle improved with most herds in fair condition. Soil moisture conditions were 90-100 percent adequate in the Frio County area and 75 percent to 80 percent adequate in the McMullen County area. Pastures were doing better throughout the Brooks County area with the help of rainfall. Ranchers were optimistic about conditions, which produced better sale prices. In the Jim Wells County area, heavy thunderstorms occurred late in the week and provided additional moisture to most of the area. Rainfall reports varied from 1 inch to 2 inches, which benefitted all agricultural producers. Storms produced straight-line winds with 50-60 mile per hour gusts, but no crop damage was reported. Wheat crop conditions in Jim Wells County improved from the previous rainfall event, and most wheat fields were headed out. Forage conditions improved and were expected to increase in quality. Five inches of rain and cloudy conditions delayed further planting in Kleberg and Kenedy counties as fields remained saturated. Soil moisture conditions were 100 percent adequate in Brooks and Jim Wells counties and 100 percent surplus in the Kleberg and Kenedy counties. Conditions were favorable for forage production in Dimmit County. Maverick County received no rainfall, and farmers began planting next season’s crops. Coastal Bermuda grass should be ready for baling soon. In Webb County, three days of 100-degree temperatures were reported following 4 inches of rain and cloudy days. Range and pasture conditions were excellent. A storm made its way through Zapata County, and soil conditions were wet but not saturated. Temperatures were hot throughout the day and cold during late night hours. In Zavala County, warm days helped dry fields enough for producers to continue corn, sorghum and cotton planting. Fields of wheat and oats responded well to recent rains across the county. Livestock producers reported native range and pastures responded very well to rains, which reduced supplemental feed for livestock. Spinach harvesting of both fresh-market and processing varieties resumed in Zavala County, and the cabbage harvest was expected to resume soon. Soil moisture conditions were 70-80 percent adequate in Dimmit County, 70 percent short in Maverick County, 70 percent adequate in Webb County, 60 percent adequate in Zapata County and 100 percent adequate in Zavala County.

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