"Lower Coastal Bend Farmers Continue Harvest As Hurricane Ike Hits Upper Coast"

Once again, the Lower Coastal Bend has avoided damage from a major hurricane. Twice this hurricane season Corpus Christi and surrounding communities have been sited near the center of the "cone of uncertainty" for the landfall prediction models and managed to avoid a hit, first from hurricane Dolly and most recently, from hurricane Ike.

Fortunately for residents in the Coastal Bend region, those hurricanes drifted to the south in the case of Dolly, and to the north, in the case of Ike. These turns of events were of particular benefit to farmers in the region that had late-planted crops awaiting harvest. Oddly enough, several farmers in the Coastal Bend area were busy operating cotton and grain harvest equipment after hurricane Ike made landfall, since the area sustained neither rain nor high winds from this storm.

According to pre-storm survey data collected on September 11, Nueces County farmers had only three percent of the grain sorghum crop and five percent of the cotton crop awaiting harvest. Those percentages equate to approximately 6,000 acres of grain sorghum and 3,400 acres of cotton. On the Friday and Saturday that Ike was pounding the Galveston, Beaumont, Houston and areas to the north, farmers in the Coastal Bend were working frantically to gather their remaining cotton and grain sorghum acres. Also being harvested during the hurricane's approach where the early planted sesame fields in Nueces and San Patrico counties. Sunflower fields in the Orange Grove area were also being harvested. Some mature sunflowers in the Bishop and Agua Dulce areas remained in fields too wet to harvest due to rains from isolated thunderstorms that occurred days before Ike made landfall.

As difficult as it is for some to believe, conditions were rain-free, clear, and sunny in the Corpus Christi area. In fact, Saturday afternoon the thermometers jumped above the century mark for inland locations from Robstown and west to Alice. Corpus Christi was one degree under a record high temperature for that date, at 99 degrees. Significant harvest progress was made around the area until Sunday afternoon when the first rainfall of the weekend occurred. Those rains were associated with the passage of the cool front that was in part responsible for steering hurricane Ike to the northeast. It consequently allowed the lower Coastal Bend counties to remain on the dry-side and escape that hurricane's destructive wrath.

Now that the harvest season has been completed for most farmers and hay producers in the Coastal Bend, attention is turning to preparations for next season. One of the biggest concerns is continued high fertilizer cost. In an effort to help producers develop the most cost effective fertility program possible for their operation, County Extension Agents in the lower Coastal Bend region have initiated a "Soil Testing Campaign" that will run through October 31. Producers will get a 33 percent price reduction in testing soil samples through the Texas A&M Soil Testing Lab as a part of this campaign, if they use the specially marked information sheets from their County Agents Office.

A "Soil Fertility Conference" will also be conducted on Thursday, September 25 at the Corpus Christi A&M Agricultural Research and Extension Center. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. with the first presentation beginning at 9 a.m. The morning session will be devoted to row crop fertility topics. The afternoon session, which is scheduled to run from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m, will address improved pasture fertility, weed control, and legume introductions to reduce nitrogen demands.

This conference is free of charge and will allow those attending to earn continuing education units (CEU's) needed by pesticide applicators to renew their licence. For more details contact the Nueces County AgriLife Extension Office at 361-767-5223. Hope to see you there!