Wheat acres in Texas were up and facing little to no threat from pests or disease in grazing and grain fields, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialists.
Jourdan Bell, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension agronomist, Amarillo, said planted acres in the Texas High Plains are slightly up from last year, with approximately 2.2 million acres planted.
For much of the region, there was good soil moisture at planting as a result of late-September and early October rains, Bell said. However, some areas did not receive rainfall and wheat was sowed into dry ground.
For the northern High Plains, or Panhandle region, there has been below-average snowfall resulting in dry conditions, she said. Fortunately, recent rains brought much-needed moisture to the whole region.
Even with below-average winter moisture, wheat-for-grain conditions have been fair to good, she said. Wheat-for-forage conditions have declined in recent weeks due to a lack of moisture for spring growth.
“Some producers were already running pivots to irrigate wheat pastures,” she said. “Conditions were warming resulting in fast wheat development. Recent rains will help tilling and forage production and ultimately improve conditions for producers who will graze out those pastures.”
Producers pull-off/cutoff dates for grazing are determined by crop insurance, she said. But March 15 was the last day to pull cattle off wheat that is insured as a dual-purpose crop.
Bell said many producers were leaving cattle on wheat and hoping for cattle prices to improve rather than go to grain.
Pests and disease
Army cutworms are active across the region, Bell said, but aphid and mite pressure is low. Disease pressure was also low.
Ken Obasa, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension plant pathologist, Amarillo, said information from AgriLife Extension county agents and crop consultants indicated few cases of disease.
“Overall, there were no instances of leaf or stripe rust that has come through the lab,” he said. “However, tan spot and one instance of spot blotch, caused by Bipolaris sorokiniana, have come through the lab.”
Obasa said there had also been cases of Alternaria and that warm, humid conditions were favorable for the disease. The weather is also favorable for tan spot, leaf rust and other seedling wheat diseases.
“Stripe rust prefers cooler temperatures, so as temperatures continue to warm, the chances for stripe rust will decline,” he said. “Overall, growers should look for foliar diseases other than rust that can spread.”
The district reported a significant improvement in soil moisture conditions compared to six weeks ago. Large amounts of rain led to saturated fields and some standing water. A cooler and wetter weather pattern was developing. Corn and sorghum fields were being planted. Most producers planted the bulk of their corn before rains started. Early planted corn was emerging. Some planting was halted by 2-plus inches of rain. Weeds were beginning to develop in improved grasses. Livestock were in good condition with grass growing well following rains and warmer temperatures. Wheat crops were in good condition and progressed well into the jointing stage. Little to no significant disease pressure in the wheat crop was reported.
Conditions were wet and cool. Winter wheat crops continued to improve with recent rains. Some areas reported signs of wheat mites, aphid pressure and armyworms in wheat pastures. Cattle producers continued supplementing cow-calf and stocker operations with protein supplements and hay where forages were limited.
Soil moisture conditions continued to be very dry. Corn and grain sorghum were planted. Early planted corn in areas with good soil moisture was emerging. Some early planted cotton emerged, but most cotton planting was on hold due to dry soil. Some fertilizer was being applied on hay fields. Hay supplies were tight. Livestock were fed hay and protein.
Warmer temperatures, sunshine and less rainfall allowed some producers to begin preparations for grazing pastures and hay season. Pastures were greening up and trees were budding. Some low-lying areas remained fairly wet, which caused problems, including yellowing of wheat and planted vegetable gardens. More rain was forecast. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were adequate. Livestock were doing fair to good with supplemental feeding taking place. Cattle markets in most areas of the district dropped. Houston County reported problems with buffalo gnats and flies. Feral hogs were a major problem in pastures, hay meadows and crops.
Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels were good. More moisture was in the forecast. Winter wheat and oats were starting to green up and grow. Producers were applying fertilizer to winter wheat. Growers were busy preparing for planting season. Cattle looked good, and some growers were waiting for fields to dry out enough for preparations, including herbicide applications.
Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels across the northern parts of the district were adequate, but southern areas needed moisture. Weather forecasts called for much colder temperatures with highs in the 30s. Pastures and rangelands remained fair. Winter wheat was in fair condition. Producers were considering whether to plant cotton or grain sorghum. Many producers were considering sorghum because of higher production costs for cotton.
Topsoil moisture was adequate in most counties with some reporting a surplus. Temperatures were seasonably warm with highs in the upper 80s. A strong storm system delivered some heavy rains to some areas. Most totals ranged from 2-3 inches. The forecast called for more rain, and soggy conditions were likely to continue. Winter wheat was doing well. Winter pastures were in excellent condition, and volunteer ryegrass and clover were beginning to grow well after the rain, sunshine and warmer weather. Spring-born calves were still arriving. Feral hog signs and sightings increased with the soil moisture and weather.
Average temperatures ranged between highs in the upper 80s and lows in the lower 40s. Rain accumulations averaged 0.5-3 inches. Heavy winds and tornado warnings were reported in central parts of the district. Rains delivered needed moisture to topsoil and subsoil. Pastures greened up and should improve with warmer weather. Winter wheat was making a good stand and growing well. Rangeland conditions were improving. El Paso County received rains that flooded irrigated valleys. Wet conditions presented problems during ground preparation. Some cotton acres were listed and ready for pre-irrigation. Most crop acres were still at the disking/leveling stage. Delays could present problems down the road. Farmers may be forced to plant Upland versus Pima cotton because of the late start. Many pecan farmers were pruning and/or removing branches from the orchard.
Soil moisture levels were in very good shape headed into spring planting season. Winter wheat was in mostly excellent condition and growing rapidly. Many field preparation tasks for spring crops were slowed or halted because of wet conditions. Rangeland and pasture conditions improved with warmer weather. Cool-season grasses were doing well, and some warm-season grasses and forbs were beginning to break dormancy. Some stock pond levels remained low, even with recent rains. Supplemental feeding of livestock was slowing. Livestock were in good condition.
Growing conditions were good, but additional moisture was needed. However, soil type was having the largest impact on subsoil moisture levels. Warmer temperatures were reported. Pasture green up was occurring in many areas. Rangeland and pasture conditions were excellent to poor with good ratings being most common. Soil moisture levels ranged from adequate to very short with adequate being the most common.
Soil moisture levels continued to be short. Corn planting was wrapping up with grain sorghum to follow. Spring lambing and kidding season was in full swing. Livestock prices were normal with producers supplementing both livestock and wildlife due to drought. Various areas received small amounts of rain. Trees were leafing out and blooming. Rain was forecast.
The district reported mild weather conditions with short to very short soil moisture levels. Several areas reported extreme drought and worsening conditions. La Salle County reported temperatures in the 90s. Maverick County reported daytime temperatures in the 80s with lows in the 60s. Zapata County reported the only rain in the district, but amounts were not measurable. Corn planting continued. Wheat and oats were starting to head. Potato fields emerged and were in good condition. Producers with dryland fields remained at a standstill awaiting significant rain. Pasture and rangeland conditions were poor. Producers were culling herds and feeding hay and cubes. Hay was becoming scarce in areas. Coastal Bermuda grass was greening, and some pastures will start producing bales in a few weeks. Vegetable crops were being planted or were planted. Dry conditions delayed corn and sorghum plantings in Zavala County. Spinach harvest was active. Cotton was being planted with some fields already emerged. Onions were almost ready for harvest.