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Texas crop, weather

Crop conditions improved in Central, East, North and parts of the Rolling Plains thanks to rain, according to reports from Texas AgriLife Extension Service agents.

However, much of the rest of the state remains short of moisture. The cost of fertilizer remains a critical issue for many producers throughout the state.

"Still no changes in weather; it's dry!" said J. D. Ragland, Texas AgriLife Extension Service agent in Floyd County, near Lubbock. "The only chance we had this week of any kind of moisture was on Wednesday evening, and it looked like we had every opportunity, but we missed and drew a goose egg."

"A few wheat fields are hanging on but will need moisture in the next week,"said Danny Nusser, AgriLife Extension agent in Randall County, south of Amarillo. "Most dryland fields are being 'disastered' because of the lack of moisture and insect pressure earlier in the year. Pastures will need moisture to begin spring growth."

"Many cattle producers are continuing to feed due to shortage of grass or no grass growth due to drought," said David Graf, AgriLife Extension agent in Sherman County in the northern Texas Panhandle. "Some cattle are being grazed on wheat due to poor wheat conditions (too poor to harvest as grain) and high feed prices."

Pastures are making excellent growth, but fertilizer applications are not taking place," said Randy Reeves, AgriLife Extension agent in Harrison County in East Texas. "Those that are applying fertilizer are doing so at super-reduced rates due to high cost."

The following summaries were compiled by Texas AgriLife Extension Service District reporters this week:

CENTRAL: Rain came to most of the region, filling stock tanks, greening up pastures and replenishing soil moisture. Some counties received hail with light damage to corn. The condition of cattle has greatly improved.

COASTAL BEND: Warm, windy and dry weather was the rule. Lack of soil moisture slowed the growth of cotton and small grains. The wheat harvest began. Some hay was harvested, and livestock producers had to supplementally feed because of lack of forage.

EAST: Pastures made excellent growth despite scattered showers. Many producers are not applying fertilizer to improved pastures because of the high cost. Those that are fertilizing are only using low rates. Pasture weed control began with applications of herbicides. Livestock producers were working cattle; reports of fly problems came from some counties. Blueberry and blackberry growing season was off to a good start in Henderson County. Spraying of peach trees continued.

FAR WEST: Hot, windy days without rain dried out pastures, leaving them in poor condition. Winter wheat was 80 percent to 90 percent headed and in fair to good condition. Producers finished their first cutting of alfalfa. Watermelon planting was finished in Glasscock County. Row crop farmers diversified with chiles and sunflowers this year. Sunflowers were 100 percent planted. Corn was in fair to good condition, with 100 percent planted and emerged. Oats were 50 percent headed and in poor to fair condition. Soybeans were in fair condition.

NORTH: The recent rain raised soil moisture to adequate levels. All corn has been planted. Wheat looked good and started to make heads. Soybean planting continued. Warm-season forage grasses began to green up, and clovers and ryegrass were in the mature stage of growth. Some dairy producers harvested ryegrass for silage; most oats have already been ensiled. Bermuda grass was slow coming on. Winter and summer pastures looked much better thanks to the rain. Hay season should be good this year. Livestock are in fair to good condition.

ROLLING PLAINS: The eastern part of the Rolling Plains has received good moisture from thunderstorms this past week, though some areas had major hail damage. The western part is still in need of more moisture as high winds are causing problems not only with drying topsoil but also with spraying weeds. The wheat is starting to turn fast with the hot and dry winds reported over the last few weeks. This crop is looking good across most of the district. Flies are becoming a nuisance to most cattle herds, and producers are beginning to treat for them. Green grass is becoming abundant. Preparation work is being done for cotton planting. Grain sorghum is emerging and small grain fields are looking good. Stock tanks are full, and cattle are in fair to good condition. Weeds are aggressively growing and need spraying.

SOUTH: Short to very short soil moisture conditions continued to be the rule through much of the area. The northern parts of the region, however, did receive several inches of rain. Other counties received light showers that may slightly improve growing conditions. The western parts of the region are wrapping up onion harvesting, and spring vegetables are progressing. However, dryland crops might be as much as a 90 percent loss due to the spring drought. Livestock are in fair condition, but only because of continual supplemental feeding,.

SOUTH PLAINS: Scattered showers brought from a trace to 4 inches of moisture. Parmer, Dawson and Scurry counties received high winds and hail up to the size of a golf balls. These storms damaged structures, wheat and alfalfa. Damage estimates are still being processed. Soil moisture was short to very short. Corn planting was in full swing. Producers continued to prepare fields for cotton, with a possible start-planting date in early May. However, dryland crop plant dates will depend on whether rain is received. Winter wheat was in heading to flowering stages, but in poor condition. With poor yield potential, some wheat is being cut for hay. Pastures and ranges were in poor condition. Livestock were mostly in fair condition, with supplemental feeding continuing.

SOUTHEAST: Cool-season annual grasses have run their course, and seed is maturing. No significant moisture was received. Rice planting continued and should end the early part of next week. Mexican Rice Borer moths are being caught in traps. Numbers averaged in the thirties per trap this week, which is not a big number compared with what's expected later this year. There are still hay reserves. Producers are continuing to fertilize pastures despite high nitrogen prices, but producers are applying less. Livestock were doing well.

SOUTHWEST: April remains very dry with year-to-date cumulative rainfall at Uvalde of less than one inch of rain, compared with a long-term average of over six inches. Parts of the Hill Country had thunderstorms and hail last week, and the Eagle Pass area had thunderstorms. A cold front brought high winds and a few scattered showers, but no significant accumulations near Uvalde. The risk of roadside and field wildfires eased somewhat due to morning drizzle, cloud cover and lower temperatures. Forage availability was below average. Corn, sorghum, spring vegetables, sunflowers, cotton, pecans, sod, grapes, cantaloupes and watermelons were all making good progress under irrigation. Very few dryland acres were planted due to the drought. Small-grain production will be minimal, and only where small grains were irrigated. The cabbage and carrot harvest was winding down. The potato and onion harvest was gaining momentum, and contractors were preparing for the harvest of pickling cucumbers.

WEST CENTRAL: Dry, warm, windy days continued, with all counties needing rain. A few areas reported some scattered showers. Spring work on improved pastures is in full swing. Producers were applying herbicides and fertilizers. Some sorghum was being planted. Area farmers were getting ready for cotton planting in the next month. Small grains were heading out, but most stands were short and very thin. Cutting and baling of some wheat and oat fields was under way. Range and pastures improved with recent rains. Livestock body conditions improved as forages greened up.

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