Extension Agent: Corn planting marks the beginning of a new growing season

The last few months have reminded us that it is possible for us to have a winter in South Texas. The colder-than-expected temperatures have now extended into the third month of the year.

Nonetheless, the time is here for planting to begin. The cool soil temperatures have already delayed planting corn by a couple of weeks, but now, most is in the ground with some fields beginning to show signs of green life. The eventual success of this planting will be dictated to a large degree by the weather.

Beneficial rains have been few and far between over the past few years. This is evident if you look at the low average yields for grains that have been harvested in recent growing seasons.

Grain sorghum, also called milo, will be the next crop to go in the ground. This grain requires a bit warmer soil temperature to germinate than corn and is a short season crop from planting to harvest than its corn. Following milo planting, farmers will change gears and finish the planting season with cotton and soybean planting.

This finale will occur in late March through early April, if the weather allows. Putting the seed in the ground is only the beginning of the long days and short nights for our area farmers as they fight back insects, weeds and disease pests that threaten their crop all while watching and hoping for much needed rains that will pull their crops through to a good harvest.

The drought that we have been enduring since 2008 has been tough on all crop and livestock producers. A current rainfall tally, going back as far as 2008, shows that Victoria is more than 80 inches behind normal for this six-year timeframe. Victoria County's annual average rainfall is about 41 inches.

Therefore, over the past six years, we have fallen behind in cumulative rainfall by almost two years. This may not affect top soil moisture conditions to a great extent, but is a good indicator of availability of water deeper in the soil profile as well as the potential health of our underground water supply that each of us depends on. It will take us a while to work out of this long-term drought, so keep rain at the top of your prayer list.

For more information or for assistance with other agriculturally related topics, call the Victoria County office of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service at 361-575-4581.

Peter J. McGuill is the Victoria County extension agent - ag and natural resources. Contact him at 361-575-4581 or pjmcguill@ag.tamu.edu.