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“The worst I’ve ever seen,” was a phrase commonly heard during regional freeze injury assessment meetings held throughout the Rolling Plains and Panhandle this spring.

Agronomists, extension agents and wheat researchers agreed that damage sustained from five significant freeze events that rolled through the Texas High Plains during March and April was widespread but also highly variable. Farmers from across the region showed up carrying samples of limp, discolored wheat, but freezing temperatures were not the only battle the 2013 wheat crop faced.

“The lack of moisture throughout the winter was worse on my wheat,” said David Cleavinger, a farmer in Wildorado.

“The freezing temperatures were just the nail in the coffin.”

The first bout of freezing temperatures occurred during the second week in April and wreaked the most havoc on the Rolling Plains crop.

“In February my wheat was the best I had ever seen,” said Wichita Falls farmer Fred Dwyer. “By the end of April, that same wheat was toast due to freeze injury and rainfall that never came.”

According to Texas A&M AgriLife wheat breeder Dr. Jackie Rudd, several variety trial locations in the High Plains were severely damaged.

“Each of the first three freezes took their toll, but the freeze on April 24 was the most damaging,” said Rudd. “When evaluating one particular variety trial location, most of the heads were dead in the places we checked. Wheat at the Bushland station was better, but I still estimate well over a 50 percent loss there.”

Freezing temperatures continued sporadically through early May in the Texas Panhandle overshadowing the news of the continuing lack of moisture.

The loss of grain yield potential from freeze injury presented additional challenges for farmers as they made production decisions on the wheat left in the field.

According to Texas Wheat Vice President for Legislative Affairs Kody Bessent, there are currently no rules in the Loss Adjustment Manual, the document which governs crop insurance practices, to assess yield loss in wheat prior to heading of the plant.

“Most of the wheat in the Panhandle was in the joint or boot stage when the freezes occurred,” said Bessent. “In some fields the damage, especially damage to the stem of the plant, was clearly visible; however, without the proper rules in place crop adjusters were not able to release acres because of the early state of maturity.”

The need for speedy crop insurance adjustment was quickly acknowledged as a top need for producers and the Texas Wheat Producers Association began working with other groups to form solutions.

“We’ve been working closely with the Risk Management Agency, members of the U.S. House and Senate and local groundwater districts to highlight the need for action in damaged wheat crops,” said Bessent.

Many producers also expressed concern over a possible lack of seed for fall planting.

“When you look at deteriorating crop conditions across several key wheat regions you start worrying about the availability and quality of seed wheat,” said Jody Bellah, a farmer in Throckmorton.

The Texas Wheat Producers Board has been involved in industry discussions aimed at expanding the amount of certified seed available for 2013 planting.

In early May, the National Agricultural Statistics Service released their first estimate for Texas Winter Wheat production. The statewide estimate came in at 54 million bushels, down 44 percent from 2012. Production in the Texas High Plains was estimated at 6.70 million bushels, down 77 percent from last year.

Kay Ledbetter, Texas A&M AgriLife Communications

AMARILLO – Wheat Freeze Assessment Sessions will be held April 17-18 across the High Plains, South Plains and Rolling Plains after temperatures dipped into the teens and low 20s on April 9-10, threatening much of Texas’ wheat crop.

Dr. Calvin Trostle, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomist in Lubbock, and Dr. Clark Neely, AgriLife Extension state small grains and oilseeds specialist in College Station, will attend the meetings to help evaluate samples participants bring and train them to spot freeze damage.

“We have indeed unquestionable and major potential injury on our wheat crop for grain,” Trostle said. “The absolute temperature is one factor and the duration of these temperatures is another. When combined, these two issues significantly raise the injury potential.”

He said temperatures in the northwest and northern South Plains hovered around 20-22 degrees; the Amarillo region, 20 degrees; the southeast Panhandle, 22-25 degrees; and north of the Canadian River, about 15-20 degrees. Some areas were below 28 degrees for about 24 hours.

“There has been enough jointing now into the Panhandle that the growing point most likely experienced the cold temperatures that cause damage,” Trostle said. “Also, the strong wind speed overnight April 9-10 probably circulated the temperatures farther into the canopy, whereas on still nights with only a light breeze, this probably doesn’t happen as readily.

