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Texas wheat producers upbeat this year

Texas wheat producers remain optimistic about this year's crop, despite rain shortages and disease, Texas Cooperative Extension Reports.

Travis Miller, Extension agronomist in College Station, said plenty of rain has fallen in the eastern half of the state, but the western half is still dry.

“In the San Angelo area it has been pretty dry, and this has resulted in the wheat being pretty small,” Miller said. However, parts of the High Plains received up to 1? inches of rain last week, he said.

But the northern High Plains — one of the state's major wheat growing areas — missed that rain.

“We got some moisture last week, but it wasn't enough,” Brent Bean, Extension agronomist in Amarillo, said in late March. “We are still optimistic about our wheat crop, but we really do need some more rain.”

The story is a little different in East Texas. “We have had more-than-abundant rainfall in the eastern part of the state,” Miller said. “We have had some disease problems as a result of moisture and cool temperatures.”

He said stripe rust is affecting the crop for the third year in a row.

“It is forcing some producers to apply fungicides,” Miller said.

“Stripe rust has been a problem in the Central Blacklands area and in the Uvalde area,” said Gaylon Morgan, Extension specialist in College Station.

In addition, greenbugs are back, but no worse than in the past.

“Greenbugs have been a big problem in some areas, not so much in others. We have seen quite a few in North Texas,” Miller said. “We have had a few greenbug problems, but nothing like we had last year,” Bean said. “A few producers have sprayed pesticides.”

Bean said greenbugs infest small areas of a field before spreading and inject a toxin into the plant. “Usually you will see a yellow spot in the field, and that's where the greenbugs are,” Bean said.

Rising energy costs also worry producers in West Texas. The price of gas used to power irrigation pumps has gone up.

“Energy costs have been a problem,” Bean said, adding that farmers have irrigated less acreage than in past years because of cost concerns.

Shortcomings aside, Miller said farmers planted 6.6 million acres of wheat in Texas. “We had pretty good rains in the fall and got above average stands,” he said, “That is an important part of establishing a good wheat crop.”

Miller said the biggest wheat producing area in the state is the High Plains, with almost 3.3 million acres. The second largest area stretches from Wichita Falls south to about Abilene. He said about 1.5 million acres are planted there.

Harvesting dates depend on the region of the state, but Miller said Southwest Texas will probably start its harvest in early May. Most wheat in the state is harvested mid-May to mid-June.

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