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Fri Oct 4 17:08:10 CDT 2013

GOSANANGELO.COM - WINDMILL COUNTRY: Rain perks up area crops
Dryland cotton showing stress


By Jerry Lackey
Posted October 3, 2013 at 7:31 p.m.

The scattered showers that accompanied last weekend’s norther brought a little more than an inch of rain and added to the improved forage in pastures following more than 4 inches received across the Concho Valley the week before.

“Even as grain drills start planting small grain, much of the dryland cotton looks as if we prematurely sprayed a defoliant on it,” said Rick Minzenmayer, of Ballinger, integrated pest manager for Tom Green and Runnels counties.

I drove by one of those fields at Rowena last week. The cotton leaves were turning brown and falling to the ground. The plants were tall and loaded with opening bolls, however.

“This is a physiological issue and not Alternaria blight or any other disease,” Minzenmayer said. “Dryland cotton fields were in a significant moisture stress when the rain came. These fields also had a good boll load, which added additional stress.

“The upper leaves were working overtime to supply nutrients to mature the fruit and at the same time transpire to cool the plant. The leaf cells simply exploded after the stress was relieved by the rain,” he said.

Minzenmayer warned farmers planting small grain to watch for army worm infestations in fields. Army worm infestations are heavy in late grain sorghum and hay grazer fields, he said.

In other parts of the country where stock farmers already planted wheat for winter grazing, army worms and grasshoppers have damaged the newly emerged crop.

Across the state, precipitation during the last two weeks ranged from highs of 8 inches or more in much of East Texas and parts of Central and West Central regions, to lows of 0.5 to 1 inch in parts of the Panhandle and far West Texas, according to the National Weather Service’s precipitation analysis.

According to the weekly crop and weather report issued by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, crops are widely varied statewide concerning harvest and soil-moisture levels.

Rainfall ranging from 0.6 inch to 2 inches in the Trans-Pecos of far West Texas has been accompanied by warm days and cool nights. Farmers are gearing up for harvest while ranchers were either working fall cattle or preparing to. Calves were being weaned and preconditioned. Some were shipping stocker cattle to feedlots. Pregnancy rates on yearling “keeper” heifers were reportedly higher than normal.

In Central Texas, the cotton harvest was nearly completed, with some delays due to rain.

Cotton on the South Plains, around Lubbock, was helped by warm weather, but was still approximately 10 days behind in maturity in some areas.

Bolls were opening in the Rolling Plains, particularly in dryland fields where moisture was limited until recently.

“In South Texas, there have been a few bright spots over the past couple of years,” said Jeff Nunley of Victoria, with South Texas Cotton & Grain Association. “For example, 2011 was a pretty good year for producers in the Coastal Bend and 2012 saw record cotton production for farmers in the Upper Gulf Coast.

“This year also marks the first season since 1892 that the area known as the South Texas Winter Garden Zone has not captured a single boll weevil,” he said.

“As producers have struggled with a drought that has wreaked havoc in South Texas, I don’t know anyone who has figured out how to make it rain when we need it,” Nunley said.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, about 48 percent of the state on Sept. 24 was under severe to exceptional drought, compared to 64 percent the week before.

Extreme to exceptional drought was reduced from 25 percent to 8 percent for the same period.

The drought monitor defines “extreme drought” as when there are major crop and pasture losses, and widespread water shortages or restrictions.

Jerry Lackey writes about agriculture. Contact him at jlackey at wcc.net or 325-949-2291.

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