As tropical storm Barry barreled down on Louisiana shores with heavy rains, mid-coast farmers in the Texas Coastal Bend were harvesting what county agricultural agents are hinting at a bumper year for grain sorghum and corn.
“I would say we’re about a third of the way through sorghum harvest in Nueces County, and the machines are running hard every day to bring the crop in. The corn has dried down as well but farmers want to get the sorghum in before they move over to corn. Both crops are looking exceptionally good,” Nueces County Agent Jason Ott told Southwest Farm Press.
In the adjacent counties up the coast, San Patricio and Aransas County, the harvest may be a little better.
“It’s beginning to get pretty dry; the last two weeks since June produced very little rain, but we started off with a good moisture profile and sorghum and corn are looking to have very good yields. We’re pushing the harvesters through the field as fast as they can run and in some cases were seeing 5,000 to 8,000 pounds of grain sorghum per acre,” San Patricio County Agent Bobby McCool told Southwest Farm Press in a telephone call last week.
Both agents agreed that harvest was running a week or two behind schedule this year thanks to a late start to the planting season because of heavy rains and wind events in early spring.
“We saw a lot of acres replanted across the Coastal Bend in early spring, especially for cotton; a few acres were replanted twice because of some lodging due to wind and fields too wet to get into. But once the weather warmed and timely rains fell in April and May, we’ve been seeing good progress,” McCool said.
The year hasn’t been without challenges, both Ott and McCool agree.
“We would still like to pick up another 2 to 3 inches of rain before cotton strippers start running. We’re at full bloom across most of Nueces County and some bolls have broken open. But a little more moisture might improve yields before harvest,” Ott reports.
“We would gladly take another inch or two of rain if it didn’t slow down a good grain harvest. But our cotton is looking really good too, no matter what. We can make it to harvest on cotton without additional rain. But a little extra would be a bonus to what is shaping up to be a really good year for agriculture in the mid-coast region,” he said.
Ott and McCool also have seen their share of stink bugs, fleahoppers, cotton aphids and a few sugarcane aphids.
“But it hasn’t been a big problem this year. A few farmers planted non-resistant varieties of sorghum and it’s paying off for most of them. But most are using the newer resistant varieties and we’re not seeing many sugarcane aphids this year, not at a problem level anyway,” McCool said.
“We have seen a little reduction in cotton acres this year as farmers seemed to feel the price was stable while grain sorghum looked to be a little better bet. I would say we lost about 12 to 15 percent of cotton acres to grain this year. But grain sorghum, good corn and cotton all seem to be doing well now that temperatures have heated up and growth has accelerated, so I’m not sure everyone isn’t pretty happy with whatever they planted. We’re also seeing some good sesame and sunflower fields. It’s just a good year for farming in the Coastal Bend so far,” Ott added.
“The only real drawback,” added McCool, “is the price of cotton. We saw a little boost last week as stocks dropped as Midwest and even upper Texas cotton and grain farmers got off to a slow start because of rain and other weather events. I’m not sure we’ll see much more of that until we know more about how well they get things going up north. But we could see another little spike in cotton prices before it’s over. We can always hope.”
Another concern on the minds of South Texas farmers, as it is for most U.S. farmers, are ongoing trade issues.
“Maybe we’ll see some improvement in our trade with China when all these trade issues are resolved. But down here we are more concerned about our trade with Mexico than anything else, and that problem should have been resolved before now,” McCool said.
“As long as we see good yields like the ones we are seeing this week from early harvest, things are looking up, considering all the problems and challenges farming can and has seen in recent years,” Ott commented.
Indeed, it was just two years ago that most of the Coastal Bend and Upper Coast cotton was destroyed by Hurricane Harvey and McCool says farmers remember that well because it was turning out to be a bumper year for agriculture until the hurricane landed square on the region.
“No one has forgotten what can happen, even in a good year, and maybe that’s why everyone is running that equipment so hard to bring this bumper crop to a conclusion,” he added.