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Rain good news for wheat planters

All of Texas received some rain in the last week, with north central parts of the state getting 5 to 6 inches, while the Panhandle and points west saw only light showers to about 1 inch, according to the National Weather Service.

The Southwest got more rain in the last week than it had in the past year, but coming this late in the season, producers were still culling herds for lack of forage.

The rain was welcomed by agricultural producers waiting to plant small grains, including winter wheat, but a bit late for some dryland cotton. What irrigated cotton and sorghum really need is more heat units, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

"As for a lot of the irrigated cotton, we'd already stopped watering," said Dr. Todd Baughman, AgriLife Extension agronomist based at Vernon.

The rain won't make much difference for the dryland cotton, either, Baughman said. "Two weeks in the middle of August with 100-plus degree temperatures pretty much finished out our dryland crop for us," he said.

Baughman said he expected dryland cotton yields to be about average.

"When we went into the first of August, it looked like we had the potential for an outstanding crop," he said. "And it's going to be average at best, now."

Parts of the Rolling Plains got rain, with the better rains east of Lubbock, said Dr. Randy Boman, AgriLife Extension cotton agronomist. Though more rains would be welcome, the limiting factor for cotton in his region is a shortage of heat units.

"We really are at the point that we don't have a lot time to waste in terms of maturing the crop," he said. "We really need to make some fiber as soon as possible."

Baughman said the high on Sept. 13 was only 67 degrees, compared to the long-term average of 83 degrees.

"We're just on a slow down-trend to going to something like zero heat units by the middle of October," he said.

Though irrigated cotton remains good overall, Boman said there's going to be "a sizeable acreage" of dryland cotton with disappointing yields as a result of the drought.

In the Panhandle, Dr. Brent Bean, AgriLife Extension agronomist based in Amarillo, said the rain won't make much difference for the region's corn crop, which is either drying down or being already harvested.

"The rain is not really affecting the corn crop, other than just finishing it out," Bean said. "Overall, it's been a good year for corn."

Panhandle sorghum and cotton are both progressing well. Cotton is a little late, though, he said.

"Those that got their cotton planted early enough and got some heat units in late May should be in pretty good shape," he said.

The following summaries were compiled by AgriLife Extension district reporters:

CENTRAL: Rain significantly improved rangeland and pastures in parts of the district. Elsewhere, dry weather continued to delay planting of small grains. The stock tanks of those who received rain caught enough water to last a while.

COASTAL BEND: Rain was a welcome sight for all except those beginning sesame harvest. Pastures greened up, but had a long way to go to recover from the drought. Additional rain was needed to sustain grass growth. Some, but not all, areas received enough rain for runoff to fill stock ponds. Producers continued supplemental feeding of livestock. Hay was still a precious commodity.

EAST: The region received scattered showers, but more widespread rainfall was needed. Hay harvesting slowed due to lack of moisture for further growth. However, baling continued in some areas. Hay supplies remained limited. Producers were preparing to plant winter pastures. June bugs, armyworms and love bugs were reported. Feral hog activity increased. Calf weaning continued. Livestock were in good condition.

FAR WEST: Widely scattered rain, from 0.5 inch to 3 inches, was reported across the region. Chiles were maturing and turning red. Growers were taking the sixth cutting of alfalfa. Cotton ranged from very poor condition to very good, with bolls starting to open or completely open. Farmers were expected to begin stripping cotton in a few weeks. Grass was browning out and starting to cure. The corn harvest began. Producers were planting winter wheat.

NORTH: Soil moisture ranged from short to surplus. Heavy rains interfered with the harvesting of corn and soybeans. Though soybeans were a little behind schedule, the crop appeared highly promising. The grain sorghum harvest was in progress, but it was too early to predict yields. Cotton was in fair to good condition with bolls setting and opening and some 15 percent already harvested. Pastures looked good and haying operations were ongoing. Some producers were hoping for a third cutting. Dairy and beef producers were preparing to plant fall forages. Planting of winter wheat and winter pastures began. Peanuts were in fair condition. The rice harvest was about 20 percent complete. Sweet potato growers were waiting for fields to dry out before starting harvest. Livestock, rangeland and pastures were in fair to good condition.

