Louisiana rice planting off to good start - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Louisiana rice planting off to good start

(Source: MGN Online) (Source: MGN Online)

by Bruce Schultz, LSU AgCenter contributor

Warm weather has perked up the 2014 Louisiana rice crop after a cold, wet spring that delayed planting for many farmers.

"In general, the crop is off to a pretty good start," said Steve Linscombe, rice breeder and director of the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station.

Linscombe said rice is progressing well from the warm weather, combined with nitrogen fertilizer and permanent flood. "It's probably a little bit later than average but not as late as last year, and last year we had the best crop we ever had," he said.

Linscombe said the state acreage may increase by 10,000 to 15,000 acres this year, compared with last year's total of 412,000 acres. Considerably more medium-grain rice is being grown in Louisiana, especially in north Louisiana, he said. "I've had several calls from producers planting medium-grain for the first time – or the first time in a long time."

Water allocation reductions in California where a large amount of medium-grain rice is grown had increased medium-grain acreage in other rice-growing states, Linscombe said.

LSU AgCenter rice specialist Johnny Saichuk estimates the crop is about a month behind normal because of the delays in planting.

"They're still planting in north Louisiana," Saichuk said. Water-seeded fields are doing well.

The lateness in planting could be a problem if this summer turns out to be seasonably hot when the plants are flowering. If temperatures are normal or hotter-than-normal, "we'll see a big hit in the yields," he said

Last year, Saichuk said, temperatures were mild when the crop was flowering. "If that happens again, we'll be OK."

Most rice fields in Vermilion Parish have a permanent flood, and warmer days have given the crop a boost, according to LSU AgCenter agent Andrew Granger.

"Some of it is approaching green ring," he said, referring to the critical growth stage. "It's tillered very well for the most part."

Some fields still producing crawfish will be planted late, Granger said, but he estimated 95 percent of the rice acreage has been planted. He said planting was delayed slightly because of cool, wet weather, and more fields were water-seeded because of the wet conditions.

Barrett Courville, LSU AgCenter agent in Jefferson Davis and Acadia parishes, said the crop is progressing well in his area. "We're off to a pretty good start."

Permanent flooding is starting on many fields. Planting was stretched out longer than usual, Courville said. "But it's all growing now."

Bird problems after planting were minor this year, and that probably was the result of many farmers using the bird repellent AV1011, he said.

Vince Deshotel, LSU AgCenter agent in St. Landry Parish, said early-planted rice was set back by cold temperatures and high winds, and some fields had to be replanted.

Dry conditions have also been difficult for fields not yet flooded, he said.

Rainfall predicted late this week for southwest Louisiana was spotty. "Any rain at this point will be beneficial for all crops," said Keith Fontenot, LSU AgCenter agent in Evangeline Parish. The young rice struggled until warm weather arrived. "It's finally starting to move pretty good," he said.

Seedlings had difficulty because of a lack of moisture that caused leaves to dry, but flushing fields helped the plants, Fontenot said.

Wet, cold weather interfered with farmers who planted with seed drills, he said. "Others just decided to water plant."

In north Louisiana, weather also affected planting. Keith Collins, LSU AgCenter agent in Richland Parish, said farmers waited for dry weather that finally came by the end of April. "There's been an amazing amount of seed put in the ground."

Collins said he expects rice acreage in Richland Parish will increase by 10 percent this year because of falling corn prices.

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