Jeremy Hebert, LSU AgCenter county agent in Acadia Parish, takes a sample of rice from a harvest on a verification field north of Crowley.
The LSU AgCenter Rice Verification Program helps farmers learn the finer points of growing rice, starting farmers with field preparation and working with them through harvest.
Plans are developed with observations from weekly scouting of the fields, said Dustin Harrell, LSU AgCenter rice extension specialist.
County agents and crop consultants involved in the program also learn from it, Harrell said.
“It really opens up a lot of growers’ eyes to looking at things differently,” he said. “We find that growers have higher yields when they follow LSU AgCenter best management practices.”
This year the program worked with farmers in Acadia, Jefferson Davis, Evangeline and Morehouse parishes in 2019.
Keith Fontenot, LSU AgCenter extension associate for the program, said the difficult growing conditions in 2019 made applications of fertilizer and pesticides challenging, he said.
“This year’s verification program reinforced the importance of timing of all applications,” Fontenot said.
He said it’s critical that applications be made according to growth stages. The cool, wet early season interfered with fertilizer applications, forcing farmers to make applications in the water with significant nitrogen losses.
A field in Jefferson Davis Parish near Welsh that was farmed by Dylan Benoit had the highest yield of 41 barrels dry, or 150 bushels, of Mermentau. Fontenot said the field didn’t have problems with stink bugs found in many areas of the state’s rice growing region.
“Because it was planted so early, we missed the big part of that stink bug population,” Fontenot said.
Fontenot said that field was water-planted March 23, the earliest of the five fields in the verification program. Fontenot said it likely benefitted from the earlier planting because it was no longer flowering when Hurricane Barry hit in July. It was the only field used for a second crop, which yielded 14 barrels, or 50 bushels.
Jimmy Meaux, LSU AgCenter county agent for Jefferson Davis Parish, participated in weekly field visits.
The Acadia Parish field was dry broadcast with CL153 on April 3 by farmer Phillip Reiners from Rayne. It yielded 37 barrels, or 135 bushels dry, at harvest on Aug. 13.
Fontenot said this field suffered some yield drag due to the wet conditions. Also, mechanical problems at a well caused a delay in fertilizer application as well as the recommended flushing of the field, and that hampered weed control efforts to control barnyardgrass and sprangletop.
Jeremy Hebert, LSU AgCenter county agent in Acadia Parish, accompanied Fontenot on the weekly scouting trips.
The Evangeline Parish field was drill-seeded with Cheniere by farmer Jeremy Craton on May 1, and it recorded 37 barrels, 135 bushels, at harvest on Sept. 5. Todd Fontenot, LSU AgCenter county agent for Evangeline Parish, worked with Fontenot on this field.
The Morehouse Parish field, farmed by Robert and Ty Warren, was drill-seeded with CLXL745 on May 25 and 27. Harvest was on Oct. 25 with a yield of 39 barrels dry, or 140 bushels.
Fontenot said the Morehouse Parish field was the first time that a field of row rice, or furrow-irrigated rice, had been in the verification program. He said it was difficult to obtain even distribution of water. Also, rice plants on more than half of the field were lodged from a storm, resulting in a decreased yield and quality.
Fontenot said farmers in Evangeline and Acadia parishes were trying to cut expenses with the expectation of a high profitability from crawfish. “That’s a lot of the scenario you’re going to see in south Louisiana,” he said.
Fontenot said none of the four fields had damage from hogs, “but all the farmers in the program had damage from hogs in other fields, and some had damage in several fields.”
Harrell said next year’s verification program will have five fields.
Jimmy Meaux, LSU AgCenter county agent, at left, and Keith Fontenot, LSU AgCenter extension specialist with the Rice Verification Program, scout a rice field near Welsh. The weekly visits to the fields in the verification program are made to keep track of a field’s progress and to identify problems.