2014 rice crop turns out better than expected

Frances Gould, Schultz, Bruce  |  1/8/2015 9:50:22 PM

A combine cuts a field in West Carroll Parish. Despite weather problems early in the growing season, yields were surprisingly good throughout the state. Photo by Johnny Saichuk

Gusty north winds blow dust and chaff from a combine cutting a second crop of rice on Nov. 14. South Louisiana farmers benefitted from an early cold front that decreased grain moisture for the ratoon crop. Yields reports ranged from 13 to 30 barrels (47 to 108 bushels.)

Top 10 varieties (acres) grown in Louisiana during 2014

Rice again proved its resilience by producing a surprisingly good crop in 2014, despite a cold spring that had farmers worried.

“All in all, it was a little better than average. I’d take it again next year,” said Jerry King, a grower in East Carroll Parish.

Johnny Saichuk, in his last year as LSU AgCenter rice specialist, summed it up this way: “It’s better than we expected, but not as good as last year.”

The 2014 crop endured a cool spring and a wet, muddy harvest. But Steve Linscombe, director of the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station said the summer night temperatures were mild, and that probably resulted in good yields and outstanding grain quality.

Linscombe said the 2013 crop year had perfect weather throughout the growing season, but the 2014 weather was troublesome at the start with a cool, wet spring, followed by a wet, muddy harvest.

“In spite of that, our 2014 is going to be a good crop,” he said.

Disease was not bad this year, even with heavy rainfall. The Rice Research Station recorded 33.6 inches of rain between May and August, compared to 13.2 inches for the same time period last year. Linscombe said more mediumgrain rice was planted in Louisiana this year, in the range of 60,000- 65,000 acres. This was because of the 150,000-acre reduction in California where drought resulted in a water shortage.

Linscombe said the usual decline in yields toward the late part of the harvest in south Louisiana was not as striking as usual. “The rice we were cutting in late August and early September was still yielding well. In the first week of September, we still had farmers cutting more than 60 barrels (216 bushels) with good quality,” he said.

Keith Collins, LSU AgCenter county agent in Richland Parish, said he first thought this year’s crop in north Louisiana would be average, but as the harvest progressed, he changed his mind.

“I think we’re going to have an above average crop,” he said, adding that yields for some could be as good as last year’s record crop. Many varieties are yielding just under 200 bushels (56 barrels), and he has heard few reports of low quality milling.

But, he said, getting the crop out of the fields was difficult with muddy conditions.

In East Carroll Parish, Jerry King said he was pleased with his crop. Looking back over the year, he said the crop turned out better than he originally thought. “Because of the late start, I was concerned.”

Donna Lee, LSU AgCenter county agent in East Carroll Parish, said farmers were generally pleased. Wet, cloudy days caused concern that 2014 would be an off year, she said.

But King said the lack of excessively hot summer weather provided good growing conditions. He said lodging was not a big problem either. “When it’s a good crop and still standing, you’ve got a lot to be thankful for.”

King said insect pressure was minimal because he followed an aggressive control strategy. He said smut was a problem last year, but he used later fungicide applications this year that were effective.

King said herbicide-resistant barnyardgrass was controlled by using Command early, followed by Prowl on the small plants that emerged. But, he said, controlling the weed in last year’s soybean rotation probably helped also.

King said his post-harvest thoughts are to reduce rice acreage in 2015 by 10-15 percent, and other farmers in his area are thinking they may cut back also, he said.

Keith Fontenot, LSU AgCenter county agent in Evangeline Parish, said the crop in his area has been good. “We have had some producers who exceeded last year’s crop.”

But, he said, most fields are yielding slightly less than last year by as much as four to five barrels (14-18 bushels).

He estimated that a third of the acreage in Evangeline Parish was used to produce a second crop. 

Fontenot said farmers are facing a stagnant market with low prices and not much rice being bought. “There’s no movement of rice right now.”

Jeffrey Sylvester, chairman of the Louisiana Rice Growers Association and a farmer in St. Landry Parish, said he expects farmers will cut acreage in 2015 because of low prices and weak demand.

“I would say farmers are going to plant less next year,” he said.

Sylvester said 2014 was good for him because of medium-grain and the specialty rice variety Milagro, grown for a select Mexican market. He said he expects to reduce his 2015 crop by 500 acres.

Sylvester said many farmers are having trouble selling their rice. “Some people are sitting on their entire crop.”

He said his yield was good at 45 barrels (162 bushels), and milling was better than last year’s good results. “Everything is positive, but there’s no price.”

Andrew Granger, LSU AgCenter county agent in Vermilion Parish, said the crop there resulted in above-average yields, but not quite as good as last year. But he said the wet harvest conditions have reduced the second crop for many farmers.

He estimated a ratoon crop will be grown on 25 percent of the parish’s 51,000 acres, compared to 40-50 percent in most years.

Rice prices are becoming an issue, making it difficult for some farmers to get financing for next year’s crop, he said.

Paul Johnson who farms in Cameron Parish was pleased with his first and second-crop harvest.

“Yield-wise, we’ve had as good or a better year than last year,” he said. “All our quality is excellent."

Johnson said his main crop yield was in the upper 40- barrel (144 bushels) range.

He said his second-crop was about a month later than usual, because the growing season got off to a late start. He said he invested more time and money into the second crop, but the results have been worth the expense.

“I have yet to cut anything under 20 barrels (72 bushels),” he said.

He said a good second-crop yield is essential now to help counteract low prices and the loss of direct payments under the new farm bill.

Johnson said used a fungicide to control diseases, but he did not use insecticides on his crop other than seed treatments Dermacor and CruiserMax.

After planting, the AV1011 seed treatment controlled bird damage to the seed. “That’s been a godsend for us. We’re just hoping and praying we’ll have that from now forward.”

The product has not been approved for application on headed rice. Johnson said blackbirds had started feeding on his second crop, forcing him to cut green rice before it was eaten by birds.

In Avoyelles Parish, Phillip Lamartiniere said his crop had good milling,but it was off four to five barrels (14-18 bushels) from last year. “It’s still a good crop, but it’s not as good as it was last year.”

Lamartiniere said he expects to keep the same acreage for 2015. “I don’t think most of the guys around me are going to change either.”

Barrett Courville, LSU AgCenter county agent in Acadia and Jefferson Davis parishes, said the average in both parishes will be just under 50 barrels (180 bushels), with Acadia Parish having slightly better results. “I would say the yields are above average.”

The harvest was two to three weeks later than usual, he said, and farmers had to cope with muddy conditions. He said milling yields were good, and the crop benefitted from low disease and insect pressure.

“Some people had yields as good or better than last year,” Courville said. “With the weather we had, it really turned out to be a good year.”

He said second crop reports were good, with many farmers cutting up to 20 barrels (72 bushels) an acre.

Mike Hundley who farms in Acadia Parish said his crop was much better than he expected early in the season, with good milling quality.

“I really wasn’t expecting the yields we got with the cold and wet spring we had. It was kind of scary,” Hundley recalled. “It’s surprising how well it turned around.”

He said he grew 200 acres of medium-grain, and he may plant more next year. Hundley said he expects to grow the same amount of rice in 2015 with the same rotation of soybeans and crawfish.

He said this year’s crop received fungicides, and disease appeared to be controlled well. He said the crop required no insecticides.

Hundley said it appears that research is paying off for improved genetics that impart disease resistance. “Thank God for the Rice Research Station,” he said.

This article was published in the 2015 Louisiana Rice Research Board Report.

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