Farm Progress

Wet weather delays cotton harvest

Robert Burns

November 11, 2009

7 Min Read

In some areas, rains let up and fields dried, allowing agricultural producers to get back into fields for planting and harvesting, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

In many areas, producers were either waiting for fields to dry out to either plant small grains or winter pasture or try to take one last cutting of hay.

In other areas, particularly the Rolling Plains , where many fields were saturated a couple of weeks ago, the cotton harvest just started up but was then postponed due to heavy dews and thick, damp fog, said Dr. Todd Baughman, AgriLife Extension agronomist based at Vernon.

“We had a real good week of weather up until the last two mornings,” Baughman said. “And we’ve had real foggy, damp weather. Normally it’ll come in an hour or two and burn off, but it’s been holding on for longer than that.”

In the Lubbock area, they hadn’t had the extremely wet and flooding conditions, but there was still enough rain to keep harvesters out of the fields, Baughman said.

The peanut harvest was pretty much completed in the Rolling Plains, he said.

One of the issues wet weather causes when the bolls are open is loss of color grade, he said. If wet weather delays harvesting long enough, it can also depreciate yields.

So far, yields have been “all over the board” for both cotton and peanuts, Baughman said.

“It was real frustrating until about a week ago,” Baughman said. “But if we can pass this little boggy period here, we’ll be in good shape.”

On any given year, from 500,000-750,000 acres of cotton are grown in the Texas Rolling Plains, according to Baughman.

The following summaries were compiled by AgriLife Extension district reporters:

CENTRAL: Soil moisture across the district was adequate to surplus, and growing conditions remained good. Warmer weather encouraged the growth of wheat and rye. Some farmers were waiting for fields to dry out before planting late-season small grains. Pastures were in great shape and stock water tanks were full. Livestock were in good condition, and hay producers were taking one last cutting.

COASTAL BEND: Western counties in the region reported no moisture, but widespread rain fell over the eastern area. The dry weather in the western counties allowed some field activities to begin again. Application of herbicides to fields continued to kill emerging weeds and seedling cotton. The rain in the eastern counties halted all fieldwork and delayed the hay harvest. The hay harvest has been good enough so far to help alleviate the shortage caused by the past 14- to 18-month drought. But stocks were expected to remain below normal, and hay will still be in short supply for many ranchers. Wet conditions continued to hamper cotton stalk destruction. Most cattlemen were holding off on supplemental feeding of livestock.

EAST: Field conditions improved, and producers in many areas resumed cutting and baling hay. Some areas still had issues with flooding. Producers continued planting winter forages, and previously planted stands made good progress. Feral hog damage remained a problem across the region. Livestock were in fair to good condition.

NORTH: Soil moisture was adequate. Sunny days and dryer weather helped to dry out fields and pastures from all the October rains, and farmers were trying to get into fields to finish planting small grains and winter pastures. Much of the early planted small grain stands were eaten by armyworms. Some of the early stands seemed to be making a recovery, but it was too early to be certain of the outcome. Feral hogs continued to be a problem. Because seed prices were down, producers were planting more legumes this year. The lower fertilizer costs associated with legumes was also a factor. Cotton producers hope to be able to get into the fields soon to complete the harvest. Most soybeans and sorghum fields were harvested. Cattle were in good shape, and rangeland and pastures were in fair to good condition.

PANHANDLE: Soil moisture was mostly adequate with a few areas reporting short. The weather turned warm and dry, helping harvest restart. Some areas had nearly finish the harvest of corn and sorghum. According to individual county reports, corn ranged from 45 percent to 100 percent harvested, with yields looking very good. Sorghum was 25 percent to 100 percent harvested. Cotton was fair to good with 2 percent to 50 percent harvested. The early hard freeze damaged some cotton, and yields were not as good as earlier expected. The harvesting of peanuts, sunflowers and soybeans was nearly complete. Producers had nearly finished planting wheat with 90 percent of the crop emerged. Irrigated wheat was doing well, and some fields were being fenced to allow cattle to be stocked for grazing. Rangeland improved with the warmer temperatures.

ROLLING PLAINS: The first week of November brought warm days with cooler nights and mornings throughout most of the region but no moisture except dews in the early mornings. Cotton stands were being defoliated. With little to no wind, producers were going full tilt harvesting cotton. Winter wheat fields looked strong, thanks to earlier rains and the warm days that followed. Rangelands were in good condition, and livestock body scores improved accordingly. The cool, damp nights slowed the peanut harvest. Hay was being cut but was slow to cure because of moist ground and morning dews. The pecan harvest had barely began but good yields were expected.

SOUTH PLAINS: The region had warm, open weather, creating nearly ideal conditions for the harvesting of cotton and sorghum. Soil moisture was short to adequate. Producers were nearly finished with the peanut, corn and sunflower harvests. The cotton harvest was ongoing, with very high quality grades. The harvesting of late-planted sorghum had just started. AgriLife Extension agents reported that wheat growers were delighted with the timeliness of rains, good sowing conditions and moderate temperatures. Pastures and rangelands were in fair to good condition. Cattle were in good condition and continued to be supplemented.

SOUTH: Soil moisture levels were adequate in the northern and southern parts of the region, but were still short in some eastern and western areas. Morning temperatures average of about 50 to 60 degrees and evening temperatures of about 70 degrees helped conserve moisture. The peanut and green-bean harvests were in full swing in the northern parts of the region. Bermuda grass hay was being baled in that area of the region as well. Harvesting of baby-leaf spinach was expected to begin sometime in the next 10 to 14 days. The cabbage harvesting was ongoing, as was irrigation of onions, carrots and cabbage. Dryland wheat and oat fields progressed well thanks to the recent rains, but more rain is needed soon to keep up with the growth and water demands of these crops. After a six-day delay due to wet fields, producers restarted the sugarcane harvest. In the southern part of the region, citrus was being harvested and onion planting was winding down. Rangeland and pastures throughout the region showed signs of dormancy. Ranchers continued with minimal supplemental feeding of livestock.

SOUTHEAST: Soils were saturated in some counties. There was grain sorghum re-growth still standing, which producers hoped to bale for hay, depending if field conditions dried out in time. Hay curing was slowed because of heavy dews and cool nights in the low 50s. Later-planted winter pastures were doing well thanks to the recent moisture. However, many fields that were planted with winter pasture in early to mid-October suffered fall armyworm damage. In many cases replanting of winter pastures was not possible because of recent rains. In Chambers County, pastures remained in poor condition because of saltwater intrusion from Hurricane Ike.

SOUTHWEST: Good weekend rains, 10 inches or more in some areas, were expected to help further improve the agricultural outlook and make spring planting possible. The recent cool weather helped conserve moisture. Forage availability improved. Small grains were making excellent progress. Wet fields delayed the fall harvest of sweet corn, cabbage, pickling cucumbers, green beans, peanuts and pecans. But the harvests were expected to resume soon.

WEST CENTRAL: The trend of warm days with cool nights continued. The cotton harvest was under way in defoliated fields. Wheat was off to a great start thanks to recent rains. Some harvesting of hay and planting of small grains continued. Producers were preparing for expected armyworms and greenbug problems in small-grain fields. Pastures and rangeland continued to improve. Stock tanks and ponds levels remained very low. Livestock were in fair to good condition. The pecan harvest was in full swing with an average to fair yields reported.

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