FLOYDADA – Wet weather has put a damper on the Panhandle pumpkin harvest, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service staff.
Cristen Brooks, AgriLife Extension agent in Floyd County, said producers expected an above- average year for pumpkins, but recent rains have brought harvest to a standstill at a critical time.
“Producers were saying it was a really good year,” she said. “There were no major pest or disease issues, but rain is preventing them from accessing fields. It’s crunch time for them.”
Pumpkin producers hope to capitalize on fall decorations and Halloween festivities each year. Harvest typically begins around late August so producers can meet orders.
Brooks said 3-4 inches of rain have halted harvest for the past seven days, and rain in the forecast threatens to continue to delay access and reduce quality.
“The rains have put them three to four days behind,” she said. “They have enough pumpkins in warehouses, but they’re looking at about half their crop still in the field.”
Brooks said muddy conditions will likely mean muddy pumpkins, which lowers marketability.
Tanner Smith, of Assiter Punkin Farm in Floydada, said the first two weeks of October are typically his busiest time to harvest and market pumpkins. However, the marketing window could close before his fields are fully harvested if more rain arrives.
About 95 percent of the farm’s 70 pumpkin varieties are produced for fall decorations, he said.
The farm sells directly to locals and provides wholesale pumpkins for retailers around the state, mostly in the Waco-Austin market, Oklahoma and Louisiana.
“Demand is always good for pumpkins,” he said. “But when you sell for display you have a narrower window to get them to market.”
Smith said the wholesale market window will begin closing Oct. 14.
He said 30-40 percent of their pumpkins remain in the field.
The farm’s crop was poised for a good year, Smith said, before high temperatures in late-July and early August diminished pumpkin sizes. Now the concern is weather and whether pumpkins remaining in the field can be brought to market in time without reductions in quality.
“It’s just farming,” he said. “There are always challenges. You hate to wish away rain in this part of the country, but we need some dry weather.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
CENTRAL: Excellent rainfall with averages of 1-2 inches helped conditions tremendously. Temperatures were cooler in the evening and morning, but daytime was still hot. Some small grains planted prior to the rainfall should experience solid growth. Cotton harvest was on hold due to rainfall, and harvested cotton produced one to two bales per acre. Corn harvest continued. Pecan harvest should begin soon, but some scab was noted. Producers were cutting and baling hay. Cattle on range were doing OK, but supplemental feeding will soon be necessary. Tanks needed more rain to fill. Nearly all counties reported good soil moisture and good overall crop, livestock, rangeland and pasture conditions.
ROLLING PLAINS: Fall weather brought cooler temperatures and rain. Some areas received 4-6 inches of rain. Pastures improved and wheat was emerging. Cotton continued to look good. Producers were poised to plant winter forages as soon as fields dry out. Some stocker cattle arrived in preparation for when wheat fields were ready to graze. Some cotton was considered for termination rather than wait for frost. Armyworms continued to be a problem in isolated areas.
COASTAL BEND: Rain amounts ranged from 2-6 inches. Wheat and oat planting was about 50 percent complete. Some fields still had cotton bales waiting to be picked up. Producers continued to monitor and spray for fall armyworms as there were reports of extremely high populations in some areas. Winter pastures were doing well, and livestock remained in good shape.
EAST: Lack of rainfall has caused pastures, crops and forages to suffer throughout the district. Cherokee County reported pond and creek water levels dropped. Growing conditions were excellent in Jasper County. Hay harvests in Cherokee and Upshur counties slowed down tremendously as winter pastures needed rain for establishment. Pasture and rangeland conditions were excellent in Marion and Panola counties, and all other counties reported fair to good conditions. Corn was completely harvested with 200 bushels per acre on dryland fields. Winter wheat was ready for planting in Anderson County. Anderson County cotton looked good while pecan crops were moderate in production quality. Across the district, fall-planted crops looked good. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were mostly adequate while Houston, Shelby, Marion and Wood counties reported short conditions. Newton County reported a surplus in subsoil conditions, and Marion County reported a surplus in topsoil conditions. Wood County producers reported livestock were in fair condition. Shelby and Anderson counties reported cattle were in good shape, and Shelby County reported large numbers at the sale barn. Producers in Anderson County started supplementing protein and energy sources. Wild pig damage continued to cause large issues in Wood County. No insect pressure was reported in Anderson County. Upshur County sprayed for Bermuda grass stem maggot flies.
