Heavy rainfall has been a challenge as rice farmers strive to get their 2019 crop planted.
Farmers were able to get much of their crop planted during almost three weeks of dry weather, but rainfall during the first week of April has created an obstacle for farmers who needed to complete the rest of their planting.
Todd Fontenot, LSU AgCenter agent in Evangeline Parish, said farmers there were nearing completion of planting before the rains came. He estimated farmers had finished planting up to 70% of their crop.
Drill seeding is the dominant method of planting, but many farmers still use airplanes for planting. “We had a good bit of early rice water planted,” he said.
Farmers who want to drill seed the rest of their crop will have to wait for fields to drain. “It will take several days.” Fontenot said.
Jeremy Hebert, AgCenter agent in Acadia Parish, said planting there is about 75% to 80% finished. Farmers took advantage of a dry spell after a long stretch of wet weather.
“The last two to three weeks, it’s been full blast. There’s been a lot of rice put in the ground,” he said.
Before the dry weather, many farmers thought they would have to water seed. Now with flooded fields from excess rain, some farmers may choose to water seed the rest of their crop. “The longer they wait, yields will start to reduce,” he said.
Hebert expects rice acreage in Acadia Parish to remain about the same as last year, about 80,000 acres.
Evangeline Parish farmer Richard Fontenot planted his last field by April 3 and said this is the earliest he’s ever finished. “Usually we’ve finished by the 10th or 15th of April,” he said.
Jimmy Meaux, AgCenter agent in Calcasieu and Jefferson Davis parishes, said farmers in his area were almost 75% planted. “In the last two weeks, they really put a lot in the ground,” he said.
Rain on April 4 came at a good time, although it was excessive with some areas reporting as much as 5 inches. “It’s a little more than they needed to flush the fields. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get the water off soon,” Meaux said.
Keith Fontenot, of the AgCenter Rice Verification Program, said he inspected a field Monday morning that had already drained and had received 7 inches of rain.
Andrew Granger, AgCenter agent in Vermilion Parish, said the rain will slow down planting for farmers not finished. He estimated that more than 60% of the farmers in Vermilion Parish are done.
Vermilion Parish received 4-7 inches of rain on April 7. “It’s too early to know if young rice will be damaged by the flooding,” he said
AgCenter rice specialist Dustin Harrell said the heavy, continuous rains in late February and early March had farmers concerned that fields would be too wet for drill seeding. “It looked like it was never going to dry out,” he said.
But after March 17, the weather cooperated and gave farmers a 2 1/2-week window for planting, he said.
Northeast Louisiana farmers will start planting rice soon.
“So far, we’ve been lucky, and there’s a lot of optimism for a good crop,” Harrell said.