Louisiana Rice: Cool Weather Stressing Plants

Stunted rice plants due to cold weather. Photo: LSU AgCenter

Cool weather is taking its toll on young rice plants in south Louisiana while north Louisiana farmers are still waiting for fields to be dry enough for planting.

Dustin Harrell, LSU AgCenter agronomist, said rice plant health will improve with warmer weather. He said a seedling blight fungus has been found in some fields.

“The cool, wet soils have caused it to be more prolific,” said Harrell. “We have some stands that have been thinned. Typically, the rice will grow out of it.”

Harrell said the cool weather has stressed plants that have zinc deficiency. He said the problem can be remedied with applying zinc to the fields.

Also, some plants are showing prolonged stress from early herbicide applications, said Ronnie Levy, LSU AgCenter rice specialist.

Another problem in some fields has been an insect pest, the South American rice miner, that bores into the plant. Harrell said not much can be done about the insect.

“Warm weather will help. The rice just needs to outgrow it.”

Harrell went on to say that an insecticide can be used, but timing the application when the insect is outside the plant is difficult.

Farmers who need to apply nitrogen fertilizer to their crops are hoping for warm, sunny weather to help rice plants grow, said Harrell. Plants that are growing take up the most nitrogen, he explained, and much of the nitrogen applied to a crop that isn’t growing will be wasted.

“It’s best to wait for warm weather to spur growth.”

Levy said the current weather is welcome by farmers whose fields were soaked by continuous rains that prevented planting.

“North Louisiana is still wet,” he said. “They’re waiting on dry weather.”

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Todd Fontenot, LSU AgCenter county agent for rice in Evangeline and Allen parishes, said rice isn’t growing with the recent rains, followed by cool weather. “It’s laying down in places.”

Fontenot said wet soil has prevented farmers from drill seeding their crop.

“Quite a few have switched over to water planting to get it planted in a timely manner,” he said.

In previous years, rice has faced similar challenges early in the season and still produced good crops, according to Fontenot. “It’s pretty resilient. It can overcome this.”

Jeremy Hebert, LSU AgCenter county agent in Acadia Parish, said he’s gotten several calls about seedling blight.

“This is the most calls I’ve received about it,” Hebert said, adding that not much can be done. “Farmers are just going to have to wait it out.”

With more rain expected for the weekend, Hebert said farmers probably will have to wait longer for the rice to start growing.

“It’s not progressing like it should,” said Vince Deshotel, LSU AgCenter county agent in St. Landry Parish.

Deshotel said farmers try to stagger out their planting so their entire crop doesn’t mature at once for harvest. “This is going to force the crop to mature all at the same time.”

He said yields could be affected.

In Vermilion Parish, County Agent Andrew Granger said a few days of warm weather helped revive the young crop. “I’m pleased with the crop so far.”

But in some fields, Granger said, the young rice was submerged and now it’s laying flat on the ground.




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