South Louisiana rice planting off to good start

4/3/2015 12:49:15 AM

Farmer Kenneth LaHaye, of Vidrine, plants his rice crop west of Mamou with a seed drill. LSU AgCenter agents are estimating that more than half of the south Louisiana rice crop has been planted. (Photo by Bruce Schultz)

LSU AgCenter rice specialist Dustin Harrell, at right, takes information from farmer Brent Pousson, of Iota, at a recently planted field. Pousson is enrolled in Harrell’s rice verification program that monitors a crop and makes recommendations throughout the year. (Photo by Bruce Schultz)

News Release Distributed 04/02/15

CROWLEY, La. – Rice farmers in south Louisiana have been taking advantage of favorable weather to start their growing season with estimates of more than half the acreage planted.

Keith Fontenot, LSU AgCenter county agent in Evangeline Parish, estimated Thursday (April 2) that 60-65 percent of the rice fields there are planted.

Some farmers chose to go ahead and water plant, but farmers who drill-seed their crop were waiting for soil to dry, Fontenot said. “If this clear weather continues, I’d say by Sunday we'll be 80 percent planted.”

Farmer Kenneth LaHaye, of Vidrine, was planting his crop into a field that had soybeans last year and had not been tilled since harvest.

LaHaye said he drill-seeds his entire crop. “I wouldn’t do it any other way,” he said. “If I had to go back to water planting, I’d quit growing rice.”

LaHaye said he started planting his 675 acres on March 19, and as of Monday he had 550 acres seeded.

Barrett Courville said the rice crop will be close to 90 percent planted by week’s end in Jefferson Davis and Acadia parishes, where he is the LSU AgCenter county agent for rice.

Warmer nights have boosted the growth of rice already planted, he said.

“Water-seeded rice really looks good,” Courville said. “It’s two-leaf rice now.”

Courville said some farmers are holding back on planting so their crop won’t be ready for harvest all at once. He expects rice acreage to drop in both parishes.

LSU AgCenter rice specialist Dustin Harrell said much of Louisiana missed last week’s rains, and that created an opportunity for drill-seeding. “It’s really turned out to be a great start for the season,” Harrell said. “Everything seems to be falling into place.”

The sudden jump in rice planting has created a backlog at seed dealers, Harrell said. “Everybody wanted seed at the same time.”

April 15 is the recommended cutoff date for planting a rice crop with the likelihood that a ratoon crop can be grown, he said.

Brent Pousson, of Iota, said he had 200 of 1,000 acres left to plant on April 1. “As the ground is drying enough, we’ve been able to get to it.”

He broadcast seed on dry ground, followed by lightly working the ground with a harrow for half of the crop, Pousson said. Seed was flown onto flood fields for the other half.

“This year was about how I wanted it,” he said. “It looks like the crop is going to be in at a good time.”

Birds were not feeding on the seed as heavily as last year, he said.

Steve Linscombe, director of the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station, said planting has gone well after the rains stopped this year.

“The last 10 days to two weeks have been really good for south Louisiana,” he said.

Planting overall in the area is 60 percent complete, and north Louisiana rice farmers are just starting to plant their crop.

Birds feeding on seed has declined, probably because the flocks have moved north, Linscombe said. He said the amount of water-seeding conventional rice varieties probably increased this year.

Andrew Granger, AgCenter agent in Vermilion Parish, said about half of the fields there are planted. “We’re making pretty good progress now,” he said. “We missed that last rain.”

Granger said he expects a slight decline, 5-10 percent, from last year’s acreage in Vermilion Parish of 51,000.

Nationwide, the area planted in rice in 2015 is expected to total 2.92 million acres, 24,000 less than 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service's Prospective Plantings report released April 1. Planted acreage is forecast lower for Arkansas and California, higher for Louisiana, Mississippi and Missouri, and essentially the same as last year for Texas.

In 2014, Louisiana rice farmers grew their crop on 455,000 acres.

Bruce Schultz
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