Texas rice farmers are seeing near-record yields of good quality grain and many are considering a second harvest, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Research experts.
Dr. Lee Tarpley, AgriLife Research crop physiologist, Beaumont, said despite a few problems for some growers, a near-record yield is expected for producers who planted their fields early in spring.
Producers in the state’s rice-growing coastal region who were able to take advantage of planting windows before late March avoided heavy spring rains that caused delays for other growers. Delays into April exposed late-planted rice to hot spells that may have hurt yields.
“Folks that planted late got hit by hot periods in July,” Tarpley said. “Daytime temperatures were in the upper-90s to over 100 degrees with nights above 77 degrees, which decrease yield when they coincide with flowering.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported Texas green yields were 9,000-11,000 pounds per acre with good quality. There were also reports of market uncertainty and falling prices related to ongoing trade disputes with China and negotiations with Mexico and Canada regarding the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Dr. M.O. Way, AgriLife Research entomologist, Beaumont, said about 190,000 acres of rice were planted this season and half the acreage was planted in hybrid varieties. Way said good growing conditions have many farmers considering growing a ratoon crop, that is to allow another crop to grow from the stubble left after harvest.
Ratoon cropping could produce an additional 35-50 percent of the main harvest, he said, with little input costs beyond fertilization and water. Around 60 percent of Texas rice acres are ratoon cropped typically.
“Main crop yields and quality are excellent in general,” he said. “I estimate early harvested fields, which are usually the highest yielding, averaged about 8,000 pounds per acre wet with some fields over 10,000 pounds per acre wet.”
Way said there was plenty of water for rice fields in 2018, but there were a few problems, including rice water weevil, stink bugs and injury to some fields from a new herbicide. Damages from birds and wild pigs were a problem, and producers noted increased wild pig activity.
Producers controlled pests for the most part, and other crop damage was limited, Way said. But heat damage to later-maturing fields was reported as high nighttime temperatures caused some panicle blanking.
Way also said increased rice acreage and good yields have caused problems with storage of rice post-harvest because there are not enough facilities to accommodate the crop.
Tarpley said ratoon cropping early planted fields might improve net profits. Later-planted fields could be ratoon cropped if temperatures remain above 50 degrees into early November.
“I don’t have a good feel for what percentage of producers will ratoon this year,” he said. “But if it stays warm they could see another harvest with less input costs, and that could mean a better bottom line.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Districts
CENTRAL: Some rainfall helped green up pastures and meadows, but moisture was still very short. Recent rains allowed some hay fields to recover enough to get a partial hay cutting. Supplemental feeding was needed for livestock on pastures. Cotton harvest was underway. Nearly all counties reported short soil moisture. Overall rangeland and pasture conditions were poor in nearly all counties. Overall crop and pasture conditions were fair in most counties.
ROLLING PLAINS: Topsoil moisture from recent rains allowed some farmers to work the ground and apply fertilizer on early wheat acreage. In some areas, pastures improved slightly and were in fair condition, while other areas were still very dry. Pastures, rangeland and cotton fields were showing signs of moisture stress. Cotton fields were reaching cut out stage with limited yield potential. Irrigated fields were average to above average condition. Livestock were in fair condition as supplemental feeding increased over recent weeks. Ranchers were still searching for hay as supplies dwindled. Without much rainfall it doesn’t look like there will be much hay produced this year.
COASTAL BEND: Hot and dry weather continued. Cotton harvest was in full swing with yield reports ranging from 1.5-3 bales per acre. Hay, soybean and rice harvests continued, with corn harvest nearing completion. Rangeland and pasture conditions continued to deteriorate at a rapid rate from lack of rainfall and extreme heat. Producers were worried about tank water getting low. Supplemental feeding increased significantly over recent reporting periods. Hay producers reported issues with managing armyworms and were trying to hold onto any growth for the next hay harvest. Some ranchers were beginning to look for hay but having difficulty finding bales in this part of the state. Cattle remained in good condition.
EAST: Summer forages continued to decline in quality and volume as dry conditions linger on without consistent measurable rainfalls. Many area pastures showed signs of drought stress and high temperatures, which caused great concern for producers. Cherokee and Marion counties received scattered rainfall that provided slight short-term relief. Marion County rain caused grass to grow, and some producers were able to get another cutting of hay. Producers in Anderson, Houston and Smith counties reported such short hay production that producers searched outside Texas for hay. Anderson, Gregg and Wood counties reported drought conditions continued to slow and, in some cases, stop hay and crop production. Pasture and rangeland conditions overall were poor to very poor except in Henderson, Polk, San Augustine, Gregg and Tyler counties, which reported fair conditions. Anderson County cotton looked good with no disease and about 15 percent of bolls open. Anderson County’s pecan crop was so heavy limb breakage occurred. Topsoil and subsoil conditions were adequate in San Augustine county, with all other counties reporting short conditions. Producers in Gregg County continued to cull cattle due to dry conditions. Houston County reported cattle prices were up per hundredweight while Shelby County reported a downward trend in prices. Light stink bug damage was reported in Anderson County, as was pecan leaf scorch in some orchards. Armyworms continued to cause damage in Anderson, Cherokee, Henderson, Houston, Marion, Shelby and Smith counties. Grasshopper infestation was reported in Cherokee County. Henderson County reported wild pig damage and high fly numbers.
