COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Low wheat prices likely mean planted acreage around the state will remain static or drop slightly, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialist.
Dr. Clark Neely, AgriLife Extension state small grains specialist in College Station, said wheat producers globally were expected to provide an overabundance of the commodity, which should keep prices low for the foreseeable future.
“It’s tough to make money in wheat right now,” Neely said. “Until someone has a natural disaster or the other producing regions of the world begin cutting back acreage, it’s likely that we won’t see prices improve.”
Texas producers planted 4.7 million acres of wheat for grain production and grazing last year, Neely said. It was the lowest planted acreage for the state since 1973.
In 2017, U.S. wheat producers were on track to plant the fewest acres since the U.S. Department of Agriculture began keeping records in 1919, he said. Meanwhile, Russia, the second-largest wheat producing region of the world, is anticipating excess wheat production.
The price of cash wheat in Texas remains around $3.71 per bushel compared to $6-$7 per bushel in 2014, Neely said. He suspects some producers will forgo planting acres because the break-even price is around $5-$5.50 per bushel.
In some cases, producers may try to cut back on input costs to make the crop pencil out,” he said. “We’ve already seen a significant migration of wheat acres over to cotton. In other cases, delayed cotton planting could mean producers may fail to have enough time to transition from cotton to wheat in the fall.
Neely said most of the state is reporting good subsoil moisture, and producers in the Rolling and High Plains regions are hoping for rain to improve topsoil conditions before planting acres for grazing.
Producers should be preparing to plant or already planting wheat for grazing, he said. Grain wheat planting should get under way in the High Plains by mid-October and wind up in South Texas by mid-December.
“They’re just getting started in the High Plains, and most of the state has good, deep soil moisture,” he said. “They just need a little rain to get the plants up and going in dryland fields.”
How producers utilize wheat amid low prices will depend on the weather and operational margins, he said.
“Planting for fall grazing is often opportunistic,” he said. “If there is moisture in the next 10 days, you’ll see more acres planted for fall grazing. Harvested acres depends on conditions as well. If there’s a dry spring, you may see more acres grazed out rather than taken to grain if producers feel grain yield potentials are low. In some cases, producers will plant winter wheat for the sole purpose of a cover crop in a cotton rotation.”
Neely said producers’ decision to cut back on input costs could penalize them at the market. Last year, some producers were docked for low protein content as a result of inadequate fertilization and average or above-average yields from favorable rainfall.
Above-average summer rains in the High Plains could mean additional weed problems for wheat producers, Neely said.
“Not only does this add to input costs with additional tillage or herbicide, but producers should watch out for volunteer wheat,” he said. “Wheat streak mosaic virus was a problem last year in the region and could be an issue again if volunteer wheat isn’t controlled in order to break the green-bridge effect. In addition to cultivation and applying herbicides effectively, producers may want to consider planting a resistant variety to deal with this disease.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
CENTRAL: Dry conditions prevailed, and rainfall was needed. Morning and evening temperatures were cooler. Oats were planted for winter grazing. Some cotton was harvested. In managed orchards, pecan crops looked great. Producers were preparing for winter. Some areas were sprayed for armyworms. Livestock were in good condition and being supplemented with hay. Tank levels were beginning to drop. Most counties reported good soil moisture. Overall crop, livestock and rangeland and pasture conditions were good in nearly all counties.
ROLLING PLAINS: The region had not received any measurable rainfall over the past three weeks. Subsoil moisture was adequate, but vegetation was beginning to dry out. Rangeland and pastures were beginning to show signs of lack of rainfall. The risk of wildfires was increasing. Some producers planted their winter wheat crop early, and those winter wheat fields looked good with plenty of subsoil moisture. However, producers who didn’t plant early were being forced to wait on the next rain. Producers who planted hay on lost cotton acres were beginning to harvest, and yields looked excellent. Cotton in some areas was expected to be ready for boll opener and defoliants soon. Armyworms were reported in different parts of the district. Spraying for pecan weevils started. Livestock were in good condition.
COASTAL BEND: Some producers reported 80-90 percent of the cotton harvest was near completion, though any cotton left in fields when Hurricane Harvey hit was ruined. There were still a lot of cotton round bales and modules to be picked up as field conditions dry up. There was damage to many bales and modules, but the extent was still to be determined. Late hay harvest was taking place and land was being prepared for planting oats over the next several weeks. Pasture conditions continued to improve with adequate moisture. Winter and spring calves were being marketed. Most livestock fared well with plenty of grass for forage. However, Ingleside and Rockport reported approximately 100 head of livestock killed and 120 exotic game killed during the storm.
