Extension Agent: Crop update

March 15, 2011 at midnight
Updated March 14, 2011 at 10:15 p.m.

By Joe Janak

Farmers have been quite busy the past month planting crops. All the corn is planted and nearly all the grain sorghum and surprisingly a good percent of the cotton is already in the ground - probably 40 percent.

The recent dry spell allowed farmers to continue to work long days and accomplish a lot.

Soil temperature is relatively good for crops, with it being warm to help push out the seedling as it germinates. The 10-day running average for soil temperature at an 8-inch depth has been above 60 degrees, the minimum for grain sorghum and cotton, and has been averaging about 64 degrees.

But what has hurt some in the past days are the cool nights. In fact, some nights in the past two weeks had some frost in areas and that will slow plant growth and it did even burn some newly-sprouted bermudagrass for ranchers who were anticipating grazing early.

The cool nights also were a detriment to predictions on when to plant cotton as young cotton seedlings do not do good with cool weather. But the recent brief showers Monday should help to seal in some seed and hopefully not cause much damage with cold rain on freshly-planted cotton.

On the positive side, this week's forecast is to be warm and with about 40 heat units expected, which is 15 above the minimum for cotton, so recently-planted cotton should fair well, but close watch on the emergence and growth is important.

Unfortunately, the long-term forecast for the next three months is warmer and dryer than normal as La Nina continues to keep the coastal states dry. With that in mind, planting early may have been the best decision; only time will tell.


Recent cotton prices over the $2 per pound range has caused cotton interest to grow, and planted and overall potential acreage to increase.

There is even some action with area cotton gins expanding, even putting in new cotton gins to handle the capacity. Besides the excellent price, another factor that makes cotton economical is the planned eradication of the boll weevil.

According to a new Texas AgriLife Extension Service release called Assessing the Economic Benefits of Boll Weevil Eradication in Texas, the boll weevil is not only the most destructive insect pest of cotton in Texas and the U.S., but for once, Texas has made significant strides and advancements over the past 10 years to eradicate this pest.

In previous attempts, the entire cotton growing regions in the state were not working jointly to control this pest, whereas in the current attempt all cotton growing regions in the state participate.

The recent assessment compared the baseline post-boll weevil eradication time to a quantified multi-year treatment cost and yield loss for each zone prior to the eradication program.

Annual insecticide cost savings, yield loss savings, program assessments, and other cost changes were used to estimate growers' change in net cash flow resulting from the Boll Weevil Eradication, net present value and cost-benefit ratios.

Results? Zone 3, which includes Victoria and 24 counties, has a net present value of $349.73 and a cost-benefit ratio of 1.46.

Other zones ranged from a net present value of $73-$685 and a cost-benefit ratio of 1.39 - 2.87.

Variances occur due to the level of cotton productivity among the zones, and the amount of time the zone has been in the program.

But as cotton acreage increased from 1.4 million in 1996 to 5.4 million in 2009, annual net benefits to producers statewide have increased from $20 million to more than $210 million. This level of impact supports an additional 1,900 jobs.

Cumulative net benefits of the Boll Weevil Eradication program since 1996 are estimated at $1.9 billion.

Joe Janak is a Victoria County extension agent.



Powered By AffectDigitalMedia