Recent stretches of dry weather have allowed Louisiana rice farmers to get in the field and plant their 2018 crop on schedule.
“In the last two weeks, we’ve made tremendous progress,” said Don Groth, resident coordinator of the LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station in Crowley. “All in all, it’s starting out to be a good year.”
Dustin Harrell, AgCenter rice specialist, said south Louisiana farmers are more than 80 percent finished with planting. He estimated this year’s rice planted acreage will total approximately 415,000, compared to about 400,000 last year.
Wet field conditions forced many farmers to plant by water seeding instead of drilling, according to AgCenter parish agents. Those who planted early had to dodge rains.
“There was a lot of rice planted in a short period of time,” said Todd Fontenot, AgCenter agent in Evangeline Parish. He added that about 85 percent of farmers in his parish have completed planting.
Frances Guidry, AgCenter agent in Jefferson Davis Parish, said a majority of the acreage there is planted. And Jeremy Hebert, AgCenter agent in Acadia Parish, said planting is close to 90 percent complete in his parish.
“It started out cooler and wetter than last year,” Hebert said.
He said some farmers have had to replant after blackbirds ate seed.
Most farmers have finished planting in Vermilion Parish, said Andrew Granger, the parish AgCenter agent. “I’m going to call it at 90 percent this week.”
Granger said fields yet to be planted are probably still being used for crawfish. The same is true in St. Landry Parish, where only about half the rice acreage has been planted, according to parish AgCenter agent Vince Deshotel.
In north Louisiana, rice farmers are just getting started. Fields have been too wet for planting.
“We probably have less than 10 percent planted,” said Keith Collins, AgCenter agent in Richland Parish. “Once we get dry, there’s going to be a lot of rice put in the ground.”
Rice already planted has been subjected to lower temperatures, causing some damage, he said.
Collins anticipates a slight increase in north Louisiana rice acreage, possibly 10 percent, with most of the increase being planted in row rice.