Rio Grande Valley Is an Agricultural ‘Gem’ with Diverse, Year-Round Production
Stay connected with what’s going on in the field during #plant16 through this series of brief interviews with Crop Science sales reps in various regions. See a list of all our Q&A’s at end of this post.
2016 Planting Season Update: Q&A with Rick Hernandez, Technical Sales Rep at Crop Science, a Division of Bayer.
The 4 counties that make up the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas
Key Crops in Territory:
Rick Hernandez stops by a customer’s onion field on March 24. Onions in Rick’s area are currently about 50% harvested.
Your territory is the Rio Grande Valley, can you tell us a little bit about that area and its significance to agriculture in Texas?
“I wish you could come here and take a look at this territory. It’s so unique. Everybody who comes here, the first thing they say, ‘I never knew this agricultural region existed.’ It’s a gem, a diamond in the rough. It consist of four counties as far south as you can go in Texas, bordering Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico.”
“It’s actually not a valley, though they call it the Rio Grande Valley. This area is flat; we have a lot of irrigation canals providing water, and stand pipes are a common sight. It’s also a very diverse territory with around 45-50 different types of vegetables, greens and herbs. They call this the Valley because of the diversification of crops in a small area. Holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, St. Patrick’s Day and Easter are the most important for the vegetable industry. Growers are shipping a lot of greens, cabbage and herbs to the East coast toward Chicago, New York, as well as Canada. We also have two row crop growing seasons a year, which is a little unusual. Agriculture doesn’t stop down here. It’s year-round; we never stop.”
So what is happening at this time of year in your area?
“We actually had a warm winter and early spring. Most of our row crop growers started corn planting late January. We’re now finished with planting corn, grain and sesame. We had an early start on cotton as well and are just wrapping that up. We’re currently harvesting onions; about 50 percent done. We lack another 25 percent to finish our citrus harvest. We should start picking watermelons in about two weeks and that will go all the way through May, along with cantaloupes and honeydew. Right now is when everything converges. Growers are just finishing up with planting row crops, the last of the greens are being harvested, sugarcane harvest is just about finished, and we are finishing up with onions. Watermelons are next.”
Tell us more about your recent weather.
“It was a very mild winter. We started planting around the last week of January. I’ve got cotton that’s about six true leaves and corn is up to my chest, which is quite big for this time of year. Last year we didn’t start planting until late March because of the abnormal amount of rain. Grain sorghum is about a week from head boot stage (when the plants exert a seed head), and that’s very uncommon – we’re about a month ahead. It’s been dry, but we’ve had some timely rains, so the crops look really good. We think that with one more rain we can probably make our grain sorghum crop, and with two more timely rains, we can make our corn and cotton crop. The warm weather has progressed everything pretty quickly, and hopefully the commodity prices will go up.”
So what is on growers’ minds in your area?
“I think the commodity price is the biggest concern for row crop growers. When 60-cent cotton looks good, it’s not a very good year. Sorghum is at $6, and corn is not any better. Growers would like to see a 75 to 80-cent cotton price. It’s hard for the grower to make a profit with all the inputs and costs. We are all praying for better prices.”
Follow the planting season conversion using #plant16 on Twitter, and be sure to mention @Bayer4CropsUS!
What are growers doing in other areas of the U.S. for planting season? Find out:
North Dakota: Q&A with Mike Hillstrom
Pacific Northwest: Q&A with Paul Pargeter
South Dakota: Q&A with Ronald Anderson
Southwest Minnesota: Q&A with Torrey Sharkey
Central Florida: Q&A with Roy Morris