Uneven weather threatens East Texas farming patterns

Uneven weather threatens East Texas farming patterns
Published: Jan. 4, 2023 at 1:50 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 4, 2023 at 9:27 PM CST
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GREGG COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - The East Texas winter can be a mixed bag of freezing temperatures one week, then spring-like the next. Though we might enjoy the warm-up, for agriculture mostly bad things can result from the inconsistent winter weather, and there are 75 days until the first day of spring.

“Whenever you’re talking about the weather going from the freezing to the warmer weather, it’s a minus,” says Gregg County Texas A&M Agri-life extension agent Shaniqua Davis.

It’s a cycle, and problems could arise if it continues.

“Those plants are not getting enough time to hearty, enough hardiness, for these plants to survive during these colder weathers,” Davis says.

While most farmers look at January and February as planting times, the weather could forestall that.

“Beautiful day, like today, and you wake up one morning and it’s nine degrees outside. Plants simply have not had time to adapt. They won’t flower at the expected times. 70 to 75 degrees, it does coax things out of dormancy,” says Longview Arboretum director Stephen Chamblee.

Plants can often be fooled by this kind of back and forth weather with what is called a false bloom.

“So then they’re going to turn around and go back into dormancy going into the winter weather again,” says Davis.

Peaches require around 7-to-800 chill hours every winter for a healthy crop.

“45 to 32 degrees temperature periods accumulated over the winter. And once the temperatures raise, you are reducing those chill hours because the plant is warming up,” Shaniqua says.

The warm weather is good news for cattle ranchers, who don’t have to feed when the grass is growing.

But the effect extremes can have on plants particularly food crops, can be disastrous.

“Some of the plants, they’ll start coming back, and maybe even put on some new growth. But that new growth is especially susceptible to freezes. Nature has no schedule,” Chamblee says.

According to the Texas Farmers Almanac, this winter will be colder than normal, with the coldest periods in early to mid-January and early to mid-February.