South Louisiana rice farmers have had excellent weather to get the 2015 crop out of the field, but the yield is a decline from the two exceptional harvests over the past two years, according to LSU AgCenter experts.
“This is not going to be one of the harvests for the record books,” said Steve Linscombe, director of the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station.
Linscombe estimated this year’s harvest in south Louisiana is down 10-15 percent from last year.
The north Louisiana rice crop has endured unusually hot, dry weather that could affect grain quality, he said. Harvest in that part of the state is just starting.
“This has been one of the most difficult years for rice producers that they’ve seen in a long time,” AgCenter rice specialist Dustin Harrell said.
Both listed heavy rainfall from March until May and frequent overcast skies as major reasons for lower yields.
More clouds mean less sunshine for photosynthesis, and that resulted in fewer and smaller grains per plant, Linscombe said.
Harrell said the excess rainfall complicated the season because farmers were not able to make fertilizer applications on time. In addition, small rice plants were submerged for a long time, he said.
Plant disease also was a factor in the harvest, Linscombe said.
“Quality seems to be OK, especially on our earlier-planted rice,” Linscombe said. But later-planted rice that matured during the hotter temperatures probably will have quality problems, he said.
Even though planting was delayed by weather, harvest went smoothly with few rain interruptions, and dry weather prevented farm equipment from rutting the fields, Linscombe said. That means a good start for farmers growing a second crop of rice.
Linscombe said he is noticing more farmers manipulating rice stubble, either by rolling or mowing the remaining stalks, to increase second-crop yields as shown in studies conducted by Harrell.
AgCenter county agent Keith Fontenot said Evangeline Parish rice farmers were reporting mixed results, with yields from 40 to 55 barrels. He said one farmer only managed 26 barrels in a field suddenly hit with a disease.
AgCenter county agent Barrett Courville said yields are off by about four barrels an acre from last year. But he said the second crop looks promising.
A barrel of rice weighs 162 pounds.
Fontenot said he’s seeing many farmers preparing fields for a second crop.
“I’m amazed at the amount of work I see happening,” he said. “Everybody looks like they’re going to have a second crop.”