Panhandle wheat yields are expected to be low, and many dryland fields will not be harvested at all due to drought and virus infection, said a Texas AgriLife Extension Service wheat expert.
"Most of the dryland wheat that is harvested will likely have a yield range of 10 to 20 bushels," said Dr. Brent Bean, AgriLife Extension agronomist based in Amarillo. "The exception will be wheat planted on fallowed ground in the northeastern Panhandle."
"The wheat planted on fallowed ground established better due to the extra moisture in the soil profile," said Dr. Jackie Rudd, Texas AgriLife Research wheat breeder also based in Amarillo.
The Panhandle winter wheat crop had poor moisture in the fall," Rudd said. "In the spring, some producers got a little extra rain; some did not. The little extra made all the difference."
Rudd and Bean expect irrigated yields to be good, though not extraordinary – in the 60 to 70 bushels per acre range.
According to a May survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Texas wheat producers plan to harvest 98.6 million bushels of wheat this year. The forecast is 30 percent lower than the 2007 harvest, and 17 percent lower that the April 2008 agriculture department forecast. The following summaries were compiled by AgriLife Extension district reporters this week:
CENTRAL: For the most part, wheat yields have been high. Corn was off to a good start with timely rains and favorable weather conditions. Robertson County was beginning to show drought stress. Cattle were in excellent condition. Range and pastures were in need of a good rain in most places.
COASTAL BEND: Above-normal temperatures and no rain worsened drought conditions. Lack of soil moisture continued to be an issue for dryland farmers as corn and grain were loading up and needed extra moisture to provide root stability. Production costs were hard on local farmers. Some sesame was planted in failed cotton acres and was trying to emerge. Pasture forage quantity and quality were suffering from lack of moisture. As a result, some producers began to provide supplemental feed to beef cattle.
EAST: Many counties reported rainfall from 0.5 to 2 inches. Temperatures rose to the 90s after the rain. Hay baling slowed due to the rain but picked up at the end of the reporting period. In San Augustine County, hay quality was poor because fertilizer is still priced too high. In Trinity County, the use of chicken litter was rapidly increasing, while in Nacogdoches County, chicken litter use was limited. Cattle were still in good condition. Vegetables were producing well, although Henderson and Nacogdoches counties saw some disease problems. In Henderson County, blueberry and blackberry harvests were doing well.
FAR WEST: High temperatures and winds increased wildfire danger. Burn bans were in effect in most counties. Cotton was being planted, but due to the extreme dry weather, local farmers were expecting to replant. Area farmers continued to plant in dry soils, hoping for some rain. Spraying for pecan nut casebearers began. Pecos County received as much as 4 inches of rain with hail, along with a tornado. Pecans and wine grapes escaped serious damage and benefitted from the rain. Pecos County received baseball-size hail, destroying most crops. One producer said that in the 25 years he has farmed in Coyanosa he had never had a complete loss of all his crops until this year. Watermelons and cantaloupes were mostly wiped out. Even if the melons were replanted, the crop would not mature in time for the early, high-priced markets.
NORTH: Warm weather arrived, and rains helped the corn, grain sorghum, soybeans and pastures. Soil moisture ranged from short to surplus. Corn and soybeans were 100 percent emerged. Sorghum and cotton planting neared completion. Oats were about 25 percent harvested. Winter wheat was headed and in fair to good condition. Hay production was in full swing. Most winter pastures have been harvested for hay. Clear weather will allow wheat to mature and hay operations to continue. Summer forages were coming along with the warm nights. Some producers established new hybrid Bermuda grass pastures. Most producers finished their first hay cutting, and some were nearly ready for a second cutting. The price of hay affected management decisions. Due to high fuel prices, some producers were planning not to harvest surplus crops. Yields were expected to be down due to less fertilizer being used. Most producers said they cannot afford the fertilizer at present prices. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Range and pastures were in fair to good condition.
