Texas fruit crops need rain, cold

Texas fruit crops lag behind in the cold hours needed for optimal flowering and good fruit set, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.

The peach grower shows a bud that developed poorly due to inadequate cooling hours during the 2017 growing season, when Texas fruit crops had very few hours. (photo by Texas Russell’s A&M AgriLife Texas)

If Panxatoni Phil was right, there are still enough winter days ahead, but experts say Texas fruit crops need cold, clouds and rain.

Fruit trees, such as peaches, apples and even blackberries, depend on cool cloudy weather in winter to promote proper physiological growth in spring, said Larry Stein, Ph.D., gardener at AgriLife Extension, Uwalde. If the plants do not receive the required number of hours of cooling, the plants may bloom slowly, which usually leads to poorly developed fruits or their absence at all.

“Different regions of the state have plants with different cooling requirements,” he said. “Gardens in the Rio Grande Valley may have trees that require 200-300 hours of cooling, while varieties that work well in North Texas may require 900-1000 hours.”

Clouds, cold are equal to cool hours

Cold hours begin to build up after the first frost every fall, he said. Trees for the winter are dormant, but cold hours promote the production of hormones that dilute growth inhibitors throughout the winter and prepare the plant to emerge from dormancy and begin new growth, flowering and fruit set.

Growers want the time of new growth and flowering to coincide in order to avoid the average spring frosts that will damage the blooming fruit.

Proper cooling hours cause good and timely development of leaves and buds, Stein said. Lack of hours of cooling can lead to poorly developed buds and flowers, which can have a cascading effect, leading to stunted growth or irregularly shaped fruits that do not bear fruit at all.

The leaves help the trees generate energy and protect the limbs from sunburn, but several seasons of inadequate cooling hours can kill plants, Stein said.

Humid, cloudy conditions and temperatures in the range of 32-45 degrees are ideal for the accumulation of cold, Stein said. The temperature was relatively cool, but drought and sunny days slowed the process.

Stein said there is still time to score significant hours. Last year the cold hours were behind until the winter storm Uri put cold temperatures across the state. The storm has damaged some individual fruit growers and has had an overall negative impact on agriculture, but cold temperatures have helped most tree varieties in the state, Stein said.

“Last year was marginal until now, and then came Uri,” he said. “There were a few varieties with a low number that became active and they were killed. But for the most part, this cold front has brought us out because of the cold necessary for a good harvest. ”

Blue Bird Days, go away

Jim Camas, a fruit specialist at AgriLife Extension, Fredericksburg, said the accumulation of refrigeration hours started late and lags behind. He doesn’t expect the cooling hours to be as short as in 2016-2017, when there were just over 450 hours in Central Texas. But more cloudy, colder weather is needed if at this point in the season the cool hours exceed 600 hours.

Kamas said chemical growth regulators can mimic cooling hours, but this affordability could be a problem because products are imported from Europe. And it is necessary to make means for 30 days before full flowering which on the average falls on March, 17th.

If growers do not have growth regulators to apply, or Mother Nature does not quickly give cold wet weather, Texas fruit crops from peaches to grapes may be at risk of reduced yields, improperly shaped fruits with lower market attractiveness, late and inconsistent harvests. fruits and stress trees, Kamas said.

“We have a saying that there are only two types of people who like 36-degree days, gray, cloudy, foggy, rainy and just unpleasant to relax – duck hunters and gardeners,” he said. “Most people don’t agree, but such winter days bring a smile to their faces because they know good things are happening.”

AgriLife Extension journalists collected the following summaries:

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


There was no precipitation after heavy rains last week. In some areas there were signs of soil erosion from heavy runoff. Spare tanks filled up well. Wet conditions stopped the field work. Frosty conditions continued to affect winter oats and limited potential recovery for late winter grazing. Winter wheat has shown good resistance to night frosts. The cold limited the development of weeds. Overall, the crops were in poor or good condition. The livestock was in good shape and the producers were heavily fed.


The weather was pleasant but remained dry with very little agricultural activity. After a snowfall last week the ground dried up. In some areas the snow had almost 1 inch of moisture, but in most areas the snow delivered very little moisture. The fires continued to be a concern. Due to arid conditions, tillage has been postponed. Winter forage crops that were planted either did not germinate or perished after germination. Irrigated wheat looked good. Winter wheat in arid areas looked very poor, and ranchers largely fed the animals. In some areas, the problem with the water supply in the reservoir became a problem. Hay stocks were tightened.


