Weeds A Widespread Problem In Texas Croplands

Weeds A Widespread Problem In Texas Croplands

Out-of-control weeds are the latest challenge to hit Texas producers among the negative effects related to untimely rains since late spring, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

Weeds in a cotton field.
Pigweed overrunning a cotton field in Brazos County. Texas producers are facing a wide array of weed issues due to high moisture levels and widespread inability to access croplands for timely herbicide treatments. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

Rainy weather across the state has created a convergence of problems related to weeds for producers of everything from row crops like corn, sorghum and cotton to forages, said Scott Nolte, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension state weed specialist, Bryan-College Station.

“The weather has impacted most every part of the state,” he said. “Many areas have a number of factors that are coming into play when it comes to weeds and weed control. It’s been a challenging season.”

Weeds outcompeting crops

Plantings were delayed due to widespread rainfall events that began in late-April. Heavy rains saturated soils in many areas around the state initially, and sporadic rains since have continued to make fieldwork, especially weed control, difficult from the Coastal Bend to parts of the Panhandle, Nolte said.

Saturated soil and cloudy days also stunted crop growth progress. This delayed the canopy development that typically reduces the amount of sunlight available for weeds to germinate and grow, Nolte said.

Residual preemergent herbicide application effectiveness degraded over time as well, and weeds were allowed to compete with crops for sun, moisture and nutrients.  

Moisture variability in individual fields with drier-to-saturated or flooded areas also resulted in a lack of uniformity in crop maturation, he said.

Nolte said there were some cotton fields with a range of maturity ranging from 6-inch-tall plants to plants with blooms due to the rainfall. The lack of crop consistency exacerbated maturation issues.

There has also been an emergence of weeds that were rarely seen in areas of the state in previous seasons, Nolte said.

“One of the most common calls we’ve been getting is about sedges,” he said. “They thrive in wet environments, and we’re seeing a variety of sedge species in areas we seldomly see them. We’ve had a number of them brought in for identification and control recommendations.”

Looking for relief, rescue from weeds

Producers are also seeking control recommendations for fields in need of rescue from weeds, Nolte said. Weeds are easier to deal with via preemergent applications and by following with sprays that address newly emerged immature weeds.

The lack of timely applications has many producers seeking recommendations to fight mature grasses and vines, he said. Above-average moisture levels may allow producers to use some options like Liberty that are typically ineffective under drier conditions in areas like the Texas Plains or Panhandle.

However, at least one prevalent pest plant – pigweed – has producers concerned because it has become resistant to a standard herbicide – glyphosate – in parts of the state, Nolte said. Pigweed is among pest plants representing major problems at harvest time because weeds interfere with mechanical harvesting equipment.

Nolte said producers aware of history with glyphosate-resistant pigweed have other options, but another issue has been short supplies of certain products. Various international and domestic supply chain issue related to the pandemic and other factors have created situations where locating specific herbicides can be difficult. 

Nolte said there is also concern for cotton producers specifically because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency placed a hard cutoff date – July 30 – on the use of dicamba-based products, Engenia and Xtendimax. Cutoff dates were typically related to the plant stage, Nolte said, and AgriLife Extension sought an extension for producers in the Texas Plains, but was denied by the agency.

Producers are also seeking recommendations on how to best apply herbicides, including aerial crop-dusting methods or high-clearance tractors, he said, adding that as rain events continue it is important that producers access fields to apply herbicides before harvest.

“With the cycle of rainfall, you might have two to three days for fields to dry before more rainfall prevents access again,” he said. “So, they’re looking for any way to spray fields so they can harvest as soon as it dries enough.”

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

A map of the 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension districts.
A map of the 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension districts.