PANHANDLE: Temperatures were near average early and above average by the end of the reporting period. Thunderstorms occurred several days. Rain amounts varied from 0.5 to 3 inches. Hail and heavy rain caused some crop loss. Most of the region received some rain. Corn was rated fair to good. In the northern counties, hail damaged corn to the degree it had to be replanted. Cotton, peanuts, sorghum and soybeans continue to be planted. Wheat was about 95 percent headed and rated mostly as poor to very poor. Wheat streak mosaic virus, High Plains virus, triticum mosaic virus, barley yellow dwarf virus, soil-borne wheat mosaic virus and trace levels of leaf rust and powdery mildew continued to be reported in many fields throughout the region. Range conditions improved with the recent rains, with most fields rated fair to poor. Cattle condition was rated fair to good. Supplemental feeding continued in most counties.
ROLLING PLAINS: Wheat harvest was briefly delayed due to 1 to 3.5 inches of rain in many counties, but is now rapidly progressing across the region. The rain allowed producers and harvesters to work on equipment and elevators to ship grain out. Yields and test weights rose, and now look promising. Wheat yields range from 20 to 40 bushels per acre, with some as high as 60 to 70 bushels. Cotton planting was about 75 percent complete, and it appeared that they will have enough moisture to establish a good stand in most fields. Earlier, cotton farmers were committed to this crop, but several said if cash prices do not increase by fall, they will have big financial loses and would consider other crops in the future. Pastures looked good. Grass was still greening up and actively growing. Weeds, particularly bull nettle, were flowering. Cattle were in good condition.
SOUTH: Short to very short soil moisture conditions continued throughout the entire region. Spring onion harvesting was finished, but melon harvesting was still active. The sorghum crop in mid-region was beginning to show more color. Cabbage and onion harvesting resumed, and grain and sorghum crops progressed. Crops under irrigation in the northern parts of the region looked good. Irrigated crops were not as tall as they should be but appear to be developing well. Precipitation was limited. Supplemental feeding of livestock was still necessary because of poor range and pasture conditions.
SOUTH PLAINS: From a trace to nearly 3 inches of rain was received. Some areas also received hail, damaging some cotton stands enough to be replanted. Soil moisture ranged from short to adequate. Cotton and sorghum planting continued. Peanut planting neared completion. Corn was in fair to good condition. Winter wheat was in poor to fair condition and was about ready to harvest. Sunflowers progressed well. Pastures and ranges were in poor to fair condition. Cattle conditions were mostly fair to good, with producers doing some supplemental feeding.
SOUTHEAST: Coastal Bermuda grass was rapidly growing because of the hot weather but needs moisture to improve yields. Rains provided some relief to the dry conditions. Most hay fields were cleaned up with a first cutting and were ready for the first true hay harvest. Grazed pastures were in good shape with a few fields weedy. Late in the reporting period, 2.5 inches of rain fell in some counties. Some of the water intended for the permanent flood irrigation was instead used for the flush irrigation. As a result, only 25 percent of the rice crop was under the permanent flood. There was some re-spraying of some grassy weeds in the rice. Livestock were doing well.
SOUTHWEST: The region remained extremely dry with no forecast of rain. May ended with only about 60 percent of the long-term average rainfall. Abnormally high temperatures and dry southerly winds contributed to the drought. Forage availability was below average. Ranchers thinned their herds, and were providing heavy supplementation to remaining livestock. Corn, sorghum, spring vegetables, sunflowers, pecans, sod, grapes, cantaloupes, watermelons and cotton were making good progress under irrigation. Corn was passing through the tasseling phase and the watermelon harvest was gradually gaining momentum. Some irrigated small grains were harvested, but total acreage was down. The potato, onion and pickling cucumber harvests continued.
WEST CENTRAL: Hot, dry and windy conditions continued. Field preparations and planting continued in most counties, except in a few that received a good rain. Cotton was planted in some areas. The first cutting of Bermuda grass hay was harvested. The small grain harvest started. Range and pastures were showing signs of stress from dry conditions. Livestock feeding decreased. Spraying of pecans continued.