“Likewise, on a windy night, the low end of the field, if there is one, for example, a playa bottom or a draw, might be less likely to demonstrate injury relative to the rest of the field.”

Producers planning to attend one of the meetings should bring 10-20 samples from each field, including roots; a pocket knife or razor blade to cut samples; and field data, such as variety and planting date.

The following meetings are scheduled in the South Plains for April 17:

- 8 a.m., O’Donnell Rodeo Arena, just off U.S. Highway 87, O’Donnell. For more information call 806-561-4562.

- 11 a.m., Wilbur Ellis, 1837 West State Road 300, Levelland, TX 79336, (806) 894-9639.

- 2 p.m., Crop Protection Service office, 10 miles west of Dimmit on U.S. Highway 86, Tam Anne, 806-272-4584.

- 5 p.m., Street’s Gin, Farm-to-Market Road 145, 10 miles east of Kress in Claytonville, 806-995-3726.

Meetings scheduled for the Panhandle April 18 are:

- 8 a.m., AgriLife Extension office for Gray County, 12125 E. Frederic Ave., Pampa, 806-669-8033.

- 11 a.m., AgriLife Extension office for Ochiltree County, Ochiltree Expo Center, 402 Expo Drive, Perryton, 806-435-4501.

- 2 p.m., North Plains Research Field, off U.S. Highway 287 north of Dumas and south of Cactus at Etter, 806-366-2081.

- 5 p.m., Hartley County Community Center, U.S. Highway 385, Hartley, 806-244-4434.

Meetings on April 18 in the Rolling Plains will be:

- 8:30 a.m., AgriLife Extension office for Archer County, 512 W. Cottonwood St., Archer City. Jonathan Ramirez, AgriLife Extension demonstration technician, will do wheat sample assessment at this location. 940-574-4914.

- 9:30 a.m., Wilbarger County Exhibit Building, 2215 Harrold, Vernon, 940-552-5474.

- 1 p.m., AgriLife Extension office for Hardeman County, 409 S. Main in the Presbyterian Church Annex, Quanah, 940-663-6301.

- 3:30 p.m., Farmers Cooperative Gin, 850 U.S. Highway 83, Childress, 940-937-2351.

For more information on wheat freeze damage, go to the AgriLife Extension document “Freeze Injury on Wheat” at http://varietytesting.tamu.edu/wheat/docs/mime-4.pdf .

Additional Meeting Information

Producers are encouraged to bring 10-20 samples from each field (include roots), pocket knife or razor blade to cut samples and field data (variety, planting date, etc.)

Texas Winter Wheat Progress
Planted: 87% (5 Yr Avg: 83%)
Emerged: 65% (5 Yr Avg: 61%)

Texas Winter Wheat Condition
Good-Excellent: 34%
Fair: 42%
Poor-Very Poor: 24%

 

Source: http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Texas/Publications/Crop_Progress_&_Condition/txcw4512.pdf

Panhandle: Soil-moisture levels mostly were short. Early planted wheat that was pre-watered looked good, and some was already being grazed. Without rain, much wheat continued to need irrigation. Dryland wheat needed moisture badly.

South Plains: Dryland wheat was beginning to show signs of moisture stress.

Rolling Plains: Conditions are getting desperately dry in some areas. Wheat and canola started to curl due to weather. Other producers needed a rain just to get wheat to emerge.

Southern Rolling Plains: The region had mild weather, with warm days and cool nights. Rain was needed in all counties. Wheat planting was in full swing. Already emerged wheat was doing very well. Producers were turning cattle onto some early planted wheat fields for grazing. Armyworms and spider mites were problems in some wheat fields, and producers continued to treat when needed.

Northern Blacklands: Soil moisture was short in most counties. Winter wheat for grazing was emerging but needed more rain. There were isolated reports of armyworms.

Southern Blacklands: Parts of the region received a killing frost. Winter wheat looked good. Wheat and oat pastures emerged but were not grazeable because of poorly developed root systems. Armyworms were still being reported.

