"The yields, so far, have been way above expectations," said Greg Cronholm, Extension agent in Hale County. With the hail and drought that hit the area this past summer, many producers were not expecting much, he said.

Cotton harvest is nearing completion in the in the northwest portion of Texas. In Hale County, weather-related problems damaged 40 percent to 50 percent of the cotton acreage so badly, producers had to replant the fields with sorghum, soybeans and corn, Cronholm said.

A severe drought didn't help matters.

"Last summer, we had virtually zero rainfall for three months." He said additional irrigation helped save some acreage, but that there was some that didn't make it.

Arlan Gentry, Extension agent for Yoakum County, said similar conditions were experienced in his area.

"With the drought and hail storms we received this year, we are so far pleased with our yields, grades and overall crops."

Cronholm said producers were harvesting, on average, one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half bales of cotton per acre.

"Most producers are getting 200 to 300 more pounds per acre than anticipated," he said.

Gentry said prices have improved along with the higher-than-expected yields. Even though prices have dropped some in the past couple of weeks, they are still higher than in most years because of international demand, Gentry said.

"China is the No. 1 influence,” Cronholm said. “It all depends on whether they have a good crop or not." When less cotton is produced in China, more is imported into that country to satisfy industry needs.

Luckily problems with pests were kept to a minimum this year, Gentry said. Boll weevils can cause a lot of problems, but they have become less of a threat thanks to the boll weevil control program, he added.

However, Gentry predicts the lack of water will continue to become a bigger issue in his area. "The water table has certainly dropped," he said.

According to Steve Sturtz, Extension agent in Glasscock County, approximately 75 percent of the cotton has been harvested, and producers are expecting to be finished by Christmas.

Galen Chandler of Vernon, district Extension administrator, said the cotton harvest is continuing with lower-than-average yields.

"It has been difficult for the farmers to make a good crop with the lack of rainfall," he said.

Range and pasture conditions have not improved, and cool season grasses are suffering there as well, Chandler said.

"A good rainfall would be a great help to both wheat farmers and the cattlemen who have cattle on the wheat pastures," he added.

Jim Word, Extension agent in Ector County, said the pecan harvest in his area is complete. Although the nuts may be smaller than in the past, quality and quantity is good.

The following specific livestock, crop and weather conditions were reported by district Extension directors:

  • PANHANDLE: soil moisture very short to short. Most sorghum has been harvested. Cotton harvest continues in the southern Panhandle. Wheat is rated fair to good but is in need of moisture. Widespread infestations of greenbug, bird cherry-oat aphid and rice root aphid have been reported. Irrigated wheat pasture continues to provide excellent forage while dryland pasture is very limited. Range condition is mostly poor to fair. Cattle are in good condition; supplemental feeding is under way.
  • SOUTH PLAINS: soil moisture very short to short. Sorghum and cotton harvest are nearing completion. Most of the higher-yielding cotton fields are now off the stalk and in modules. Peanut harvest is over. Winter wheat is in fair condition. Irrigated wheat fields are doing well. Non-irrigated wheat is suffering from lack of moisture. Ranges and pastures are in poor to fair condition. Supplemental feeding continues.
  • ROLLING PLAINS: soil moisture short. Cotton harvest continues with lower than average yields. Wheat crop is suffering from lack of rain. Stocker cattle have been turned into wheat pastures. Range and pasture conditions are deteriorating. Livestock body condition is fair with supplemental feeding.
  • NORTH TEXAS: soil moisture very short to adequate. Oat and wheat fields are doing well. Pecan, peanut and cotton harvest is wrapping up. Cattle are doing well as supplemental feeding continues.
  • EAST TEXAS: soil moisture adequate. Winter pastures are responding well to colder temperatures and increased soil moisture. Livestock condition is good; hay and supplemental feedings are under way.
  • FAR WEST TEXAS: soil moisture short to very short. Pasture and ranges are in need of moisture. Pecan harvest is coming to a close. Winter wheat planting is complete and is beginning to emerge. Oat planting is complete. Livestock condition is fair; supplemental feeding continues.
  • WEST CENTRAL TEXAS: soil moisture short. Cotton harvest continues with good yields. Lack of rain is hurting wheat and oat crops. Greenbugs continue to be a problem. Range and pastures are in need of rainfall. Pecan harvest continues.
  • CENTRAL TEXAS: soil moisture short. Pecan harvest is in full swing, and most producers are reporting a light crop. There has been some insect pressure on small grains. Supplemental feeding of cattle continues; market prices remain high.
  • SOUTHEAST TEXAS: soil moisture adequate. Fall land preparation continues. Some frost this week has ceased summer perennial growth. Cattle prices are strong. Pastures are in good condition.
  • SOUTHWEST TEXAS: soil moisture short. Forage availability is slightly above-average for this time of year. Small grain fields are in need of rain. Spinach and cabbage harvest continues. Pecan harvest is complete.
  • COASTAL BEND: soil moisture good. Due to frost in some areas, supplemental feeding of cattle has begun, but livestock are in good condition. Field activities include plowing, fertilization and applications of winter herbicides. Pecan harvest is nearing completion.
  • SOUTH TEXAS: soil moisture adequate. Sugarcane, citrus and greens are being harvested. Winter vegetable crops are progressing well.
Edith Chenault is a writer for Texas A&M University.

e-mail: e-chenault1@tamu.edu