Louisiana Rice: Farmers Look for Silver Lining for 2019 Crop

Rice harvest. ©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

Rice harvest in Louisiana has been going on for a few weeks now, with some growers having just gotten started, and some just wrapping up. All in all, this was a more difficult year than anyone anticipated. Dr. Dustin Harrell recently wrote about this year’s Louisiana crop in an article he titled: “What Could Go Wrong, Did Go Wrong.”

That was a sentiment growers in our area all agree on.

“This year was a little tougher than expected,” said Eric Unkel, a farmer from Allen Parish. “Everyone was looking for an uneventful year and that’s not what we got.”

Early in the season, weather was the culprit, from planting conditions to Hurricane Barry’s unwelcomed visit, erratic weather seemed to indicate decreased yield projections. And once harvest got underway, there were more surprises in store. Reports of bacterial panicle blight, sooty mold, and even damages from wild hogs have taken additional tolls on the 2019 yield.

The challenge now is finding a silver lining in this disappointing season.

“Obviously we can’t control the weather,” said Jackie Loewer, a rice farmer in Acadia Parish. “But we can reach out to our research and extension personnel for help in dealing with disease and hog issues. That’s the difference in having rice research and promotion boards – they’re always working to remedy the adversity that we face in the rice industry.”

A world-renowned group of researchers and extension specialists at the Louisiana State University AgCenter’s Rice Research Station work on not only what’s gone wrong, but also improving on what can go right.

“The LSU AgCenter team is already gathering information from the field, considering options on the issues that made this year unique, and looking for answers to better prepare growers for this year’s ratoon crop and into the 2020 planting season and beyond,” said Loewer.

“From recommendations on stubble management and fertilization practices to capitalize on the benefits of our ratoon crop, to the never ending pursuit of variety developments to increase resistance to the diseases that affect our yields, and new research on controlling the impact of the growing feral swine epidemic facing all areas of the state, our research check-off dollars go to resolving the issues the rice industry faces.”

Unkel concluded, “We will have tough years from time to time, that’s just farming. Having the means to find solutions to the question of what made it so tough allows us to improve and look forward to the next year.”


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