High fertilizer prices have many producers worried, said Clint Perkins, Texas AgriLife Extension Service agent in Wood County.
Perkins' Wood County producers aren't alone.
Armon Hewitt, AgriLife Extension agent in Trinity County, reported "... fertilizer prices will be extremely high this year, which has ranchers scrambling for alternative ways to improve forage growth at a cheaper price. ... Input costs will definitely affect profit margins for next year's hay crop."
In order to address high fertilizer costs, Texas AgriLife Research scientists and AgriLife Extension specialists are planning an April 18 workshop in Overton to discuss alternatives to traditional fertility programs.
"With nitrogen selling for 55 cents a pound last year and now selling for 70 cents a pound, we have to adjust our fertilizer recommendations," said Dr. Gerald Evers, AgriLife Research forage expert. "Specialists and researchers here at Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Overton will deal with different aspects of pasture and livestock management."
Evers said foremost among the speakers will be Dr. Vincent Haby, AgriLife Research soils scientist, who will discuss the finer points of liming and fertilizing – and even if producers can afford to fertilize pastures at all. Other speakers will discuss using legumes to capture nitrogen from the atmosphere and grazing management.
Another focus, Evers said, will be "nutrient recycling."
"Whenever livestock graze pastures, over 90 percent of the nitrogen, phosphorus and potash in the forage they consume is excreted back on the soil in a year in the feces," he said. "So we are recycling the nutrients."
More information on the meeting will be soon available on the AgriLife Communications and Marketing Web site at http://agnews.tamu.edu/.
CENTRAL: Recent rains improved winter grasses, but more rain is needed to regain soil moisture reserves and fill stock tanks and creeks. Producers continued to supplement livestock with feed and hay. Some producers planted early season corn.
COASTAL BEND: Warmer weather was the rule, with the southern portion of the region remaining dry, while the northern area receiving rain. Many farmers in the southern part of the region need higher soil moisture levels to plant. In northern areas, it remained too wet to plant. Phosphate and potash were applied to some pastures and hay fields. Livestock were still being supplemented with protein.
EAST: As much as 6 inches of rain fell with warmer nighttime temperatures and higher daytime highs, all of which contributed to the growth of winter pastures, ryegrass and clovers. Cattle were in good condition and calving continued. The improved pastures resulted in a drop in hay consumption in several counties. Hay supplies are now predicted to last through winter, but it is unlikely that there will be significant carryover. High fertilizer prices continued to concern producers, prompting them to sell cull cows and consider alternatives to improve forage growth. Recent rains have lessened the risk of wildfires, but in some counties burn bans remain in place.
FAR WEST: No rain came, increasing the danger of wildfires. Burn bans were in effect in several counties, and several wildfires have been reported. Winter wheat was in very poor to good condition. Due to the extremely dry conditions, most cattle were on supplemental feed; there where scattered reports of livestock consuming poisonous weeds.
NORTH: Soil moisture was adequate, with showers and some wind. Evenings and mornings were cool, and afternoons warm. The moisture and the mild weather helped the wheat crop and winter pastures. Producers may start planting corn and milo soon. Some corn planting began last week but was stopped by rainfall. Top-dressing will begin as field conditions permit. Spring ryegrass began to make a showing. Cool-season forages showed limited growth. Livestock were in fair to good condition, and winter feeding continued.
PANHANDLE: Moisture was received in most counties. Some land preparation for spring crops was begun. Soil moisture was reported as short to very short in most areas. Wheat continued to be rated as poor to very poor. Cattle on were being supplemented or sold because of lack of grazing. Rangeland conditions were rated mostly fair to poor. The potential for wildfire was high. Cattle were in fair condition.
ROLLING PLAINS: Rain helped the suffering wheat crop and raised depleted soil moisture levels. However, more rain is needed. Greenbugs were still present, but now the wheat is healthy enough to compete with them. Producers top-dressed fields and applied herbicides. Cattle numbers slowly increased. Pastures and stock tanks still need more moisture. The district remained under a burn ban because of the high potential for wildfires. Most cattle were in fair to good condition, and winter feeding continued.
SOUTH: Soil moisture remained 50 - 60 percent short throughout the region, which continued to trouble dryland producers who need to plant sorghum. Where pre-watering was possible, planting began for sorghum, cotton and corn. In mid-region, harvesting of sugarcane, citrus and winter vegetables continued. Onion crops progressed well in the western parts of the region. The planting of tomato transplants began.
SOUTH PLAINS: Only a trace of rainfall was received. Several days of windy conditions occurred, with gusts up to 43 mph. If rain doesn't come soon, cotton producers will be forced to pre-water prior to planting. General field work continued, with producers applying fertilizer and pre-emergent herbicides. Wheat was in poor to fair condition, and continued to suffer from lack of moisture. Wheat producers who have irrigation capacity were using it. No growth is occurring on dryland wheat fields. Pastures and ranges were in poor to fair condition. Cattle conditions were mostly fair to good. Supplemental feeding of cattle continued, especially on cold days.
SOUTHEAST: Winter annuals continued to grow thanks to moisture and mild weather. Flowers on crimson clover were sighted. Severe storms this past week brought 2 to 3 inches of rain and gusty winds. The topsoil is saturated. Pastures were extremely wet and muddy, which was hard on cattle, and required heavy hay feeding. Winter pastures responded to warmer, sunny days. There was absolutely no planting activity in Brazoria County because of wet conditions. Preparation for spring planting continued in other counties. Wheat is growing well; however, there is some disease in the stands as well as some grassy weeds. Little hay was available for sale. Livestock were doing well.
SOUTHWEST: The region remained dry with only about 1 inch of total rainfall since Oct. 1. Dry weather, high winds and tall, dry forage along roadsides and some pastures increased the risk of field/road-side fires. Farmers continued to heavily irrigate. Forage availability was below average. Ranchers were providing heavy supplemental nutrition. Some corn was being planted under irrigation. Dryland farmers await rain. Small grains planted under dryland conditions were abandoned. The cabbage and spinach harvests continued. Onions, carrots and early planted potatoes made good progress under heavy irrigation and warm weather.
WEST CENTRAL: Temperatures remained mild with warm days and cool nights. Windy dry conditions continued. Wildfire danger was extremely high. A few counties reported light showers, which kept some producers out of the fields. Cotton production continued with good yields. Wheat, range and pastures were all in poor condition from lack of rain. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued. Calving and lambing was under way.