EAST: Most counties reported mild temperatures with lows dropping to the upper 50s. Marion, Smith, Wood and Jasper counties reported dry conditions. Shelby County experienced a little flooding because of Hurricane Harvey. Pasture and rangeland conditions were excellent in Panola, Rusk, Shelby and Marion, while conditions were very poor to poor in Jasper and Tyler counties. Cooler temperatures slowed warm-season grasses down in Panola County. Cherokee and Marion counties reported warm-season grass growth as good. Hay production was in full swing in Wood, Smith and Gregg counties. Cherokee County producers sent surplus hay supplies to the Gulf Coast region. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were mostly adequate with Angelina, Newton, Tyler and Shelby counties reporting surplus. Bermuda grass stem maggots were in several hay fields in Upshur County. Previous rains in Jasper County caused baled hay to turn extremely hot and mold. Wild pigs and armyworms continued to plague Shelby County. Marion County reported cows as fat and calves were growing well, while livestock in Wood County were reported to be in fair to good condition. Shelby County’s sale barn was reopened and sold large numbers after closing the week of Hurricane Harvey. Gregg County cattle prices were up. Smith County reported fall cattle work was underway in preparation of calving. Producers in Marion County started planting fall gardens. Smith County reported issues with insects and diseases in gardens and lawns.
SOUTH PLAINS: Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels were beginning to dry out. Some cotton producers started irrigation to finish out the crop, and bolls were big and beautiful. Cotton bollworms formerly present in both Bt and non-Bt cotton began to cycle out. Cotton aphids were more widespread in cotton, and overall numbers had not levelled off. Forecasts called for warm weather which should provide sufficient heat units for late-planted cotton. Yield estimates looked better than estimated in late July. Peanuts looked good in the field but continued to be monitored for foliage diseases. Fields treated with fungicide before Aug. 10 were still relatively clean. Grain sorghum was past flowering and into soft dough stage, and producers monitored for headworms. Producers were reporting corn earworm larvae. Sugarcane aphids continued to be found in more fields and were moving west. Farmers were balancing early corn and sorghum harvests when not planting wheat. Pastures, rangelands and cattle were in good condition.
PANHANDLE: Temperatures were cool in the morning then warmed to near-normal for most of the district. No rain was reported. Soil moisture was mostly adequate. Producers were busy with corn silage harvest, and sorghum silage harvest was to begin soon. Wheat drills were starting to move after the ground dried up enough to prepare for plantings. Wheat planting was in full swing in some areas as producers tried to get some early plantings in for grazing. The corn crop was turning colors and looked good with the recent rains. Producers saved one to two irrigations on their crop, and harvest was coming up at the end of the month. The cotton crop potential was reported to be tremendous if warm and dry days come soon. Dry, warmer weather assisted cotton progress in Hall County. Pastures and other crops continued to look better. Cattle conditions looked better as well. All crops were in the final stages of maturity before harvest. Rangelands and pastures were showing the beginning stages of dormancy.
NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels ranged from mostly adequate to short, with some reporting very short. Temperatures were cooler, but no rain was reported. Some counties dried out significantly. Dry weather allowed corn and soybean harvests to continue at a rapid pace. Grass pastures continued to look great for this time of year. Cotton continued to look nice and bolls began to open. Some cotton fields were sprayed with defoliant. Livestock were in good condition and showed signs of relief with the cooler weather. Pastures and hay fields were sprayed for armyworms in some counties. Spring-born calves were doing well with the abundance of grass available.
FAR WEST: No report.
WEST CENTRAL: Weather conditions improved. Temperatures were much cooler with warm days and very mild nights. Field preparations for fall planting increased. Some small-grain planting began. Farmers were beginning to plant winter wheat. Cotton fields continued to look good. Armyworm and insect problems increased in summer forage fields. Rangeland and pastures continued to improve and were in good shape heading into fall. Grasses were green and still growing in good condition. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Cattle markets remained steady. Pecan crops remained in good condition. Dove hunting was good but a challenge, as birds were widely dispersed with plenty of available food and water sources. Deer were in good condition with many does having twins.
SOUTHEAST: Temperatures were cooler. Galveston County was still recovering from Hurricane Harvey. Walker County had plenty of soil moisture. In Waller County, flood waters from Hurricane Harvey were going back to the banks of the Brazos River and other creeks. In Brazos County, row crops still in the field were significantly impacted by the hurricane. Adjusters began evaluating the damages. All livestock and crops were hit hard and it will take a long time to recover. Soil moisture levels throughout the district ranged from adequate to surplus with surplus being most common. Rangeland and pasture ratings were excellent to very poor with good ratings being most common.
SOUTHWEST: Pasture and rangeland conditions continued to improve from recent rainfall. Cooler temperatures rose steadily towards the end of the reporting period. Livestock continued to be in fair condition.
SOUTH: Temperatures were warm but cooled due to a cold front later in the reporting period. Most areas did not receive rain. Some areas received trace amounts, and areas of Starr County received up to 1.5 inches. Willacy County reported 3 inches of rain. Cotton harvest continued and should be completed soon. In Hidalgo County, most cotton fields were harvested and the stalks destroyed. Vegetable planting continued. Peanut fields were under irrigation. Weed control was implemented on some peanut fields. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair to poor but declining, and supplemental feeding increased. Wildlife were also receiving supplemental feed. Soil moisture conditions were short to very short. Stock tank water levels were declining, and cattle body condition scores remained fair with some herds declining in body condition. The live cattle market in eastern portions of the district had a big week, over 1,500 head at the sale barn, and prices were up. Other sale barns reported increased volume and steady prices. Coastal Bermuda grass was irrigated. Oat planting was active. Spinach seed bed preparation was common across Zavala County. Cabbage planting continued. Pecans made good progress following water applications. Weed problems were reported in Cameron County.
— Texas A&M AgriLife