Extraordinary cool and wet weather continued to bog down all field work and delay corn planting in most of the state, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service statewide agronomist.
"February weather was somewhat amazing," said Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension specialist and associate department head of the Texas A&M University soil and crop sciences department.
Miller said that according to Texas A&M climatologists mean temperatures throughout Texas averaged about 8 degrees below normal for February. Precipitation ranged from 80 percent to 346 percent of normal, but averaged about 150 percent of normal.
"That on top of a very wet winter puts us well behind the eight-ball, both in soil temperatures and, of course, in fields being too wet to get into," Miller said. "There's a spot or two out there where they've planted, but it's just that, spotty."
The optimal time to start planting corn in South and Central Texas regions is about the third or fourth week of February, with planting continuing into mid to late March, he said.
"I'm fairly comfortable to say here in Central Texas as late as March 15 or so, but after that the risk in yield decline is pretty precipitous because we get into hot temperatures during pollination and grain-filling time. Corn doesn't tolerate high temperatures very well," he said.
In 2009, Texas farmers planted 1.95 million acres, down a little bit from 2008. About 60 percent of that acreage is typically in the eastern side of the state on non-irrigated cropland. About 40 percent is irrigated corn grown on the High Plains, according to Miller.
"It's all that eastern side of the state that's running late. They haven't hit normal planting dates in the High Plains yet," he said.
Miller said he's been hearing from seed salesmen that people are beginning to trade corn seed in for sorghum.
"It would be hard to put an exact number on this, but a lot of people in South Texas are feeling real nervous about planting this late, and we're going to see a transition from planting corn to sorghum," he said.