By: Adam Russell
Sun, heat and wind drying out soil around Texas
- Writer: Adam Russell, 903-834-6191, email@example.com
- Contact: Dr. Jourdan Bell, 806-677-5663, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dr. Josh McGinty, 361-265-9203, email@example.com
AMARILLO – Soil moisture indexes around the state are beginning to drop as higher temperatures and sunny days mark summer’s arrival.
Heat, sun and wind all affect soil moisture as well as the crop water demand, said Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomist Dr. Jourdan Bell, Amarillo.
Summertime conditions can significantly increase crop water use as days become sunnier and temperatures climb into the mid-to-upper 90s or 100 degrees and beyond, she said. In the High Plains, extended periods without precipitation, in addition to heat, low relative humidity and windy conditions can drive crop water demands up to almost half an inch per day.
While irrigation helps meet water demands for some crops, the region’s dryland production can be quickly impacted by elevated temperatures and extended dry periods, Bell said. Successful dryland crop production is dependent on stored soil moisture to carry the crop through extended hot and dry conditions.
Many producers maintain crop residues from the previous crop on the soil surface in either reduced tillage or no-till systems to minimize evaporative losses from the soil surface, she said.
In addition to residue management, canopy closure between plants helps minimize soil evaporative losses, Bell said. So far, many summer crops have not reached canopy closure. Canopy closure is critical to minimizing early season evaporative losses from the soil surface in addition to intercepting sunlight to increase crop production under both dryland and irrigated conditions.
“Crop water use is picking up with elevated temperatures, and dryland crops that didn’t start with good moisture and surface residue will soon experience water stress without rain,” she said.
Different regions of the state welcomed hotter, drier conditions to help with flooding and saturated soils.
AgriLife Extension agronomist Dr. Josh McGinty, Corpus Christi, said humidity levels have been high following weeks of rain and flooding in southeast and East Texas.
McGinty said sun, higher temperatures and wind were needed in many areas of the state to dry saturated and flooded fields to allow crops to recover and grow. But some areas in the same regions were passed over by rainfall and are now showing signs of stress from lack of moisture.
“It’s a strange year,” he said. “There are some producers along the coast with flooded fields and good hot, dry weather is what they need, but then within a 30-minute drive to the west, you see fields that are moisture-stressed.”
Despite many acres being stressed by too much or too little rain, overall moisture levels have cotton and grain crops looking extremely good with potentially heavy yields, McGinty said. As always, it will take timely rains by the end of June or early July to maintain a good moisture index for some crops, such as cotton, and allow others, like grain crops, to continue to dry for harvest.
The high and low levels of moisture may impact individual producers but McGinty said spring rains have many acres of crops and forages looking exceptional.
“A lot of the corn fields look like it could be a record year for yields but that production will probably be offset by areas that experienced severe flooding and make for an average year overall,” he said.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
CENTRAL: Field work was halted due to rains. Hay producers reported high yields but lower quality. Soil conditions were drying fast with 90-plus degree days and 100 degree heat indexes. The wheat harvest was nearly complete. Yields have been affected negatively due to long stands in the fields. Corn was growing well. All counties reported good soil moisture. Overall range and pasture conditions were 95 percent good and crop conditions were 80 percent fair. Overall livestock and cattle conditions were 100 percent good.
ROLLING PLAINS: Conditions remained favorable for farmers and ranchers. Soil moisture content was at or near 100 percent. Acres of cotton already planted emerged and were in excellent condition but some cotton acres were yet to be planted. Rains received earlier in the year kept soil moisture levels high and with the high temperatures made for great cotton growing conditions. Some producers’ fields were too wet for cotton and they were thinking about alternatives. Cattle had more than enough grazing and were in good to excellent condition. Insects, including flies, were ranchers’ only concern. Wheat harvest continued with varied yields. Hay was being cut and baled. Sorghum and milo were up and looking good.
COASTAL BEND: The dry, warmer weather has been beneficial to many crops in the area. Some cotton yellowed and sorghum has been stunted due to excess moisture and standing water. Sorghum was coloring and some was sprayed in preparation for harvest in coming weeks. Cotton was in full bloom in some areas. Heavy growth regulators were applied on cotton due to the rapid growth. Corn harvest was underway, and yields should be strong in many areas. Reports of sugarcane aphid numbers were increasing. Insecticide applications were being applied to cotton crops to combat stink bugs, verde plant bugs and boll worms. Southern corn rust was still a concern among corn producers. Mosquito populations were lower, but fly pressure remained heavy. Range and pasture conditions were good in most areas, with some pastures dry enough to cut hay. Spraying for weeds continued in some pastures. Ponds were at capacity. Cattle remained in good condition with excellent grazing conditions.
