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Dry weather greets South Texas growers as they begin to plant

Texas A&M AgriLife logoPreparations and planting in South Texas are kicking off the 2020 growing season, but the region, like much of the state, is behind on rainfall, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialists.

Drier-than-normal conditions may not worry producers who use irrigation, but dryland growers could be looking at a disastrous season if significant and timely rainfall doesn’t materialize.

Dr. Juan Anciso, AgriLife Extension horticulturist, Weslaco, said temperatures in South Texas have been mild with below-average rainfall since November. Despite drier-than-normal weather, growing conditions have been ideal for cool-season vegetable crops like cabbage, onions and carrots under irrigation.

“It’s been nice and sunny, which has been good for growth,” he said. “There’s also been little, if any, insect and disease pressure on crops.”

Producers will be harvesting those crops up to May, Anciso said. Some warm-season crops are being planted, and growers are preparing cropland, including prewatering to improve soil moisture levels for seeds.

Anciso said watermelon growers have been planting in small tunnel houses, which work like mini greenhouses, and will continue planting over the next several weeks. The tunnel houses allow those growers to start their crops and get to market earlier than normal. The region typically experiences its last freeze on Feb. 14.

Growers are also preparing to plant other warm-season crops including tomatoes, cantaloupes, honey dew melons and peppers, but that watermelons are the primary warm-season crop.

Row Crops

Danielle Sekula, AgriLife Extension entomologist, Weslaco, said growers were also preparing soil, spraying preemergent herbicides and prewatering for row crops like corn, sorghum and cotton. Many growers were ordering seeds while others were still considering their planting options.

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Some growers with irrigation had already planted corn with planting operations expected to ramp up over the next few weeks, she said. Sorghum planting was expected to begin within the next two weeks, but many dryland growers were waiting for rain.

“Hopefully it rains,” she said. “Some producers are waiting until the threat of a cold front passes, but all the dryland acres are waiting for some rain.”

Sekula said some areas had received up to an inch in December, but conditions have been dry otherwise. Producers are hoping 2020 is not a repeat of 2018 when planted crops in many areas were lost to drought.

“It’s been cloudy and looked like rain but then nothing falls,” she said. “If it continues like this a lot of cropland will likely burn up in the summer heat.”

Read the complete Texas Crop and Weather Report – Feb. 4, 2020 at Texas A&M AgriLife.

This article was contributed by Texas A&M AgriLife.