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Coastal Texas harvest rolls forward

Coastal Texas harvest update. Grain sorghum harvest is underway in south Texas. Rainfall has been variable across region.

From the Lower Rio Grande Valley to the Texas Upper Coast, grain sorghum harvest is underway at various stages in each region. Leading sorghum harvest are producers in the Valley where the majority of grain has been harvested in the Upper Valley with only late-planted sorghum in Cameron County lagging behind because of dry, hot conditions and a lack of sustainable moisture.

Rio Grande Valley

Last week’s heavy rains slowed harvest efforts considerably with some Lower Valley fields left to dry and continue to mature. As a result, producers are watching for disease and pest pressure as significant numbers of problems have begun to surface.

Cotton across deep South Texas is nearing or has reached maturity and harvest will probably begin over the weekend and continue in the weeks ahead. Significant acres of late planted cotton are just now reaching defoliation.

“Many fields had only bolls left in the tops of the plants. Many more fields had open bolls, especially in dryland fields but also in irrigated fields that were either planted by

mid-March or which have not had enough supplemental water to keep up with plant needs,” reported John Norman, AgriLife IPM Extension specialist (ret) and editor of the Valley’s Pest Cast Newsletter.

Norman says hot, dry conditions have dominated the region except for last week’s exceptional rains, but both dryland and irrigated cotton appear to be in good condition. Additional dry conditions, however, could cause rapid yield loss and advance harvest schedules.

Coastal Bend

Coastal Bend Extension agent Jeffrey Stapper, Nueces County, reports rains last week were good but spotty with some benefit to some cotton and sorghum fields but with little effect on others. Grain sorghum harvest is underway across the region and crops are reported in fair condition after drought stress was reported in many fields.

“The drought of 2011 has continued into 2012 in South Texas and the lack of soil moisture along with above normal temperatures has resulted in some significant stress on some grain sorghum. As a result, seed formation was hampered, likely from stress in the sorghum plant. This symptom is consistent with heat stress during panicle (head) formation while the developing heads are still wrapped in the stalk surrounded by leaf sheaths,” Stapper noted in this week’s Coastal Bend Agriculture Briefs.

He says many fields that failed to receive rain last month are a total loss and some producers are plowing under or harvesting for forage. Nitrate toxicity is suspect in some sorghum, however, and may have been amplified when high a rate of nitrogen fertilizer was applied prior to the stress period.

Because of dry conditions, many sorghum and cotton producers opted to apply harvest aids last week. While rains may have adversely affected their effectiveness, producers are currently scouting fields to determine if harvesting will begin next week once the 7- to 14-day period between application and harvest has passed.  Many producers who collected samples are still awaiting results from the Texas AgriLife Extension Service Soil, Water, and Forage Testing Laboratory. If nitrates are discovered at toxicity level, harvest may be delayed for treatment, or the crop may be declared a total loss.

Stapper has prepared a table that indicates the cost per acre for a number of harvest aids used in cotton and grain sorghum. To view the table, click here.


Clyde Crumley, EA-IPM in the Mid-Coast region, reports Gulf disturbances last week brought varying results of rainfall across the region, from as little as two-tenths of an inch to over two inches, delaying harvest efforts for corn, grain sorghum and cotton.

“We are seeing a little seed sprouting in the sorghum heads and some minor lodging in corn. Approximately 80 percent of the cotton grown here is at cutout and the remaining 20 percent is at mid-bloom, so the next hurdle for the more mature portion of the crop will be protecting the bolls from insect damage,” reported Crumley in his weekly Upper Coast Crop Improvement Newsletter.

Crumley reports treatable levels of stink bugs in numerous fields, especially those located adjacent to corn and/or sorghum fields. He says with an average of one or more stink bugs per 6 feet of row feeding can cause excessive loss of squares and small bolls and may stain lint. Crops should be out of stink bug danger once the bolls reach 450 heat units past cutout.

Of equal concern across the region are Verde Bugs, with treatable levels evident in the Tin Top and Palacios area of Matagorda County. Crumleyadvises sampling for the pests before determining treatment options.

Cotton bollworms are another pest problem reported across the region.

“Be on the lookout at this time for bollworms. Egg lays are variable across the area with some program fields in many areas having up to 14 percent. Damaged squares and bolls were between 3 percent and16 percent and small worms (1percent to 14 percent) as well as medium to large worms (0 percent to 6 percent) are being detected in program fields,” Crumley reports.

Other pest problems include fall armyworms which are being widely reported in many fields.

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