EAST: Several counties around the region received scattered showers. Temperatures were abnormally hot. Subsoil and topsoil moisture were adequate in most counties with only Trinity, Upshur and Cherokee counties still reporting surplus. Pasture and range conditions were mostly good with a few counties reporting excellent. Houston County received 3-6 inches of rain causing corn and pastures to yellow. Some producers were able to cut hay, but high humidity caused drying issues. Hay producers in Cherokee County were behind schedule due to the abundant rainfall earlier in the year. Trinity County reported local producers were able to start cutting and baling as hay fields dried quickly. Hay production was in full swing in Wood County. Herbicides were being sprayed in Upshur County. Polk County reported a lot of forage in pastures and hay fields, along with plenty of weeds. Producers were trying to control weeds and make all the hay they could before conditions dry. Livestock were in good condition. Cattle prices in Gregg County dropped some but remained fairly steady. In Trinity County, several producers sold out because of lower calf prices and weather-related issues. Polk County producers continued to sell market-ready calves and cull cows. Gardens were producing well in Marion County. Some disease problems were reported on ornamental plants, as well as vegetable and fruit crops in Gregg County. Upshur County producers scouted for grasshoppers and armyworms. Horn flies, house flies and mosquitos were a big problem as their numbers were increasing. Wild pigs were active.
SOUTH PLAINS: Bailey County producers experienced hot, dry conditions. Cochran County subsoil and topsoil moisture levels improved with recent rains. Cotton and peanuts were in good condition with a little loss in the cotton due to cool temperatures and some hail. Producers replanted some cotton. Pasture, rangeland and winter wheat were in fair to good condition. Cattle were also in good condition. Temperatures reached 100 degrees or higher for multiple days in Dawson County. However, producers received a nice rain, which also dropped temperatures about 13 degrees. Some parts of Floyd County received significant rain, while other parts received none. The moisture will help cotton, corn and sorghum; however, more widespread rainfall was needed across the county. Hot conditions in Hale County put a strain on a large portion of young crops and livestock. Hockley County producers also experienced hot temperatures and received some rainfall. Temperatures and humidity levels in Lubbock County were above average and some isolated thunderstorms were reported. Field activity included rotary hoeing fields to break crusted soil for plant emergence, herbicide applications and some limited replanting. Cotton plant cycles ranged from emergence to near squaring, with most fields exhibiting two to three true leaves. Scurry County producers received 1-2 inches of rainfall. Cotton planting continued as the fields dried. The outlook was still good for all aspects of agriculture. Wheat harvest in Swisher County intensified, with most farmers putting sorghum planting aside to finish wheat. A windstorm interrupted harvest and caused lodging in some wheat. No harvest estimates were available. Sorghum planted in early June emerged quickly but needed moisture. Cotton has had a rough go. Acres planted in mid-May suffered from frost damage and had to be replanted. Acres planted in late May suffered sand and static damage from recent storms. Corn has taken off due to rains in late May.
PANHANDLE: Conditions were hot and windy. Moisture was received throughout most of the region with amounts ranging from a trace up to 3.5 inches in some parts of the district. Temperatures were warmer than expected for most areas. Hot, dry conditions aided the wheat harvest. Yields looked average to above average. Cotton acres were being replanted due to hail and seedling disease pressures. Dallam and Hartley counties received light showers totaling less than a half inch. Temperatures were much warmer than expected. Wheat harvest had not started but was expected to begin soon. Corn planting was completed and crop progress was good. A few late corn and sorghum silage fields were yet to be planted. Some producers were still deciding if they would plant sorghum. Corn looked good with some fields at 6-10 leaf stage. Corn producers shredded corners in anticipation of grasshopper infestations. Lots of small grasshoppers appeared on rangeland in some areas. Rangeland began to dry out with the warmer weather, and topsoil moisture was mostly short. Cattle conditions improved with good grazing and rated good to excellent in some areas, but flies were causing cattle to bunch up. Deaf Smith County producers were beginning to harvest dryland wheat and some irrigated fields. Cotton plantings were off to a rocky start due to cool, damp conditions but warmer-than-normal temperatures the past 10 days have improved conditions. Flash flooding was hard on fields and washed some cotton out. Quail and prairie chickens were nesting and hatching.
