Beef prices have remained extremely strong this spring, the Texas wheat crop is a mixed bag, and cotton growers are eager to grow a crop this year.
Some in Texas have had timely rainfall—although some of that came with tornadoes and incredible hailstorms.
Many parts of Texas recorded record warmth for March and even on the High Plains at Lubbock, the region chalked up its second-warmest March.
It was maybe a little too warm. Weldon Rainwater of Radium, Texas notes some of the wheat there just didn't get the chilling hours it needed. Rainwater says both daytime and nighttime temperatures were extremely warm throughout the entire month of March there, and wheat there suffered some accordingly.
But the weeds did not. Rainwater says the mustard weeds—encouraged by rainfall early in the year coupled with early warm weather—just took over many wheat fields. Nevertheless, he says growers on the Rolling Plains have hopes of getting a cotton crop planted this year, which the region can do into mid-June or even later. Last year, with the historic record drought, Texas planted some 7.7 million acres of cotton, only to abandon more than 4 million acres, and take only 3 million acres of cotton to harvest.
"We want to go back to actually raising a crop—producing and harvesting cotton," says Jones County, Texas cotton grower Erick Richards of Ericksdahl. Richards notes while parts of the Central Rolling Plains has had more rain than others, the region is the last space in Texas—or the United States—to plant cotton. Many growers, in fact, actually deliberately wait until June to plant cotton because they think that's an optimum time to avoid the powerful April-May spring thunderstorms and thus not have to replant expensive cottonseed.
Richards says most growers in his area have gone to a 50/50 rotation of wheat and cotton.
An intriguing year
So far, 2012 has been far different than an average crop year.
"It's been a very interesting year," says David Drake, Texas AgriLife Extension Service agronomist, based in San Angelo.
Drake notes when farmers seeded wheat last fall, some just planted the wheat hoping the seed would actually germinate and wheat would emerge—conditions were still so dry. But many areas received substantial rains during late fall, winter, and into spring.
Some farmers not expecting as much rain as they got—having relied on some forecasts that La Nina cycle (dry weather) was going to stay around—probably cut back on fertilizer and seeding rates, and skimped on other inputs, Drake reasons.
But in reality, some areas such as parts of North Central Texas, actually have turned out to be wetter than average. The moisture, in combination with such mild weather, produced rapid growth in wheat.
"It put us in a situation where farmers who did not cut back on inputs are going to be able to capitalize on those potential yields," Drake says. "Those farmers that applied enough fertilizer, used a decent seeding rate, and didn't cut corners—they're going to do alright. They're going to get a bumper crop in some areas."
Rainwater says many wheat producers there likely actually will bale the wheat for forage, rather than harvest it for grain.
With livestock prices so strong—and forage so tight following last year's record drought—Drake agrees with Rainwater on those prospects. He says it is difficult to even guess at Texas' statewide grain yield as more farmers and stockmen likely are going to bale wheat for hay this year to rebuild hay stocks.
Byron Bauerlein of the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), Ballinger, Texas says there have been some good rains in parts of the area, but most growers need more. Subsoil moisture needs to be replenished if a new cotton crop on the Southern Rolling Plains is going to get off to a good start.
Randall Conner, executive director, Southern Rolling Plains Cotton Growers, Winters, Texas says growers are just itching to plant cotton after such a disappointing drought-stricken 2011. The USDA is estimating exports of U.S. cotton to increase. The cotton price also is expected to fall within a range of 89 to 93 cents per pound—and that is very positive for cotton in Texas.
On the vast Texas High Plains, Steve Verett, Plains Cotton Growers executive vice president, Lubbock, says cotton growers there are optimistic and eager to produce a new crop. He notes crop insurance, water issues, and prospects for a 2012 Farm Bill are the "Big 3" concerns for High Plains' cotton growers.
"But we just hope for a better 2012," Verett says.
Despite rough weather—here and there—2012 already is looking better than last year, for sure.