SOUTH PLAINS: Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels were adequate to short. Some counties received 2-3 inches of rain. Irrigated cotton fields benefitted from the rain, but it was not enough to help dryland cotton. Producers were supplementing with irrigation to finish out the final stages of cotton maturity. Area crops continued to mature. Producers continued to conduct pest and weed management. Good numbers of beneficial insects were helping keep pests at bay. Winter cover crops were planted. Pastures and rangelands remained in fair condition. Cattle were in good condition.
PANHANDLE: Temperatures were near average. Some moisture was received, but more moisture was needed throughout the district. Rain amounts in some areas ranged from a trace to 2.5 inches. Soil moisture conditions were excellent for all crops in some areas but was short for most areas. Grasses and rangelands were finally starting to green up, and sorghum was all headed. Producers continued to irrigate crops. Corn in Deaf Smith County was doing well under irrigation, and most fields were close to dent stage. Silage harvest began. Wheat planting started as producers were trying to create grazing opportunities. Cotton under irrigation pivots was coming along. Dryland cotton started to look better with irrigated acres looking very good. Sugarcane aphids and headworms were being sprayed on grain sorghum. Wheat preplant activities continued with the expectation of early wheat planting for fall pasture starting soon. Dryland grain sorghum and cotton looked fantastic. Stocker cattle gains were very good due to milder temperatures.
NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels ranged from mostly adequate to short across the district. Temperatures were hot with dry conditions. Pastures were greening up from recent rains, but forage growth was slow. Camp County continued under a burn ban. Rain was needed in all counties. Corn harvest neared completion, and a few soybeans were being harvested. Cotton didn’t look good, and most fields had bolls opening. Some producers were harvesting hay. Armyworms were reported in Kaufman and Hopkins counties. Cattle continued to look good.
FAR WEST: Temperatures were into the triple digits with lows in the 70s. Hot, windy and dry conditions persisted with scattered showers. Rainfall averaged a trace to 2 inches. August has been hard on the little bit of cotton that was maturing, and farm service agencies began to receive dryland crop failure data. Producers continued to water cotton and pecans. Some wheat was planted before the rain showers. Insect problems were still an issue in pecans. Mosquitos and flies were becoming a problem. Preparation of soils for fall forage planting started. Fire danger was becoming more prevalent as right of ways and pastures were dry. Producers continued to feed livestock and wildlife. Livestock will be culled if no rains arrive in the next 30 days.
WEST CENTRAL: Recent rains eased drought stress in rangelands and pastures, but conditions were dry this reporting period. Forages looked better, but drought conditions still persisted. Stock tanks were at critical levels. Livestock remained in fair condition, and many producers were trying to figure out what to do about depleted hay supplies. Not much hay was available for sale and what little there was averaged $110-$120 per round bale. Cotton fields improved slightly and were mostly in fair to good condition overall. Grain sorghum harvest was underway, and some producers were preparing for early wheat planting. Cattle demands were good with an active market and all classes selling steady.
SOUTHEAST: Conditions were hot and dry. Some parts of the district received late rains, but other areas had not received rain in over a month. The rice crop was progressing. Late rice had all headed for the most part. High temperatures and scattered rain showers were not good for flowering rice. Some pastures were getting very dry, and grasses were not growing. Livestock still looked good and healthy. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied from fair to very poor with good ratings being most common. Soil moisture levels throughout the district ranged from adequate to very short with short being most common.
SOUTHWEST: Hot, dry weather continued in all counties. Soil moisture, pasture and rangeland conditions declined and were in desperate need of a good, steady rain. Streams and rivers were drying. Fall shearing of sheep and goats was underway. Some supplemental feeding of livestock began. Auctions reported increased sale numbers due to drought and producers’ inability to feed livestock. Corn and sorghum harvests were complete with below-average yields reported. Very little hay was being made. Cotton was defoliated and awaiting harvest.
SOUTH: Most parts of the district reported a continuation of hot, dry weather conditions with short to very short soil moisture levels. Western parts of the district reported adequate to short moisture levels. Triple-digit temperatures were reported. Dryland cotton was being harvested and the harvest in irrigated fields should begin soon. Irrigation pivots continued to run on cotton, peanuts, Bermuda grass, watermelons, cantaloupes and other crops. Some producers were reporting worse conditions than in 2011 — the worst drought on record. Bermudagrass and sorghum hay were being cut and baled. Pasture and range conditions were poor, and supplemental feeding of livestock continued. Livestock producers in some parts reported increased supplemental feeding and began to cull herds, selling older cows and young calves. Some producers began to haul water or move cattle to other pastures as stock tanks started to dry up. Surface water levels were declining. Body condition scores on cattle were mostly fair. Pecan orchards were in good condition, and producers expected a good harvest. No insect pressures were reported. Oat planting and spinach seed bed preparation were expected to begin soon.