Significant rainfall in the mid-to-upper coastal region of Texas has greatly benefited corn and sorghum crops in recent days but cotton continues to fall behind and now faces increased pest pressure, especially along the Upper Coast.
Late season planting is underway in parts of the Lower Coastal Bend as some farmers who lost early plantings to dry weather are struggling to salvage the growing season with late corn, sorghum and sesame crops. A large number of cotton producers in Southern Nueces County opted to file for insurance claims, but where possible are considering alternative crops.
Although rains improved soil moisture levels in some locations in the south, in most cases it was not enough to significantly improve rangeland and pastures. With high hay costs and poor grazing, livestock producers continue to reduce herds and purchase additional supplemental feed. Many are trying to hold on to their best cattle and are trying to avoid decreasing herd numbers unless necessary.
In northern Nueces County and across San Patricio County, corn and sorghum have greatly benefited from recent rains that ranged from two inches to as high as six inches over the last two weeks. Cotton producers, however, report early planted crops suffered from abnormally cool weather throughout April and into early May and in some cases have been adversely affected by high winds and early pest pressure.
"Some corn was stunted because of dry and cool conditions, but since the rains, some is looking pretty good and we hope to recover both corn and grain sorghum if we can keep soil moisture," reports San Patricio County Agent Bobby McCool. "A lot of cotton growers zeroed out this year because of a failed crop, but a few are struggling to get grain seed in the ground in an effort to salvage the year."
McCool says Milo is looking better in San Patricio County and he has heard reports that grain crops have improved in Nueces County as well.
"A few farmers in my region are also switching from failed cotton to sesame where possible, but it takes a while for sesame to get started and longer to grow, so we will have to wait and see if that is a workable alternative this late in the year. If we continue to get rains, it might just work," he added.
Upper Coastal Bend and Southeast Texas
Moving up the coastline, Refugio County is reporting slightly better corn and sorghum conditions, but cotton continues to struggle for more moisture and additional warmer temperatures.
From Victoria County and extending into Goliad County and north into Jackson, Matagorda, Wharton, Fort Bend and Brazoria counties, weather conditions have changed from cool and wet to slightly warmer and wet. One- to two-inch rains in early May improved corn and sorghum crop conditions but cotton continues to suffer from a cool start to spring. Adding to problems in cotton has been southerly winds that injure smaller cotton early in its development.
"The cotton growth stage is variable throughout the area and ranges from fields that are in the two true-leaf stage to the pinhead square stage. At this slow rate of growth bloom is probably a solid three weeks away in the earlier planted fields. The few cotton fields that are squaring are averaging an 85 percent square set," reported Clyde Crumley, Texas AgriLife, Extension IPM agent
In addition, Crumley expects treatable levels of fleahoppers in cotton fields soon and also warns growers to be on the watch for verde plant bugs in the weeks ahead. He reports low to moderate numbers of big eyed bugs, lady beetles and spider bugs in cotton. He warns that as grain sorghum begins to bloom, producers should be on the watch for sorghum midge, rice stink bugs and headworms.
"Treat soybeans when populations exceed 36 stink bugs per 100 sweeps or one per foot of row when using a beat sheet. When scouting for stink bugs by beating plants with your arms, it is advisable to use some type of white or black cloth beat sheet," Crumley advised.
He says immature stink bugs will often be black or dark colored and will be missed if you just beat the plants on the ground without a beat sheet. Most beat sheets measure 40 inches by 36 inches and have pockets for dowel rods to help stretch them between rows.
Also of concern for the Upper Coastal Bend and Southeast Texas regions are thrips. Crumley says thrips pressure remains moderate to high in most area cotton fields on the Upper Coast.
"Seed treatment insecticides have performed satisfactorily as a whole to this point but most have begun to lose effectiveness. If immature thrips are present following soil applied insecticides or seed treatments then the treatment has lost or is losing its effectiveness," he reported in the latest Upper Coast Crop Improvement Newsletter.
A random check up and down the coast indicates most all farmers are pleased with the recent rains but agree that more will be needed in the weeks ahead after such a slow start to the spring season.