CENTRAL

Conditions were returning to a more normal hotter, drier summer pattern. Temperatures increased through the week with rainfall events becoming lighter and more scattered. Topsoil was drying down a bit. Both corn and sorghum crops were rapidly developing with corn nearing full maturity and sorghum not so far behind. Low spots in fields suffered from flooding conditions that delayed crop development and were progressing unevenly. Farmers were preparing for the corn harvest. Pastures were doing well after the second cut, and livestock looked to be in great condition. Armyworms were still a problem in some pastures. Cotton looked great and was podding normally with ample moisture and heat. Stock tanks were full, and cattle were in good condition.

ROLLING PLAINS

Rain amounts were good this past couple of weeks. Storms produced 0.5-3 inches of rainfall in some areas, but soils were drying out in other areas. Some farmers were still attempting to harvest wheat that had not sprouted. Summer tillage on wheat stubble was occurring as well as forage production. Pastures looked great for late July. Producers were fighting armyworms, which appeared a little earlier than usual. Grasshoppers were also an issue. Dryland cotton was doing well from all the moisture. Heavy numbers of flea hopper moths were seen in cotton. Flies and mosquitos were thick on livestock. Producers reported large volumes of hay being stored for winter. Calves were weaned and looked heavy. Stocker cattle were in good condition as well and nearing shipping to feedlots.  

COASTAL BEND

Some areas received 2 inches of rain, while other areas were drying out a little. Crops were maturing quickly. Combines were running where it was dry enough, however, some producers put on tracks and were running equipment in mud. Most grain sorghum received some damage from all the previous weeks of rain resulting in shattering and head sprouting. However, loss assessments were still too early to determine, and potential yields still looked good on some fields. Corn was being harvested but to a lesser degree than sorghum. Cotton looked good, and some fields were defoliated. Hay fields needed cutting when conditions allow. Rangelands and pastures were in good condition, and livestock were doing well.

EAST

Most of the region reported zero moisture. Panola County received scattered rainfall. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair to excellent. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were adequate. Warm weather dried fields enough for producers to get in to cut and bale hay. Cherokee County reported producers were scrambling to cut and bale fields before armyworm infestations destroyed forages. Armyworm and grasshopper infestations continued to be a district-wide problem. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Wild pig activity remained an issue.

SOUTH PLAINS

Much of the district received up to half an inch of rainfall, but some areas received none. Crops were still doing very well from previous rain events. Farmers were struggling to control weeds as a result of recent rains. A majority of cotton producers were spraying for weeds and applying growth regulator to slow plant progress. Some cotton was beginning to set bolls, and flea hoppers were reported in fields. A small number of boll worms were also seen emerging. Corn and sorghum were in good condition. Cattle were in good condition with plentiful grazing across the district.

PANHANDLE

Temperatures were mild with scattered rains reported. Rains continued to help rangeland, pastures and crops. Weed control in fallow fields was underway. Soil moisture levels were short to adequate in northern and central parts of the district, with southern areas reporting adequate soil moisture levels. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair to good. Corn and soybeans were in good to excellent condition. Sorghum and cotton conditions were fair to good. Peanuts were in good condition. Wheat harvest was complete. Irrigation of most crops was expected to start again soon.

NORTH

Topsoil moisture throughout the district was mostly short to adequate. Up to 1 inch of rain fell across much of the district. Temperatures were below average for the most part. Conditions were getting drier, but subsoil moisture was still good. Hotter temperatures were in the forecast. Pastures and hay meadows looked good. Hay baling was still in full swing. Corn looked decent. Grain sorghum conditions looked much improved. Livestock were in good condition. Armyworms were a major issue in hay meadows over recent weeks.

