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Recent rains, current conditions leave Crossroads farmers cautiously optimistic regarding the 2014 growing season

By ALLISON MILES
Nov. 5, 2013 at 5:05 a.m.

Cattle take a break from grazing on a drizzly Monday afternoon in a Telferner field just off Farm-to-Market Road 1686. Cattle throughout the region have more to graze on this year than in 2012 as Crossroads producers say recent rains brought a good ground soak and have fields in better shape than in the past.

A look at Victoria's forecast

• Today: High temperature of 79 with thunderstorms likely, 70 percent chance of rain

• Thursday: Mostly sunny with a high temperature of 69

• Friday: Sunny with a high temperature of 69

Source: National Weather Service website

Victoria County farmer Justin Leita might not have been in the fields on Monday's drizzly afternoon, but that didn't mean he wasn't working.

Leita, who also works in trucking, found himself en route to the Port of Port Lavaca in an 18-wheeler truck, picking up fertilizer. This year's fields are in good shape, he said, and he's readying them for the season ahead.

"When you're starting the year out, it's nice to start out on a good note," he said. "We've got a lot more bottom moisture than we had last year."

And Leita isn't alone.

Crossroads producers said they maintain cautiously optimistic as they prepare for the upcoming growing season.

Recent rains were beneficial but might have temporarily halted some growers' field activity, said Michael Hiller, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension agent for Jackson County.

Still, he said, it's a good problem to have.

"We needed the subsoil moisture," he explained. "And we know it'll dry up sooner or later."

The next step for most area producers is cleaning up volunteer plants and weeds, Hiller explained, and then fertilizing. Planting season for corn comes at February's end, he said, while other crops go in the ground in March and April.

There's plenty of time for producers waiting out damp conditions to really get going.

"We can catch up," he said.

Michael Donalson, Refugio County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension agent, said recent rains have helped, but some came at inopportune times. For some farmers in the Austwell-Tivoli area, he said, moisture hit right when it was time for cotton to come out of the ground.

"I guess it was good and bad at the same time," he said.

Although he hasn't had a chance to venture out and check into the region's soil moisture, his reports indicate fields in the Refugio area right now are in fair to good condition.

Of course, he added, that can change quickly. After all, Texas remains in the grips of a drought.

"Especially if it heats up again, we'll get a lot of evaporation," he said. "Hopefully, we can keep enough moisture in the ground. The key is that deep moisture."

Donalson said he encourages producers to be smart in their operations. The moisture isn't guaranteed to stick around.

"Things are looking good, but it could shut off at any time," he said.

As for Leita, he said he's already planted some wheat, and last week's rains have it off to a good start. It's about time to begin fertilizing the corn fields.

Like the others, he said he wouldn't mind seeing additional moisture join the mix - even if it kept him off the fields for a day or so.

"We're actually probably a little ahead of schedule, so rain would be no problem," he said. "We definitely would like to see some more."

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