With a few notable exceptions, soil moisture levels in much of the state were adequate or better, thanks to rain and snow.
Soil moisture remained short to very short in the western counties of South Texas, but most of the region was enjoying improved soil moisture levels due to October and November rains, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.
As much as 4 inches of snow fell in parts of the Panhandle, but soil moisture levels remained short in some parts of the region.
While for the most part wheat was progressing well, some counties reported that their wheat needed more rain.
J.D. Ragland, AgriLife Extension agent in Randall County , south of Amarillo, said his area’s wheat could use more moisture.
“Some irrigated fields are progressing well, but tremendous input cost has already occurred,” Ragland said. “Additionally many area wheat fields are stocked with wheat pasture cattle and will remain until pull-off about March 15.”
Wheat “desperately” needs more rain in parts of the Rolling Plains too, said Bryan Reynolds, AgriLife Extension agent in Lynn County, south of Lubbock. In Motley County, northeast of Lubbock, the situation isn’t much different, said Ryan Martin, AgriLife Extension agent.
“The weather may be perfect for this year's cotton harvest, but it hasn't been for pastures and livestock,” Martin said. “With the lack of any moisture over the past couple of months, pastures and wheat ground are showing the signs. Ranchers are worried that there may not be enough winter forages to last and supplemental feeding may begin early this year. Some ranchers turned cattle out on winter wheat early in hopes of getting some type of return on the crop, but the grazing didn't last long.”
Two counties to the east, the situation was much different, reported Anthony Munoz, AgriLife Extension agent in Knox County.
“We had some nice warm days for the Thanksgiving holiday,” Munoz said. “Cattle are being turned out on great stands of winter wheat. Producers are getting their cotton stalks shredded and plowed up to prepare for winter wheat planting. Pasture conditions are holding on but could lose a little forage with the forecasted freezes.”
Though it has been dry of late in the Panhandle, the wheat that was planted early is doing well, said Dr. Brent Bean, AgriLife Extension agronomist based in Amarillo.
“It kind of depends upon who got the rain and who didn’t,” Bean said. “I tend to think that wheat north of I-40 is in reasonably good shape. We grow a lot of wheat up here, and we’ll continue to do so. It’s a good rotational crop for us, especially for those who run some cattle. This is wheat country.”
In many other parts of Texas, wheat made good progress though planting was delayed due to wet conditions.
The following summaries were compiled by AgriLife Extension district reporters:
CENTRAL: Weather for the past week has been mild with cool nights. Though greened-up by November rain, pasture growth remained slow due to cooler temperatures. Livestock producers were supplementing cattle with hay and protein. Stock water tanks were full.
COASTAL BEND: The region received light rains with below-normal temperatures. Soils were saturated, and there was little field activity. Pond levels remained low in some areas.
EAST: As much as 1.5 inches of rain fell across the region. Producers tried get one more hay cutting between rains. Winter forages were planted in some areas, and those already planted showed good growth. Livestock were in fair to good condition with some supplemental feeding. Feral hog damage continued.
FAR WEST: Cotton yields were better than expected, and grade improved as the harvest neared completion. Ranchers hoped for more moisture. Pastures were dry and it doesn't look good going into winter. The dry and windy conditions also raised the risk of wildfire. Most pecans have shed their nut load, with a few varieties slower in opening shucks and falling.
NORTH: Soil moisture was adequate to surplus. The corn, soybeans, sorghum and cotton harvests were nearly complete or complete. Winter wheat and oat planting also neared completion. Producers tried to take a last hay cutting. Warm weather and good moisture improved pastures. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Some grazing was possible on winter pastures, but most small grains were late to be planted and may not be ready until early spring. Cattle producers began feeding hay as most summer grasses were gone. Rangeland and pastures were in fair to good condition. Some areas received the first frost of the season.
PANHANDLE: Some areas received as much as 4 inches of snow. The entire area had much colder temperatures toward the end of the reporting period. Soil moisture levels remained short to adequate. All grain crops were 95 percent to 100 percent harvested with average to slightly above-average yields. The cotton harvest was ongoing. Yields were good, but quality remained low. Rangeland was in fair condition.
ROLLING PLAINS: The cotton harvest continued, aided by nearly perfect weather. The cotton crop, however, hasn't been perfect. Only a small portion produced above-average yields. Some producers considered turning acres in on insurance because it would cost more to harvest them than they’re worth. With the lack of any moisture over the past couple of months in some counties, pastures and wheat were stressed. Ranchers worried that winter forages may not last, and supplemental feeding may begin early this year. Some ranchers turned cattle out on winter wheat early in hopes of getting some type of return on the crop, but the grazing didn't last long. Pastures are in the same condition with winter weeds and ryegrass playing out early. Feed bills may be high this year and some will be forced to sell off portions of their herd or calves early. Supplemental feeding was in full swing. The pecan harvest began early in most orchards.
SOUTH: Soil moisture was adequate in most areas, but remained short to very short in the western part of the region. Mild daytime and cool nighttime temperatures continued. Peanut harvesting was put on hold in the northern part of the region due to rain. Some producers were doing field work in preparation for planting 2010 crops. Hay harvesting slowed down considerably. In the western parts of the region, producers were irrigating spinach, cabbage, onion and carrots. Growers were harvesting cabbage and spinach. Responding to cooler temperatures and recent rains, dryland wheat and oats made good progress. The sugarcane and citrus harvests continued. Producers were preparing to harvest tomatoes and winter vegetables. Rangeland and pasture conditions remained mostly fair, and livestock were in good condition as the availability of good grazing improved. Stock water tank levels remained limited. Ranchers still had to haul water on almost a daily basis or resort to poor-quality supplies from wells and windmills.
SOUTH PLAINS: Cotton producers had another week of warm, clear weather and nearly finished the harvest. Soil moisture was short to adequate. The corn harvest was complete with above-average yields reported. The sorghum harvest wound down. Winter wheat continued to mature and needed moisture. Pastures and rangeland were in poor to fair condition. Livestock were in fair to good condition with continued supplemental feeding.
SOUTHEAST: Topsoils were saturated and cooler temperatures prevailed. Harvesting was slowed by rains. The ratoon rice crop harvest continued. Some soybeans were harvested. Some pastures improved with the continued rains. Other pastures remained in poor condition because of earlier overstocking. Farmers prepared for spring planting. Livestock were all right. Producers had to start feeding hay earlier than average.
SOUTHWEST: Nearly a half an inch of rain fell, bringing the cumulative rainfall during the last three months to about 160 percent of the long-term average. The rain was expected to help sustain the improved agricultural situation and will make early spring planting possible. Cool weather helped conserve moisture. Forage availability improved. Small grains made excellent progress. The pecan harvest was almost complete. The cabbage, pickling cucumber, green bean and peanut harvests continued.
WEST CENTRAL: The weather was fair with warm-to-cool days and cold nights. The cotton harvest was in full swing. Small-grain planting was nearly complete. Early planted wheat looked good. Dry conditions slowed growth, and producers had to spray fields because of insect problems. Rangeland and pastures were in good condition. Livestock remained in fair to good condition.