Heavy frosts for three nights were reported in some areas this week. Soil moisture conditions were sufficient and even humid in some areas, but conditions quickly dried up in windy conditions. Preparation of crop fields continued. Fertilizers and long-term herbicides were applied. A little corn was sown. Hunting and grazing conditions remained poor. Frosty mornings stopped the growth of winter fodder, but growers hoped for rapid accelerated landscaping. The livestock was in good condition, many herds began spring calving. The animals continued to be fed with hay and protein. Hay stocks were available. Prices in the cattle market were exceptional.


Drought continued in most parts of the district. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were adequately short. Ponds and streams were low. Much more rainfall was needed to alleviate the current conditions. Winter fodder performed very poorly compared to the usual year. The conditions of pastures and pastures were very bad. Cattle market prices rose compared to last week, but the number of heads remained low due to the weather. The livestock was in good or good condition with top dressing. Wild pigs remained a problem for producers.

Southern plains

Conditions were still extremely dry and rain was needed for all aspects of agriculture. The cattle looked good.


Small snowfalls added a small amount of moisture to the topsoil, however extreme drought remained. The overall soil moisture level was very low to short, and the rates of settlements and pastures in almost all counties were very low or low.


The moisture of the topsoil throughout the area was insufficient. Small rainfall was reported in some counties, but more was needed in the spring. The temperature at night dropped to 20-30 degrees, and the steady wind continued to dry a small amount of moisture obtained in the soil. Winter wheat has improved slightly in the area. The livestock was in good condition, but the water tanks were a concern and the level in the pond was much lower for this time of year.


The average temperature during the day reached 64 degrees, the minimum temperature at night – 31 degrees. A small amount of rain was reported. A bit of moisture has disappeared with the warm and windy days of the past week. The humid conditions were extremely dry. After the snow, field work was carried out. There was a very small amount of irrigated wheat, which grew little due to the cold temperature and lack of moisture. The pastures were completely bare of animal feed. The cattle looked skinny, and the producers still fed him heavy rations / They also continued to sell cull cows and younger calves at a lower weight. Several producers have considered reducing livestock size due to high feed costs. Livestock breeders were busy preparing to bring in newborn calves.


Conditions in the area were still extremely dry, despite some winter rainfall mix. Even with the recent humidity, the fire hazard remained high. The pasture needed moisture and warm weather. Winter wheat was very poor. The calving season began, and producers were busy feeding cows and hay. The level of stocks of tanks reached a critical level.


Heavy rains and rich soils were reported in some areas, while dry areas remained dry. The prescribed burning of pastures was carried out on dry land. The livestock was in good condition. Assessments of pastures and pastures were very poor to fair. It is reported that several nights there were low temperatures. Rising daytime temperatures may allow winter wheat and oats to grow, but some fields are freezing. The crayfish were mined, and the cooler weather did not seem to affect them. Some work was done on the rice fields, but most areas were still too humid.


Cold and dry weather conditions have remained in most parts of the district. It was reported to be light snow and wet snow, but generally needed more moisture. Hayfields were burned in preparation for the growing season. Producers of arable crops were preparing for planting. Winter fodder planted on pasture was in poor or good condition. The conditions of pastures and pastures were fair, but the number of livestock was reduced due to arid conditions. Livestock was in good condition, but prices fell. Livestock and wildlife have been significantly replenished, and water supply has been closely monitored.


In the northern, eastern and western areas of the district the soil moisture level was very short or short, while in the southern areas there was sufficient moisture. Conditions were drier than usual. The temperature was cold but remained above zero. Precipitation ranged from a small amount of fog to 1.5 inches of rainfall. The fields were dusty and dry. Growers were skeptical of spring planting without significant moisture, but some irrigated farmers planted vegetables. The vegetables were soaking up, the onions looked good. The harvest of citrus and sugar cane continued. Growers continued to rehabilitate citrus groves. Precipitation delayed access to some fields, but there were reports of planting corn and sorghum. Several rapeseed fields were harvested. Mesquite trees shed leaves. The soil temperature was below the appropriate level for planting. The pastures looked dry and dormant, and the ranchers gave heavy extra fodder. The supply of tanks was scarce. Cattle sales were above normal, but prices were stable. Prices for round bales of hay were $ 50-95. Some manufacturers did prescribe burns.

-30- Texas fruit crops need rain, cold

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