Louisiana sugar harvest off to good start

Richard Bogren, Schultz, Bruce

(10/21/16) BATON ROUGE, La. – The 2016 sugarcane harvest is off to a great start, said LSU AgCenter sugarcane specialist Kenneth Gravois.

“Harvest is underway, and weather is good,” Gravois said. “Dry weather this fall has been a real plus.”

The final weeks of the 2015 harvest were wet, which left rough spots in the fields, and rains last spring limited cultivation. Although the soil conditions could be better, this year’s harvest is going well.

“Cane is coming in with very little mud,” Gravois said. “And the crop is erect, which makes harvest easier.”

About 20 percent of the harvest is complete, and all mills are running. Cane quality is good, and the crop is clean with high sugar levels.

“Tonnage is a little lower than expectations, but the crop has high sugar, and erect cane in dry fields means lower-cost harvesting,” Gravois said.

Farmer Donny Vallot, of Abbeville, said the tonnage is down on the Vallot family farm. What should be 27-30 tons of cane per acre is down to roughly 23 tons, he said, and he suspects the West Indian cane fly is a reason for the decrease.

“In 2010, I had some flies around August, but this year they flies came out so early, maybe in May,” Vallot said.

On the positive side, he said the dry weather has resulted in ideal harvest conditions, and low diesel prices have helped decrease production costs.

Another farmer, Jim Domingues, of Erath, said the tonnage on his family farm is also down by about 10 percent, and he, too, suspects the flies had an effect. But he said the wet spring and summer may have contributed to the decrease in areas of heavy clay soil that don’t drain well.

He said his planting this year took six weeks, twice as long as usual.

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Sugarcane is harvested on the Domingues Farm north of Erath. Sugarcane farmers say their tonnage of cane per acre is less than average, although sugar production is good. Photo by Bruce Schultz

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Sugarcane harvested on the Vallot Farm near Abbeville is loaded into a trailer to be transported to the St. Mary Parish Sugar Cooperative near Jeanerette. Photo by Bruce Schultz

10/21/2016 3:20:56 PM
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