SOUTH PLAINS: Subsoil and topsoil conditions were very wet because of recent rains and some counties received 1-4 inches. Temperatures dropped down to the 50s and 60s. Conditions made cotton vegetative growth slow and created concerns for higher levels of cotton root-knot nematodes due to the softer soil. Peanut digging was delayed until wet conditions subside, but pasture, rangeland and winter wheat conditions should improve with the moisture received. Sugarcane aphids continued to infest grain sorghum fields and required producers to monitor pest levels daily. Cattle were in good condition.
PANHANDLE: Conditions were cold, wet and windy. Multiple counties reported 2-4 inches of rain. Soil moisture was adequate in most areas. Corn harvest was at a standstill with the weather, and there is concern about mycotoxins in the corn crop and what it might do to quality. Earlier-planted wheat was up to a stand and in excellent condition with many more acres to be planted when it dries. The cotton crop was struggling due to cooler, wetter conditions.
NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels ranged from mostly short to very short. There was very little rain to no rain in most counties. Conditions were hot and very dry, and pastures and stock tanks were showing signs of drought. Kaufman County was under a burn ban. Winter pastures were not planted due to dry conditions. Soybean harvest was nearing the end, but the cotton harvest continued to do well. Livestock were in good condition and spring-born calves were weaned. Feral hogs were active and causing a lot of damage in some counties.
FAR WEST: Temperature highs were in the 70s with lows in the 60s, and from 0.5-4 inches of rain were reported for the district. Flooding occurred in parts of the district and put a halt to farm and ranch work. Pima and Upland looked good and neared harvest. Pawnee pecans could potentially be harvested in the next 10 days. Alfalfa fields were cleaned up and most growers expected one more cutting and a possible clipping. Right-of-ways and areas prone to overgrowth needed to be managed as fall approaches and fire dangers could become more prevalent. No changes in cattle.
WEST CENTRAL: Temperatures were much cooler in most areas due to widespread rainfall. Slow, soaking rains provided much needed soil moisture in all areas. Many burn bans were lifted. Stock tanks remained low due to lack of runoff. Field preparations for fall planting were delayed due to wet conditions but will resume as fields dry. Planting will also continue as fields allow. Early planted winter wheat started to emerge. Cotton was in mostly fair to good condition and progressing very well. Once fields dry out producers will begin spraying and harvesting cotton. Rangeland and pastures were in fair to good condition and recent rainfall should help pastures going into fall and winter. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Some supplemental hay was being fed. Fall cattle work was beginning.
SOUTHEAST: Brazoria County was still dealing with flooding issues from Hurricane Harvey, which impacted a lot of pastures and crops. In Walker County, the soil moisture was starting to slip with daytime heat, but a few scattered showers helped in some isolated areas. Forage growth continued to be adequate. In Waller County, mornings were filled with heavy dew and the high humidity was keeping everything wet. Brazos County received heavy rain. In Jefferson County, conditions were slowly starting to improve. The recovery process will take a long time for all crops and livestock.
SOUTHWEST: All counties received heavy soaking rainfall for multiple days. Rangelands and pastures greened up tremendously. Most of the rain was absorbed. Livestock continued to hold in fair to good condition. Recent rains will help stock tanks fill up.
SOUTH: Most counties received significant rainfall. Several counties reported between 1.5 and 18 inches of rain for the reporting period. Many areas reported 3-7 inches or more. More rainfall was expected. Soil moisture was very short in many areas but improved with the rains. Some areas remained very short on soil moisture despite the rain. Pasture conditions should improve significantly. Some areas reported isolated flooding. Temperatures were mild. Peanut fields continued to develop and were a couple of weeks from digging. Very little field work was done during the reporting period due to wet weather. Body condition scores on cattle improved some. Some fall armyworm damage caused farmers and ranchers to delay wheat and oat planting. Most livestock tanks were full. Good forage production was expected before the first frost. Rainfall delayed planting activities for 7-10 days, more in some cases. Most producers harvested cotton prior to heavy rains. Cabbage, wheat and oats benefited greatly from rainfall. Spinach planting should resume once field conditions allow. In Jim Wells County, 1,250 head of beef cattle were marketed. Feeder cattle were down $5-$7 per hundredweight, while cull cows continued a downward trend as well. Young bred cows and pairs were steady. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued. Preparation for fall onion planting continued as well. Planting of vegetables continued in Hidalgo County. Some weed problems were reported due to the rain.