Texas Crop and Weather Report – May 21, 2024

The next month’s weather conditions will determine how much of the sorghum crop across the state fares this year, after too little rain in some areas and too much in others. (Laura McKenzie/Texas A&M AgriLife)

College Station, TX (May 21, 2024) - The Texas sorghum crop is experiencing a variety of weather conditions, with too little rain in some areas and too much in others. But overall, the crop is holding steady, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

Ronnie Schnell, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension statewide cropping systems agronomist and associate professor in the Texas A&M Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, Bryan-College Station, said the Rio Grande Valley is very dry. As the crop progresses north into the Coastal Bend area, moisture conditions were better early and the crop is looking good. Upper Coast and Central Texas have good moisture conditions and good crop conditions. But further north and east field conditions may be too wet, while sorghum planting in the Panhandle is just about to start.

Sorghum prices are not strong, Schnell said, so with the low prices, producers need to make higher yields per acre to maintain farm revenue. Timely rainfall in 2023 produced grain yield from 7,500-8,500 pounds per acre in coastal areas of Texas. The next month will determine how the 2024 crop will finish in South and Central Texas.

“We are expecting the coastal areas of Texas to have average acres, but statewide acres will likely be down depending on what happens with the Panhandle,” Schnell said. “We are expecting more sorghum silage will be planted in the Panhandle.”

Conditions vary with pests, disease, and moisture

Sorghum is planted as early as January and February in the Rio Grande Valley and then mid- to late-March in Central Texas, and in the High Plains it will be planted all the way into June. Harvest begins down south in late June and early July and continues into the fall in the Panhandle.

The Coastal Bend region around Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande Valley are the largest areas of sorghum production, Schnell said, with a lot of that grain exported.

Overall, reports from AgriLife Extension agents across the state indicated a range of crop conditions at this point in the season. Agents in Southeast Texas reported grain fields did not look good after heavy rain while fields in the Southwest and West Central Texas looked good. Sorghum fields in South Texas were experiencing drought conditions that agents expect is slowly eroding yield potential. Agents also reported sorghum aphids in South Texas, which could translate into additional yield potential losses.

Sorghum aphid, formerly known as the sugarcane aphid, is not the problem it once was, but the insect pest still shows up throughout the growing regions and can impact production, Schnell said. Sorghum hybrids now available, along with scouting and proactive treatments, make them easier to manage.

In southern areas of the state, he said producers should be scouting for other pests, including head worms and stink bugs, and treating as necessary before they become problems.

It is still early now, but some areas getting a lot of rain may have issues with head worms or stink bugs as the crop moves into grain fill. The Coastal Bend and Rio Grande Valley were seeing some insecticide spraying already taking place.

Sorghum survives moisture issues

Schnell said the Waco area and north and east from there is wet, so some areas were delayed in getting planted and the fields have been standing in water. But because sorghum is a bit more tolerant than corn, the crop is expected to survive.

“If sorghum gets too wet, it will pause for a little while, but as soon as conditions improve, it will tiller and put on some size and recover some yield,” he said. “I’ve seen it before when we had corn and sorghum both flooded for a month and the corn might be lost but the sorghum can bounce back.”

By the same token, sorghum is also more drought and heat tolerant than some crops. So far, the growing conditions are good, but producers could use some more rain in the Corpus Christi area. However, the Rio Grande Valley is very dry, and the sorghum crop doesn’t have much time left to recover.

“They’ve had very little rain in the Valley this year and irrigation is low, so they could really use some rain there,” Schnell said. “They are not expecting a good crop overall down there, but there will be some under limited irrigation that could still benefit from some rainfall.”

For more information, see the summaries compiled by AgriLife Extension district reporters.

Written by Kay Ledbetter