Rains Bring Some Relief But Farmers Need More

4/27/2006 11:07:51 PM

News Release Distributed 04/27/06

Heavy rains that moved across South Louisiana this week (April 25-26) brought a little relief to some Louisiana farmers, but they weren’t enough to allay all concerns for the current growing season.

"It wasn’t a drought-buster," said LSU AgCenter climatologist Jay Grymes. "But certainly for Southeast Louisiana, in particular, this was huge. Some areas got more rain in 12 hours than they got in the past 12 weeks."

Grymes said the state enjoyed pre-frontal thunderstorms on Tuesday and more rain when the front passed through Wednesday. Rainfall ranged from 1 to 2 inches, with perhaps double that in some areas.

"Some desperately needed rain arrived," Grymes said. "But we would have liked to see it spread out over time."

Even with the rains on Tuesday and Wednesday – 0.5 inch to 1.5 inches across the northern third of the state and 1 inch to 3 inches across central and southern Louisiana – this is a short-term, minor abatement of the severity in the drought, Grymes said.

"Keep in mind that less than half of that gets into the soils," he said. "Normal rainfall this time of year is 1 inch to 1.5 inches per week. We still need a run of at least normal, preferably above-normal, wet weather for a dramatic turnaround before early to midsummer."

Grymes said that although he sees no indications of a significant shift to a wetter weather pattern, "the dryness may not persist. There’s a 2-in-3 chance rainfall in May will be normal or above normal."

Farmers who have been idled by dry weather were eager to begin planting with the arrival of moisture.

"From a feedgrain standpoint it was truly a gift," said Dr. David Lanclos, LSU AgCenter soybean and small grain specialist from his office in Alexandria. "Now we can at least plant where we have not been able to as of yet."

Lanclos said the rain really helped the crops that were up and growing already.

"They were only a couple of days away from having serious drought stress problems," he said.

The rains were also timely for sweet potato farmers in central Louisiana.

"We were dry in the sweet potato areas, and this rain is going to help out an awful lot," said Earnest Freeman, LSU AgCenter county agent in Avoyelles Parish.

Freeman said the sweet potato slips have been "bedded out under plastic to make transplants" in preparation for mid-May transplanting. With the timely rains, he said, farmers "should see some growth sprouting real quick," and planting shouldn’t be delayed.

The rains were also timely for sugarcane growers, according to LSU AgCenter sugarcane specialist Dr. Ben Legendre.

"This rain was something farmers desperately needed," Legendre said. "This definitely gave sufficient moisture to put fertilizer in contact with the roots."

The sugarcane specialist said the rain would make "a big difference in the cane crop."

Keith Normand, LSU AgCenter county agent in St. Landry Parish, said the rainfall ranged from 2 inches to 5 inches in the parish.

"We needed that badly," he said. "That will help. The grain farmers were waiting for rain before planting. What we need now is rain on a regular basis."

Keith Fontenot, county agent in Evangeline Parish, said the 2 inches of rain in his area will be encouraging for soybean farmers.

"A lot of them with intentions to plant were having second thoughts," he said.

But Wednesday morning many rice farmers were still having to pump water, Fontenot said.

Rainfall ranged from 1 inch to 4 inches in Acadia Parish, said Barrett Courville, LSU AgCenter county agent. "The further south you go, the less you got," he said.

Acadia Parish farmer Jimbo Hundley said the rain was needed for planting soybeans, and the dry conditions helped the start of rice growing season.

"If we’re going to have a drought, March and April is the time to have it," said Hundley.

Eddie Eskew, LSU AgCenter county agent in Jefferson Davis Parish, said Jennings received an inch of rainfall, while areas to the north in Allen Parish got almost 3 inches.

"From an agricultural standpoint, that inch of rain just wasn’t enough," Eskew said.

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Writers: Rick Bogren at (225) 578-5839 or rbogren@agcenter.lsu.edu
Bruce Schultz at (337) 788-8821 or bschultz@agcenter.lsu.edu

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