Heavy spring rains create rice growing challenges

Frances Gould  |  5/31/2016 2:37:18 PM

Dustin Harrell, LSU AgCenter rice specialist, center, examines a rice plant with Adlar Stelly, right, and Andrew Granger, LSU AgCenter county agent in Vermilion Parish. Photo by Bruce Schultz


In his first year as the LSU AgCenter rice specialist, Dustin Harrell dealt with the same weather-related problems encountered by farmers in north and south Louisiana.

Heavy rains in the spring created problems for many farmers at planting time. Continuing rainfall complicated fertilizer and herbicide applications.

Part of Harrell’s work includes working closely with farmers enrolled in the LSU AgCenter Verification Program. In 2015, Harrell had five fields in the program: two in north Louisiana (Concordia and West Carroll parishes) and three in south Louisiana (Acadia, Vermilion and Cameron parishes).

Harrell walked the fields weekly with county agents, farmers and consultants.

“It was a great learning experience for everybody involved,” Harrell said.

Before the first seed was planted, Harrell met with farmers and county agents to decide on a variety and seeding rates, and to conduct soil sampling to determine nutrient needs.

Because of the wet weather, many growers, including two in the verification program, chose to dry broadcast seed, by flying the seed onto a field and then running a harrow over the soil.

“If you have a short window for planting, you can fly on the seed a lot faster than you can drill it,” Harrell said. “It seems to be gaining popularity.”

Harrell said the heavy rainfall flooded fields of young rice throughout Louisiana, but the verification fields withstood the excessive rain. “We thought we might have stand problems, but we didn’t have to replant any of the fields.”

Dry yields varied in the verification program, with 40 barrels an acre, or 145 bushels, on the Vermilion Parish field, 55 barrels, or 197 bushels, in Acadia Parish, and 44 barrels, or 158 bushels in Cameron. In north Louisiana, yields were 189 bushels, or 52 barrels in Concordia Parish and 202 bushels, or 56 barrels, in West Carroll.

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