Louisiana Sugarcane: Aug. Flooding Hinders Harvest, Prevents Planting

by Allie Doise, Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation

Sugarcane farmers across Louisiana are in full swing, working to deliver their crop to the mill and assessing the damage of the August flooding.

Fields in Youngsville were saturated with more than 22 inches of rain over two days in August. According to the American Sugarcane League, the USDA named 11 sugarcane-producing parishes as primary disaster areas. The water left some sugarcane lodged and flooded.

However, Eddie Lewis, sugar grower from Youngsville, explained that sugarcane is quite resilient and hard to kill.

“For the water to kill the sugarcane it has to actually get on top of the leaves on top of the plant to kill it,” Lewis said. “Other than that, it will stay alive.”

Lewis also said the tonnage on his farm actually increased. He has brought between five to 40 tons per acre from the fields he has harvested.  Brain Breaux, associate commodity director for the Louisiana Farm Bureau, said the reason for such increases was the rainfall during normally dry times. 

“A lot of times during that time of the year you are going through a dry period, but obviously we had an overabundance of moisture,” Breaux said. “So actually the availability of moisture along with the sunlight caused a lot of farmers to see an uptake in tonnage.”

Breaux said the flooding seriously delayed cane planting and, in some cases, prevented planting entirely.

“Normally, most growers have completed planting by the second or third week in September,” Breaux said.  “Some individuals may not even get it all planted this year.”

Even the sugarcane that was planted is in jeopardy.  Lewis said the main concern on his farm is next year’s crop where the effects of the flood are still unknown.

“Typically the yields might go down a little bit because some of the cane washed away with the rains and also the dirt—the topsoil that covered the cane kind of washed away,” Lewis said.  “So we are just kind of worried about the 2017 cane that we planted this year.”