Source: http://today.agrilife.org/2012/11/06/texas-crop-weather-90/

This week, Texas crop condition ratings for winter wheat improved.  Currently, 25 percent of the crop is rated as good to excellent, 40 percent fair and  35 percent poor to very poor.  Current projections estimate that 90 percent of the crop has emerged, compared to the five year average of 93 percent. Precipitation in many key growing areas during December has allowed the crop to progress better than originally expected, but more moisture is still needed.

Source: Texas Crop Progress and Condition Report – NASS

 

 

–Robert Burns, Texas AgriLife Extension

Wheat highlights from the most recent Texas crop and weather report:

North: Even after rains the previous week, soil-moisture levels remained very short to short.  However, the rains did raise soil moisture enough to encourage producers to continue to plant small grains and winter annual pastures. Depending upon the county, wheat was from 26 percent to 70 percent planted and 5 percent to 50 percent emerged.

Panhandle: The weather was warm and windy for most of the region with no moisture reported. Some counties reported their first freeze. Soil-moisture levels ranged from very short to adequate, with most counties reporting very short to short. Wheat growers continued planting wheat. Most dryland wheat may not make a stand. All irrigated wheat was being watered to get it established.

Rolling Plains: Recent showers greened things up somewhat, but cooler nighttime temperatures slowed grass growth. Producers were sowing wheat and oats. Some cotton producers delayed harvest to take advantage of the moisture and plant wheat. Some wheat fields that were earlier sowed into dry fields emerged and were up and appeared to be in good condition.

South: Short to very short soil moisture conditions were the rule for the region except for adequate levels reported in Atascosa and Live Oak counties.  In Atascosa and Frio counties the planting of wheat was ongoing. Maverick County farmers continued planting winter crops. In Zavala County, dryland oats and wheat-emergence got a boost from rain.

South Plains: Producers were planting winter wheat, hoping to get enough rain to bring it up. The region had much cooler temperatures with highs in the 70s and 80s and lows mostly in the 40s. A few places recorded dips into the 30s.

See the entire report here.

 

The Texas wheat harvest is drawing to a close this week as combines push north out of the state. Harvest throughout the South Plains has completed and producers in the Panhandle have cut approximately 97 percent of the acres to date.

Protein levels remained strong this season, with most areas averaging above 12 percent, and test weights came in averaging 60 pounds per bushel.  Some areas in the Northern High Plains reported higher than expect yields on both dryland and irrigated acres, while the rest of the High Plains saw reduced production due to exceptional drought, high winds and high temperatures.  Producers across the state are now hoping for rainfall to aid in the fall planting season.

North of Dallas, the Soft Red Winter region has concluded harvest. The area harvested high quality wheat with better than expected yields.

Harvest Progress by Region:

  • Coastal Region – 100%
  • Northern Blacklands – 100%
  • Southern Blacklands (South of Dallas) – 100%
  • Southern Rolling Plains (East of Abilene) – 100%
  • Northern Rolling Plains (Wichita Falls, Vernon, Childress) – 100%
  • South Plains (Lubbock, Brownfield) – 99%
  • Panhandle (Amarillo and North) – 97%

Combines are beginning to wrap up the Texas harvest as they continue to push through the Panhandle region. Harvest across the South Plains region is wrapping up with approximately 98 percent of the acres cut to date, including irrigated land. Quality factors have held constant with high test weights and protein levels.

Harvest in the Panhandle has continued to be a swift process as combines made their way north quickly.  Approximately 90 percent of the crop has been cut at this time, including both dryland and irrigated acres, and harvest is expected to conclude next week. Test weights have remained strong with high protein levels; the only downfall has been dismal yields on dryland crops due to poor weather conditions. Yields on irrigated acres have been higher, averaging around 30-40 bushels an acre.

The Soft Red Winter region, north of Dallas, is also wrapping up harvest this week with 99 percent of the harvest done. Yields have been higher than expected averaging 50-60 bushels an acre.

