Cotton planting is expected to be down by as much as 25 percent from last year.
In December, a National Cotton Council survey showed farmers’ intended cotton plantings in Texas for 2013 to be 4.9 million acres, down by about 25 percent from actual plantings in 2012 of 6.55 million acres, said Dr. Gaylon Morgan, AgriLife Extension state cotton specialist, College Station.
“Since then, prices have gone up a little for cotton and come down a little for grain crops, so my guess is that the National Cotton Council survey hopefully is the worst-case scenario for planted cotton acres,” he said.
Also, there has been more rainfall than expected, which will affect cotton-planting intentions, Morgan said.
“We got some rain in early January which helped out those drier areas, and despite the long-term forecasts predicting drier than normal precipitation, we’ve actually accumulated a decent amount of rainfall in the High Plains and Rolling Plains just this last week or so,” he said.
The Coastal Bend and Rio Grande Valley cotton growing areas remain under extreme drought conditions, he noted.
“Additionally, long-term weather predictions are for above-normal temperatures, which can also magnify a limited in-season precipitation.”
But the recent rains likely will have an adverse effect on intended cotton planting as it will mean more acres will stay in or go to grain crops, Morgan said.
“A lot of cotton acres went into wheat last fall, and with the rains in the High Plains and Rolling Plains, they’ll probably stick with wheat,” he said. “Also there’s talk of a lot of sorghum going in.”
The National Cotton Council survey predicted 9.01 million acres for the U.S., Morgan said. Total upland cotton planting for the U.S. was more than 12 million acres in 2012. In the Southwest, which includes Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and New Mexico, cotton plantings are expected to be down more than 24 percent in 2013.
Morgan also noted that there was a similar drop – about 23 to 24 percent – in cotton acreage in 2006 going into 2007. Then, as now, relatively high grain prices were a factor in the reduction of cotton acres, he said.
More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/ .
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries for the week of Feb. 18-25:
Central: Conditions were dry with unseasonably warm weather. Winter wheat looked good after January and February rains. Cherry oat aphids were causing some issues, transmitting barley yellow dwarf viruses. Otherwise, oats were doing well. Growers were planting corn and sunflowers. Livestock were in good condition with producers continuing to supplement with hay.
Coastal Bend: The eastern part of the region received some rain, but the western counties continued to suffer from drought. All counties reported livestock producers were continuing supplemental feeding of cattle with hay and protein cubes. Warmer temperatures and light rains in the eastern counties caused ryegrass and oat pastures to show additional growth. Some counties reported that producers were just beginning to plant corn and grain sorghum.
East: After substantial rains, soil-moisture levels and pond levels were up, and winter forages were in good shape. Cattle were in good condition. Feral hog activity increased. Winter grain and wheat were in good condition. Producers were taking soil-test samples in preparation for spring planting of pastures and gardens. Ryegrass began to grow.
Far West: Warm, dry and very windy conditions continued, and most of the region remained on high alert for wildfires. Some counties had rain, from a sprinkle to 0.3 inches. Overall, rain or any form of precipitation was still badly needed. Land preparation for spring planning was ongoing.
North: Thanks to good rains, soil-moisture levels were adequate to surplus. Winter wheat looked weak in December, but rain in January and early February stimulated growth. Ryegrass also started to show growth, and it appeared most counties will have sufficient grazing from the last of winter and into spring. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Producers were still supplying supplemental feed and hay, waiting for the winter pastures to become available for grazing. Stock ponds remained low.
Panhandle: On Feb. 25, a blizzard brought heavy snows and high winds to the region, with accumulations forecast to be as much as 18 inches. Previous snows had dumped as much as 6 to 8 inches to some counties. Before activities ceased due to the blizzard, producers were preparing fields for spring plantings and irrigating wheat, hoping to get more grazing from the crop. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued. Most herds remained in fair to good condition.
Rolling Plains: The region received scattered rains, the most winter precipitation some counties had received in several years. Winter wheat broke dormancy and was responding very well to the rains. With a few sunny days, the wheat crop was expected to quickly green up and start growing, but if it stops raining and the weather turns windy, soils will dry out and growth will stop. Wheat producers were applying fertilizer and herbicides and wondering whether to pull cattle off wheat for grain production. Some counties reported extremely dry conditions, and cotton producers were strip-tilling seed beds on last year’s wheat ground. Livestock producers were selling cattle or providing full supplemental feed. Spring foaling and calving began.
South: Throughout the region, daytime temperatures were mild with cool nights. There was no rainfall, and high evaporation rates and strong winds dried out soils. Soil moisture levels were short to very short, stymieing forage growth on rangeland and pastures. Ranchers increased supplemental feeding. In Webb County, ranchers were very lightly stocked or totally de-stocked. In Frio County, potatoes emerged, and wheat and oats were in fair to good condition. In Zavala County, wheat and oats were stressed by the extremely dry weather. Also in that county, growers were actively irrigating cabbage, carrots, spinach and onions. Harvesting of processing and fresh market spinach continued, while the cabbage harvesting slowed. In Starr County, spring vegetable and row-crop planting was under way. In Willacy County, sorghum planting halted.
South Plains: Floyd and Hale counties reported snow, from a trace to about 2 inches, which was expected to help dryland winter wheat that was not in very good shape. Irrigated wheat was in fair condition there. Crosby, Lynn, Lubbock and Garza counties received rain, from 0.2 to 1 inch. This moisture was expected to improve wheat and promote field preparation for spring planting. Some producers were applying pre-plant fertilizer to cotton fields. Rangeland and pastures were in fair to poor condition. Stocking rates were reduced on most ranches in the past couple of years and were expected to continue to decline without rain before spring. Stock-tank water is critical in some areas. Livestock were in mostly fair to good condition with continued supplemental feeding.
Southeast: Montgomery County had moderate temperatures that promoted good growth of winter annuals. Rains there have been moderate as well, with less than 1 inch for the week, but that was enough to promote grass growth. Trees were budding out. Waller County had unusually warm weather. In Burleson County, the cool season grasses and legumes were also growing. Fort Bend County had scattered showers, with accumulations of as much as 0.5 inch. Temperatures there ranged from lows in the 30s to highs in the 70s. In Orange County, soils were saturated due to heavy rainfall.
West Central: Conditions remained very dry and windy, with mild daytime temperatures and cold nights. A few counties reported showers but without significant accumulations. Wheat was in poor to fair condition. All crops needed moisture soon to survive. Farmers were wondering whether to plant cotton or grain sorghum because of price variances and soil-moisture requirements between the crops. Rangeland and pasture conditions continued to decline, with very little winter grass and vegetation remaining. Stock-water tanks were at critically low levels. Producers continued supplemental feeding of livestock.