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Texas cotton planting intentions may be affected by the replanting to cotton of freeze-damaged wheat acreage, but a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert doesn’t expect the change to be significant on dryland wheat acres.

“Most of the shift will occur on irrigated wheat fields lost to late spring freezes in the Rolling Plains and Northern High Plains,” said Dr. Gaylon Morgan, AgriLife Extension state cotton specialist, College Station. “The optimum planting window for cotton has passed in South Texas and the Blacklands.”

However, cotton planting has just begun in the Rolling Plains, South Plains and Panhandle regions, but there are other factors — not the least of which are precipitation expectations — that will limit producers replanting to cotton, he said.

“Many of the production regions where wheat had severe freeze damage are not major cotton acre regions, so we won’t see a big shift there,” Morgan said. “And the other factor is that if things remain dry, there’s not a lot incentive for guys to go in with another crop. Finally, it will depend on the multi-dimensional aspects of crop insurance for both the wheat and cotton, which may be different for irrigated and dryland fields.”

But the major factor continues to be the weather, he said. With forecasts not predicting a turnaround of drought conditions anytime soon, things are looking “pretty bleak for the Southern High Plains where most of our cotton is grown.”

In the Rolling Plains, a rough estimate is about 50 percent of wheat was lost due to the late freezes, Morgan said. But with the region still suffering severe to exceptional drought, replanting wheat acres to cotton is really only a viable option for those with sufficient irrigation capacity to make a cotton crop.

In March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Prospective Plantings report predicted Texas intended cotton plantings to be 5.5 million acres, which represented a 16 percent drop from actual cotton plantings of 6.55 million acres in 2012. The National Cotton Council predicted a more severe drop of 25 percent to 4.91 million acres.

Central: From 0.5 inch to 2.7 inches of rain was reported in some areas. Pastures were being overgrazed due to the drought. Producers were taking their first hay cutting of winter pastures early to allow summer grasses to come on. Corn had been growing extremely fast, but cooler weather then slowed development. The harvesting of wheat and oats was expected to begin soon. Corn and grain sorghum continued to improve. Grasshoppers were expected to be bad again this year.

Coastal Bend: Recent rains improved crop prospects. There was some very localized hail damage. Cooler temperatures delayed cotton development. Some producers took their first hay cutting of winter grasses. Weekend rains were expected to improve soil-moisture levels.

East: Most counties received rain, with some getting as much as 5 inches. Runoff helped replenish ponds. High winds dried out soils in some areas. Producers continued controlling weeds and applying fertilizer. Many producers were able to apply fertilizers prior to recent rains. The first hay cutting was made in some areas with excellent yields. Below-average temperatures caused various degrees of plant damage. Producers were working cattle. The horn fly population increased. Feral hog damage to vegetable fields increased.

Far West: Parts of the area received from 0.5 to 1 inch of rain, which was not enough to make much difference to the overall agricultural outlook at this point. Days were warm and nights cool. Perennial grasses began to show some green at the base in some areas, but most looked completely dormant. Farmers continued to get fields ready to plant cotton.

North: Soil-moisture levels were short to adequate. Winter wheat was in really good condition. Oats looked fair to good. Ryegrass was maturing, forming seed heads, while summer grasses were greening up. All corn was planted, emerged and in fair to good condition. Early planted corn had a slight set back due to a late freeze, but recovered and looked good. Sorghum was in fair to good condition, and about 50 percent of cotton was planted. Rice was in very poor condition. Livestock across the region were in good condition, with calves growing at a good rate as they took full advantage of spring grazing. First hay cuttings were ongoing. Winter pastures continued to flourish with adequate moisture and cool evenings. Some ponds were very low, however, and more rain was needed. The fly population was on the rise.

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