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Sugarcane gets hit, but sweet potatoes and rice dodge major storm damage

News Release Distributed 08/31/12

The extent of storm damage from Isaac to many of Louisiana’s crops depends on what happens over the next few weeks, say LSU AgCenter specialists.

Kenneth Gravois, LSU AgCenter sugarcane specialist, said the sugarcane crop along Bayou Lafourche and the lower Mississippi River appears to have suffered the worst. The stalks have been laid down in one direction, he said, but they were not broken.

The sugarcane in that area was knocked down more to the ground than the crop along Bayou Teche, he said.

“All things considered, it could have been a lot worse,” Gravois said.

The true extent of loss won’t be known until harvest, he said. Maturity will be delayed, and the cost of harvest and planting will be increased, he said.

“The weather after the storm will be more of a factor than the storm itself,” Gravois said. “Our hand is still being dealt.”

What the crop needs now is dry weather to help turn the tops of the plants upward and to dry fields for planting, said Jimmy Flanagan, LSU AgCenter county agent in St. Mary Parish.

“We’re going to need plenty of sunshine in the next couple of weeks,” Flanagan said.

Flanagan said some varieties appeared more likely to lodge, including varieties L99-226 and HoCP96-540, which have large, wide stalks.

“The good thing is it’s not twisted, and the leaves aren’t tattered,” he said.

Constant rainfall has delayed planting, and the storm didn’t help, Flanagan said. “These guys have been out of the fields for three weeks. You have some that haven’t even started, and some are at 50 percent.”

Flanagan said the amount of planting was less this year because many farmers were keeping their fields in older stubble.

Farmer Mike Accardo of Patterson has planted 50 acres, and he has another 800 acres left. He said the area sugar mill was to begin grinding Oct. 5, but that might be delayed to allow farmers to finish planting.

Accardo said he had some lodging from thunderstorms before Isaac, but he had been encouraged by this crop’s lush growth.

“This was a good crop,” Accardo said. “This probably would’ve been my best crop in four years.”

Accardo estimated Isaac’s strongest winds blew steadily for more than 15 hours.

The hurricane’s effects on rice was less severe, but there was damage, according to Steve Linscombe, director of the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station.

He said most of this year’s rice crop had been harvested, but fields of a late-maturing rice variety grown for Mexico was lodged. The rice was grown in Louisiana for the first time this year because of the drought in Texas where it is usually grown.

The state’s sweet potato crop “dodged a bullet,” according to Tara Smith, LSU AgCenter sweet potato specialist. Smith is optimistic that damages from the storm will be minimal.

She said a lot depends on drying conditions over the next few days and what happens the rest of the growing season.

“We could see 15 percent losses in a few areas that received heavy rains and held water,” she said. Most sweet potato growing- areas received less than 4 inches of rain.
The state’s soybean crop also escaped major damage, according to AgCenter soybean specialist, Ronnie Levy. He said a small amount of acreage in St. John and St. James parishes experienced severe flooding. His biggest concern now is how the storm may affect the quality of the beans remaining in the fields.

Bruce SchultzTobie Blanchard and Craig Gautreaux

Last Updated: 9/5/2012 10:52:32 AM

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