FAR WEST

Temperatures were hotter over the past week and were expected to stay for the next few weeks. Highs were in the upper-90s with lows in the mid-60s. Isolated rain showers delivered up to 2 inches of rainfall, with most areas catching half an inch. Dryland cotton was beginning to show moisture stress and needed rain. Irrigated cotton still looked good, but most of it was not at peak water demand yet. A few fields began to bloom. Pima cotton appeared to be doing very well. Some bollworm pressure was reported in certain areas but was very minimal. Cotton flea hoppers were still a concern. Corn was drying down. Sorghum looked mostly good, but headworms and stinkbugs were showing up in fields. Watermelon and cantaloupe harvests continued. Alfalfa and forage producers reported a steady harvest with minimal irrigation. Unfortunately for many alfalfa farmers, some cuts were rained on and some fields experienced increased weed pressure due to the rainfall. Pecans seemed to be doing very well with very little pest pressure. There was some pecan nut casebearer pressure early on, but most producers applied pesticides to control them. Large numbers of forbs were popping up and some perennial grasses were returning, but slower than the accompanying weeds. Cattle and sheep were being fed and processed for sale amid higher market trends.

WEST CENTRAL

Warmer temperatures were starting to arrive. Cotton looked great and should have enough moisture to get through the next couple of weeks. Farmers were cultivating cotton and side dressing with fertilizer. Sorghum and corn were maturing nicely, and harvest should start in a couple of weeks. Pastures were in good shape, and livestock were doing well. Some areas could experience declining conditions over the next few weeks due to high temperatures. Grain prices continued to dominate the dialogue regarding replacement cattle prices. Supplies of feeder cattle were lower and grazing conditions were excellent. Given premiums on feeder futures, sellers were not expected to rush replacement cattle to market, with the bulk of movements expected to be later this summer and into the fall.

SOUTHEAST

Walker County reported good to excellent growing conditions with some scattered rainfall in some locations. Soil moisture levels were short to surplus. Warmer daytime and nighttime temperatures boosted forage growth, but armyworms were emerging as well. Many counties reported producers were struggling with armyworm infestations. Many pastures were well behind on cuttings due to rainfall. Rangeland and pasture ratings were poor to excellent with good ratings being most common. Rice was progressing, and the drier weather should be better during flowering; however, heat stress could be a concern.

SOUTHWEST

Temperatures were beginning to heat up across the district. Precipitation reports ranged from trace amounts up to 1 inch. Rangeland and pasture conditions were holding steady. Producers were waiting for some fields to dry before harvest. Corn and sorghum harvests began in some areas where moisture levels allowed. Gillespie County reported armyworms in some areas. Mesquite spraying continued in Sutton County. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Cattle, sheep and goat markets remained steady. Fall gardens were being planted, and hopes were high. Fawns were running around, and survival rates should be on the high side where rangelands were in good shape.

SOUTH

Weather conditions throughout the district were mild with light scattered showers. Kleber, Kenedy and Starr counties received up to 3.5 inches of rainfall. Conditions were still wet in northern parts of the district, but some drying occurred. Forecast temperatures were expected to exceed 100 degrees. Harvest combines were running where conditions allowed. Several producers purchased flotation tires to access wet crop fields. Grain sorghum was harvested between rains, and corn harvest was underway. Sorghum harvest was 80% complete in some areas. Sprouting damage was far less than expected, and per-acre yields above 5,000 pounds were reported in Jim Wells County, but Zapata County reported some sorghum fields remained flooded. Sprouting concerns were reported in other counties as well. Some corn fields continued to mature. Fieldwork was resuming in areas due to warmer, drier conditions. Cotton was setting bolls. Some cotton fields with open bolls were damaged by rainfall. Growth regulators were applied to some fields due to rapid growth rates. Heavy rains in some areas over recent weeks slowed corn, sorghum and cotton progress. Peanuts continued to peg and were being sprayed with fungicides as preventative management. Fall armyworms were reported, but no heavy infestations so far. Grasses on rangeland and pastures looked good to excellent. Despite good grazing, some producers continued to report supplemental feeding for livestock. Browse availability for wildlife was excellent. Second cuttings of Coastal Bermuda grass and haygrazer were beginning. Water tank levels were dropping in some areas.

Adam Russell is a communication specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife. Adam is responsible for writing news releases and feature articles focused on Texas A&M AgriLife Extension programs and science-based information generated by Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientists across the state. He also generates the weekly Texas Crop and Weather Report and handles public and media relations.