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Crop Report: Outlook good for winter grasses

Associated Press

COLLEGE STATION, Texas - South Texas rangelands are shaping up to have a great winter while pastures in West Texas are improving, Texas Cooperative Extension reports.

"As far as South Texas, (the ranges are) the best we've had in years and years," said Wayne Hanselka of Corpus Christi, extension rangeland resource specialist.

More forage was available because of higher-than-normal rainfall and cooler weather, he said.

"All the dry years we had before, the seeds have been lying there, waiting on the rain," he said. "The early cool weather on the sandy soil let the weeds get ahead, which is good cover for the bobwhite quail." The expected bumper quail crop is good news for hunters and ranchers who lease their ranches to hunters, Hanselka said.

"On the tighter clay soils, we have the best grass we've had probably in years," he said.

In fact, conditions were so good, Hanselka said, native grasses that have not appeared for years, such as the pink pappus grass, are being seen.

Good range conditions will continue into the winter unless pastures are overgrazed, he added.

"We're shaping up to have a good winter, unless lots of cattle are bought, which is unlikely with the high prices," said Hanselka. "We're in an upward spiral, not a downward spiral."

Larry Redmon of Overton, extension state forage specialist, said West Texas has also received abundant rainfall.

"West Texas has received some abnormally high levels of precipitation in areas this year and has a good forage supply," Redmon said. "So much so in some areas that producers who had de-stocked during the drought years of the '90s are beginning to purchase a few cattle again."

Allan McGinty of San Angelo, extension range specialist, said, "We've had a great summer. We finally got some rain."

Weeds have outgrown grasses in some parts of the region, he said.

"It depends on previous management. Around here it's not necessarily a bad thing. We're in sheep and goat country, and that's forage for them. It's just been a weedy year for the west," McGinty said.

The long drought benefited the rangeland because ranchers sold many cattle, creating less stress on the grasses, he said.

"They are starting to restock, but it's going to take a while with the high prices. They have a long way to go," McGinty said. "The numbers were so low here, that it's going to take years to restock. But that's not a bad thing, the ranges need time to rest."

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

PANHANDLE: Soil moisture is short. Temperatures were above normal. Corn is mostly mature and is drying down; harvest has started. Excellent yields have been reported. Most silage corn has been harvested. Sorghum is 100 percent headed with a few fields ready to harvest. Cotton is rated mostly fair to good; more warm temperatures are needed. A light infestation of aphids has been reported in some fields. Soybean and sunflower crops are rated good. Sunflower moths have been reported. A few soybean fields are ready for harvest. Rangeland conditions are mostly fair. Cattle are in good body condition.

SOUTH PLAINS: Isolated showers were reported late in the week. Most of the week was hot and dry. The cotton continued to open. Application of harvest aids began. Corn harvest continued. Peanuts matured quickly and digging began. Watermelon harvest was nearly done. Some sorghum fields were mature, but most were not. Yield prospects were above average. Wheat planting continued. More rain was needed for the wheat to germinate. Cattle begin shipped as fields are grazed off.

ROLLING PLAINS: Weather was hot, dry and windy. Cotton was rated good. The dry land crop was competing with irrigated fields. Wheat sowing was delayed for lack of moisture. Grain sorghum and peanut producers reported average yields. Range and pasture conditions were declining. Livestock were rated good. Many stocker cattle were reported in grass pastures. Cattle producers were checking pastures for fall calves.

NORTH TEXAS: Soil moisture is short to adequate. Weather was dry and hot. Hay cutting and baling continues. Dry conditions are affecting forage quality and slowing production. armyworms, aphids and feral hogs continue to present problems. Sweet potato harvest continues; a good fruit set was reported but the size is smaller than normal.

EAST TEXAS: Soil moisture is short to adequate. Warmer temperatures and dry conditions have been reported. Pasture growth has slowed; armyworms are still present. Hay quality has improved. Cattle conditions are good, and markets are favorable.

FAR WEST TEXAS: Soil moisture is short to adequate. Hot and dry temperatures are being reported throughout the district with highs in the 100s and lows in the 70s. Cotton farmers are now getting back on track with the warmer and dryer weather. Winter wheat has been planted, and some is already emerging. Range grass and forages continue to be good. Livestock conditions remain good; prices are steady.

WEST CENTRAL TEXAS: Temperatures were very warm with highs in the low 90s. Scattered showers were reported. Heavy wheat planting was under way. Small grains were being sown for grazing. Most hay fields were grazed out or cut for the second time. Cotton was rated good. Insect pressures on the crop lessened with fields still being scouted for boll worms. Livestock were rated fair to good. Calves were being weaned. Quail and turkey populations were reported higher than normal. Hickory shuck worm damage was reported in pecans.

CENTRAL TEXAS: Soil moisture was short and temperatures were hot. Cotton harvest was under way with early reports of excellent yield. Peanut leaf spot was reported. Cattle were reported in good shape. Winter pastures were being planted.

SOUTHEAST TEXAS: Soil moisture was short. Very little precipitation was reported. Cotton is still being harvested; dry conditions have been favorable for picking. Fall field work is under way. Soybeans continue to suffer due to a lack of rain; most have been harvested. The main activity is hay baling. Armyworms and lovebugs have caused havoc in some areas; cooler weather is needed. The pecan crop is beginning to be harvested with some varieties looking good. Deer hunters are busy putting corn and deer pellets out for the upcoming hunting season.

SOUTHWEST TEXAS: Good soil moisture was reported. Afternoon temperatures were higher than average for excellent fall growing conditions. Forage availability was above average. Corn and sorghum harvests were 80 percent complete. Cotton harvest was gaining momentum. Early peanut harvest was beginning. Rains increased disease in the crop. Small grains were planted. Green beans, cabbage, spinach and pickling cucumbers were making good progress. Livestock were rated good. Ranching activities continued to be dominated by bird hunting season.

COASTAL BEND: Soil moisture is good. Hot weather with scattered showers was reported. Cotton harvest was winding down with cotton stalk destruction beginning. Cattle were rated excellent with high markets.

SOUTH TEXAS: Soil moisture is adequate. Excellent grazing conditions have been reported due to good pasture conditions. Fall planting preparations continue. The tomato crop is progressing well.

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