NORTH: Topsoil moisture was mostly adequate throughout the district. Between 1-4 inches of rain was received. Hot weather set in and sunny conditions should make crops and pastures grow. Hay cutting was well underway, although recent rains hampered some bailing. Areas of Kaufman County received more than 9 inches of rain over a two-day period, which saturated the ground and halted hay harvest in some areas. Rain leached nitrogen in corn and productive hay fields in Tarrant County. Wheat harvest continued with about 70-75 percent complete. Some fields were still too wet to harvest. Yield reports were below average ranging from 30-40 bushels per acre, but test weights were good. Corn and soybeans looked good. There were a few grain sorghum fields where sugarcane aphids were found, but most fields were not at a level to justify spraying. Mosquitoes and flies were very bad in areas. Wild pigs were also active.
FAR WEST: There were extreme heat warnings as temperatures reached above 100 degrees in several counties and exceeded 110 degrees in some locations, according to one report. Some parts of the district received rain with amounts ranging between 0.1 of an inch to 1 inch. Glasscock County received rain accompanied by extremely high winds that severely sandblasted crops and left producers to ponder whether to replant. Cotton finally made good progress with hot weather. Producers said corn and sorghum looked amazing. The wheat harvest was all but complete with co-ops running out of places to store grain. Producers were looking for places to store the upcoming sorghum harvest. Howard County received rain and storms. In Presidio County, the storms produced extreme lightening and high fire danger. Cattle were still on supplemental feed with reduced mineral consumption. Most cattle were in good shape with stockers doing especially well. Producers were working late calving-herds. Most pasture and range conditions across the district were good and greening up from recent rains. Range and pasture conditions in Reagan County were beginning to dry due to hot weather and little moisture.
WEST CENTRAL: Weather was increasingly hot and humid. No rainfall was reported. Weeds and grasses generated at the beginning of the year were expected to increase fire danger as soil moisture decreased with hot days. Field activities increased as fields dried. There were still areas with fields too wet to plant or drive equipment in. Wheat and oat harvest was in full swing. Good wheat yields were reported with some sprouting before harvest could start. Grain sorghum was being planted. Early planted grain sorghum looked good as well as corn crops. The first hay crops continued to be cut and baled. Large hay crops were reported due to the amount of rainfall received. Hay producers were busy finishing up the first cutting and yields were higher than normal. Most cotton fields were planted. Cotton planted early was up and looked very good. Gardens were improving. Range and pastures were in excellent condition and continued to improve and come back from over-grazing. Grasses and forages were abundant and green. Livestock remained in fair to good condition, and body scores were increasing. Cattle prices were down some. Flies and mosquitos continued to be an issue around the district.
SOUTHEAST: Soil-moisture levels throughout the region ranged widely from adequate to surplus, with most ratings in the surplus range. There was still water standing in many areas throughout the district. Brazoria County was still flooded. Many pastures were still underwater or severely saturated. Grimes County reported they have gone from excessive rain to oppressive heat. If the heat stays this way, the surplus of groundwater should evaporate quickly. In Jefferson County, fields dried due to the hot temperatures. In Fort Bend County, fields were beginning to dry, and producers were expected to be able to work in them soon. Crops were in good condition in spite of the rain. Livestock were in good condition. Producers doubted that small grains still in the field would be harvested. Range and pastures were in excellent to good condition, with good being most common.
SOUTHWEST: Some areas experienced extreme rainfall, which increased subsoil moisture levels. Rains were followed by dry, hot weather, which reduced excess moisture. Some pastures and ranges sustained damage from flood waters. Extreme heat advisories were reported. Livestock were in fair condition.
SOUTH: Hot, humid conditions continued with temperatures in the mid-90s up to 105 degrees. No significant rainfall beyond scattered showers that amounted to a few tenths of an inch was reported. Hay was being cut in Atascosa County. A lot of Coastal Bermuda bales, either round or square, were produced in some areas. Sorghum was turning color, and some was reaching maturity with the help of drier conditions. Producers were preparing to harvest and continued to harvest in areas where sorghum was planted early. Some cotton was squaring, flowering and setting boles as well. Potato and food corn harvests continued. Peanut planting also continued. Pasture and range conditions were good to very good, but high temperatures put a beating on soil moisture levels in some areas. Some rangeland and pastures were beginning to show signs of stress from lack of moisture. Forage supplies remained good for the time being. Body condition scores on cattle remained good. Cattle markets fluctuated due to the inconsistent rainfall and uncertainty about upcoming weather. Warmer and dry conditions allowed row crops in the Jim Wells County area to progress well. Almost all crops continued to be harvested, including vegetables in Maverick County. There were no major reports of pests. Watermelons and cantaloupes developed well with no insect or disease pressures being reported. Pecan orchards were progressing well and in good condition, but producers remained busy scouting for case bearers.
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