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Texas wheat production hurt by drought

Texas wheat production hurt by drought
Drought hammers Texas wheat. Some areas benefit from spring rains. High Plains crop is hard hit.

Texas wheat production will be off significantly from last year as a prolonged drought takes a heavy toll on yield potential.

Recent crop conditionratings show about 40 percent of the Texas crop in very poor condition. Texas farmers will produce 100 million bushels of wheat in an average year, but likely will produce about a third of that in 2011.

Some areas may harvest a near normal crop in areas that have received rainfall, says Robert Duncan, Texas AgriLife Extension small grains specialist. But large areas of the state will harvest little or nothing.

“(Recently) I drove through Central Texas and the Rolling Plains,” Duncan said. “Some fields in Central Texas look quite good and will have average yields.  These areas received rains 3 to 4 weeks ago, prior to grain fill. Other areas missed the rains in Central Texas and have below average yields and low test weight.  

“The situation is variable in Northeast Texas, but in general conditions are equal to or better than Central Texas.  Last week we had a Soft Wheat Workers Conference in Dallas, and we toured the research trials in Farmersville.  Overall, the research and Extension site looked fair to good, depending upon the variety.  Stripe rust, leaf rust, powdery mildew and barley yellow dwarf virus were present at varying levels depending upon the variety.” 

Crop prospects decline further west. “As you move west into the Rolling Plains, the status quickly deteriorates.  Much of the wheat has very poor stands, and even with a good initial stand the crop is in poor to very poor condition.  The wheat crop in the Rolling Plain is extremely stunted, with very low yield potential and will have low test weight.”

Duncan said the situation is even worse in the High Plains. “Dr. Brent Bean recently described the dryland crop in the Texas Panhandle as generally poor to very poor.  ‘Many of the fields have died.   Those that have survived have sparse stands and are heading.  Even with rainfall soon these fields will yield below average.  The condition of the irrigated crop is mixed, depending on how much water has been applied.’”  

Duncan says lack of moisture means overall disease pressure has been minimal, but he says viral diseases such as barley yellow dwarf  virus have been found in low to moderate levels.

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