 

Harvest Progress by Region:

  • Coastal Region – 100%
  • Northern Blacklands – 99%
  • Southern Blacklands (South of Dallas) – 99%
  • Southern Rolling Plains (East of Abilene) – 99%
  • Northern Rolling Plains (Wichita Falls, Vernon, Childress) – 99%
  • South Plains (Lubbock, Brownfield) – 98%
  • Panhandle (Amarillo and North) – 90%

Combines continued their northern journey this week as they reached the Texas Panhandle. Harvest in the Southern Blacklands and Rolling Plains has wrapped up for the season. Quality factors in both regions remained strong with high test weights and protein levels. The South Plains region, including Brownfield and Lubbock, will also be wrapping up harvest soon with an estimated 90 percent of the acres cut to date. Quality coming out of the South Plains region remains strong with high test weights and above average protein levels.

Harvest in the Panhandle has been put on the fast track this week due to above normal temperatures and high winds. This week combines are starting to wrap up in the southern half of the region and have traveled as far north as Perryton. Yields in the region are highly variable and down considerably with only 5-30 bushels per acre on dryland wheat and 10-50 bushels per acre on irrigated wheat, in contrast, test weights and protein levels have been above average.

The Soft Red Winter Wheat region north of Dallas is expected to conclude harvest this week with about 90 percent of the acreage being cut. Yields from the area are still holding strong.

Harvest Progress by Region:

  • Coastal Region – 100%
  • Northern Blacklands – 95%
  • Southern Blacklands (South of Dallas) – 99%
  • Southern Rolling Plains (East of Abilene) – 99%
  • Northern Rolling Plains (Wichita Falls, Vernon, Childress) – 99%
  • South Plains (Lubbock, Brownfield) – 90%
  • Panhandle (Amarillo and North) – 45%

Combines continued to roll further north this week as they reached the Texas Panhandle. Harvest in the Southern Blacklands and Rolling Plains should be complete by week’s end with very few acres remaining to be cut. Quality factors in both regions are still holding strong with high test weights and protein. Average yields in the Southern Blacklands range from 40-50 bushels in most areas, in stark contrast to the Rolling Plains region which saw average yields close to 10 bushels per acre. The South Plains region, including Brownfield and Lubbock, will also be wrapping up harvest soon with an estimated 85 percent of the acres cut to date.

The combination of high temperatures and windy conditions in the Panhandle has led to a speedy harvest. This week combines are rolling in the southern half of the region and are expected to reach Dumas next week. Test weights in the region have been good, but as is the case with the Rolling Plains region, yields are disappointing at 5-20 bushels per acre on dryland wheat and 30-40 on irrigated acres.

The Soft Red Winter Wheat region north of Dallas is expected to conclude harvest next week as 70 percent of the acreage has been cut. Yields in this area are the best in the state and several producers are cutting 60-80 bushel wheat. Protein levels in the soft wheat are slightly lower and test weights are averaging 58.5 pounds per bushel.

Harvest Progress by Region:

  • Coastal Region – 100%
  • Northern Blacklands – 70%
  • Southern Blacklands (South of Dallas) – 98%
  • Southern Rolling Plains (East of Abilene) – 98%
  • Northern Rolling Plains (Wichita Falls, Vernon, Childress) – 98%
  • South Plains (Lubbock, Brownfield) – 85%
  • Panhandle (Amarillo and North) – 30%

The Texas wheat harvest continues to progress as combines moved north into the southern half of the Texas Panhandle this week. Elevators reported taking in grain in the South Plains and a couple loads have been received from as far north as Amarillo. Harvest in the Southern Blacklands continues to progress and is currently estimated at 85 percent complete while harvest in the Rolling Plains is estimated to conclude by next week. Although some areas have seen a slight drop in test weights, quality factors are still quite good despite the less than stellar yields. Protein averages remain at or above 12 percent and test weights range from 59-64 pounds per bushel. The Soft Red Winter region, north of Dallas, continues to dry out and about 20 percent of the wheat in the region has been harvested to date.

Harvest Progress by Region:

  • Coastal Region – 100%
  • Southern Blacklands (South of Dallas) – 85%
  • Southern Rolling Plains (East of Abilene) – 85%
  • Northern Rolling Plains (Wichita Falls, Vernon, Childress) – 85%
  • South Plains (Lubbock, Brownfield) – 20%
  • Panhandle (Amarillo and North) – 2%