Planting progress still continues to be a study in contrasts. Parts of our coverage area finished way ahead of normal. In other places, farmers have hardly started.
Rain continues to delay both planting and pre-flood nitrogen and herbicide applications. A small amount of acreage in southwest Louisiana already is at green ring but has not gone to flood yet. Plenty of rice in coastal Texas is ready for the flood, but that's also on hold due to continued rain. On the other hand, very little rice has been planted Louisiana's northern parishes.
In parts of the Delta rice has moved quickly, thanks to warm weather. At least a little rice in north Arkansas could go to flood next week. Again, weather permitting.
Keith Collins, Richland Parish Extension Agent, Rayville, Louisiana: "As far as planting goes, we're trying to dodge rains. That's been easier said than done this spring. Our normal annual rainfall is something like 54 to 55 inches. Depending on the area, we've already had two-thirds or more of that amount and we're not even to May yet.
"The biggest rains started around March 10, from 30 to 33 inches, with 20 to 24 inches measured in 36 hours. Two weeks ago (from 4/27) we got 8 to 10 inches and then today we got another 1 to 2 inches. Farmers planted a little rice in the first week of April. But the biggest part of our rice crop goes on ground along the western side of the parish and that acreage went under water for an extended period, plus parts of the southern parish went under, as well.
"It's been 1991 since I've seen that kind of flooding. A lot of that land is heavy gumbo, so it's taking a while to dry up. One farm manager with a lot of rice said they would hold off flying on seed and wait until after the water recedes and then drill like they normally would. But if it continues raining – and it's in the forecast – some people may go by air as we approach the end of the recommended planting window.
"Our corn crop is a smorgasbord of outcomes and conditions. In that first week of March you couldn't have asked for better planting conditions, but that was before the big rains. The forecast called for 5 to 9 inches but we got 30 to 33.
"Out of 4,000 to 5,000 acres of corn planted that week, maybe 200 to 300 weren't replanted. Then we got another 10 inches after people planted or replanted, plus some more replanting or spot replanting was needed after that. Needless to say, quite a few people weren't able to plant all the corn they wanted, and in places we've got thin stands that won't do as well as full populations.
"A limited amount of beans have gone in. Some survived the last heavy rains, although part of it was replanted. Cotton acreage will be up some this year where farmers still have pickers or have someone reliable to harvest the crop. Part of that will come out of corn acreage that won't be planted."
Dustin Harrell, Louisiana Rice Extension Specialist, LSU Rice Research Station, Crowley: "Most of our rice has now been planted in south Louisiana, although it's still wet in north Louisiana and you can't find much movement yet in those parishes.
"Down here, a lot of rice is ready to go to flood, but a bunch of rain came through today (4/27). That has further delayed pre-flood nitrogen and herbicide applications. In places, growers were able to get that done, but the aerial applicators are booked solid and fields are still too wet to run anything by ground.
"Decisions are being made about whether to wait for dry soil or spoon feed nitrogen to get something out there. With more rain expected, we won't have ideal conditions for fertilizer right away. We still emphasize that you should avoid applying it in standing water, which we again have after this last storm.
"One field planted on February 25 is now at green ring. That really shows how far apart north and south Louisiana are right now – green ring down here while planting up there hasn't really started for all intents and purposes.
"Before this week maybe 20% of the crop down here had gone to flood, which would be rice planted before March 10. But almost everything left is ready. We're just waiting for the right conditions. Some of that rice is a week or so beyond tillering and needs nitrogen."