PANHANDLE: Most of the region saw cooler weather, but rain was needed to complete crops and raise soil-moisture levels for wheat planting. For the most part, corn approached being harvest-ready. In some areas, corn was already 10 percent harvested. Storage may be a problem for corn growers as most elevators were still holding wheat, and feed yards have not had a demand for corn due to fewer cattle on feed. Silage harvest was in full swing with 25 percent of the crop harvested. Yields were average to slightly above average. Harvest of grass hay and forage sorghum were in full swing, with above average yields and good quality for both dryland and irrigated fields. Peanuts looked good and producers were digging dryland Spanish peanuts. Sorghum was 95 percent to 100 percent headed and 45 percent to 80 percent coloring. Soybeans were reported in good condition. Cotton bolls were set with from 5 percent to 50 percent open, but the crop needed more heat units to progress. Cattle were in good shape and local markets have remained soft. Rangeland was in fair to good condition.

ROLLING PLAINS: The district remained mostly dry except for a few areas that received isolated showers. Cotton plants were dropping fruit while some had opened small bolls, a sign the crop was finished. A small amount of cotton acres were in good condition, but without moisture in the next week or so, those fields will likely burn up. Some cotton was already defoliated. Milo was about ready for harvesting. Cattle producers reported the outlook for rangeland, pasture conditions and hay did not look good. Some cow/calf producers weaned calves early to relieve grazing pressure on pastures. Cattle on pasture had fair to good body condition scores. The outlook for winter wheat was not good either. Only about 10 percent of the crop was up; the remainder had not emerged. Producers can only hope for some moisture to get a decent wheat crop this year. Peanuts looked good across the region.

SOUTH: Rainfall of 3 to 6 inches of rain was reported throughout the region, and temperatures have cooled down considerably. Soil-moisture levels were from short to mostly adequate. Rangeland and pastures improved somewhat. However, beef cattle producers – without any hay for the winter – were still culling herds. Some stock tanks filled up a little thanks to the substantial rain. Cotton harvesting in the northern part of the region was beginning to slow down. Also in that area, peanuts progressed well, with harvesting to begin in a couple of weeks. Dryland wheat and oat producers in the western parts of the region may now have enough soil moisture to plant. Growers continued to prepare seed beds for cabbage, onions and spinach. Producers were planting fall vegetables and sugarcane in the southern part of the region.

SOUTH PLAINS: From 0.1 inch to 3 inches of rain were received across the region, allowing many producers to shut off their irrigation pumps. Soil moisture was short to adequate. The corn harvest was proceeding well, as was the sunflower harvest. Cotton was in fair to good condition. Dryland cotton received much needed rainfall to continue growing. Peanuts were in fair to good condition and maturing. Growers continued to prepare fields for the planting of winter wheat. Pastures and rangeland were in fair to good condition. Most livestock were in good condition with supplemental feeding.

SOUTHWEST: The region received almost as much or more rain than it had for the previous year. The rain filled dried-out stock tanks and was expected to revitalize rangeland grasses and help wildlife. Cooler weather accompanied the rain, which helped conserve moisture after one of the hottest summers on record: nearly 70 days with temperatures of 100 or above. However, year-to-date cumulative rainfall remained at less than 60 percent of the long-term, and forages remained scarce. AgriLife Extension personnel reported there was too little of the growing season remaining before the first killing frost to produce enough forage to sustain a significant livestock and wildlife inventory. The cotton harvest was complete with about 10 percent of the crop remaining in the field as modules. The fall sweet corn harvest was complete. Fall-planted cabbage, pickling cucumbers and green beans made good progress thanks to the rain.

WEST CENTRAL: Rain and cooler temperatures brought drought relief to the entire region. Cotton was progressing. Producers were planting small grains, though activity slowed pending fields drying out. Rangeland and pastures were expected to show improvement soon from recent rains. Stock tanks caught much-needed runoff.

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