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Heat, drought, high winds bedevil West, South Texas farmers

DUST DEVILS spin by the dozens across fields near Lubbock Texas in mid June as a prolonged drought grips the region
Irrigation efficacy hampered by heat and high winds. Stand establishment has been difficult. Some growers considering abandonment.

West Texas AgriLife Extension integrated pest management specialist say prolonged drought conditions continue to hamper crop progress across the region, with even irrigated acreage struggling to stay ahead of high temperatures and high winds. Conditions are not much better to the South.

Manda Anderson, IPM agent in Seminole, Texas, says Gaines County cotton ranges from seed in the ground to squaring, with “a majority of the cotton sitting at 2 to 4 true leaves. It has been a hard year to get a stand established or to keep a stand established due to the soil drying out before the pivot can get around the field,” Anderson said.

“Some growers have had to replant their fields due to wind damage and droughty conditions that resulted in poor emergence. Growers need to be sure to differentiate between sand blasted cotton and thrips damage.”

She said peanuts also “are struggling due to the windy, dry conditions. However, they seem to be holding up a little better than the cotton. We are starting to see a few blooms in the fields.

Scott Russell, IPM agent for Terry and Yoakum Counties, says farmers have had difficulty getting good stands of cotton and peanuts.

“Continued hot, dry and windy weather has made getting an acceptable stand difficult. Major wind events on May 24 and June 12 did considerable damage to young seedlings (especially cotton without a cover crop), with numerous growers spot re-planting as needed.”

He said farmers have reported a two-week lag to get cotton and peanuts up to a stand. “This has primarily been due to the rapid drying conditions caused by the wind and high temperatures,” Russell said. “Numerous cotton fields have had to be replanted and are just coming to a good stand. Irrigated cotton in the IPM scouting program ranges from 1.7 true leaves to 5.5 true leaves.

He said thrips have only been a minor pest in cotton thus far. “None of the IPM scouting fields has required treatment. Dryland has been planted and awaits rainfall.

“Peanuts look good, all things considered; they have had the same struggles to emerge that cotton has. We are beginning to check nodulation of peanut roots. So far nodulation is only fair to poor, indicating that we might expect a yield response with the addition of nitrogen fertilizer. We have noted the first few blooms in peanut fields this week; however, with high temperatures and dry conditions these will not likely form pods.”

He said evapotranspirationfrom June 5 through June 12 averaged 0.39 inches per day, with daily values ranging from 0.33 to 0.42 inches per day. “Anyone irrigating a crop with 0.75 inches every 5 days can see that the 0.75 inches is gone in just two to three days. In many cases the moisture profile is not as full as we might think and the crop is water stressed before it receives the next irrigation. This scenario sounds like we are already into August!”

Conditions are no better for Parmer and Bailey Counties where IPM agent Monti Vandiver works out of the Muleshoe office. He says hot and dry conditions with substantial winds “continue to tax crop production in the Northwest Plains of Texas. Wind speeds have subsided from May and crops have responded remarkably well. Well established corn, cotton and grain sorghum are growing rapidly but requiring substantial irrigation to maintain normal growth and development.”

Vandiver said weather conditions and crop coefficients show that crops are requiring 1.25 to more than 2 inches of moisture per week to sustain current growth and development. “To compound that, the hot and windy conditions make sprinkler irrigation systems much less efficient; the amount of irrigation water pumped, in most cases, is significantly less than the actual usable moisture applied.

“In a significant number of irrigated and all dryland fields, crop establishment has failed despite continued efforts of producers. Portions of some crops have already been abandoned and abandonment is being considered on many others.”

He said farmers who are considering abandoning crops must “consider crop contract delivery requirements and crop insurance implications in addition to current crop conditions and irrigation capacity.

He said the corn crop ranges from just emerged to more than 24 inches high. “As corn development continues moisture demands will rapidly increase.”

Clyde Crumley, IPM agent for the Texas Upper Coast region, says conditions in South Texas are also dire.

“The hot, dry weather pattern that has settled in over this part of Southeast Texas is continuing with near record high temperatures being noted daily,” said Crumley, who works out of Wharton. “The recent widely scattered showers were welcomed; however, the key word here is ‘widely’ and they were not enough to offset this year’s ongoing rainfall deficit across the area.”

He said most cotton in the area is at or “fast approaching cutout.”



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