Hurricane Threatens Balance of Louisiana Rice Harvest

A combine harvests rice near Crowley, Louisiana. This year’s crop won’t set any records after a growing season with excess rainfall that has stretched into the harvest, making field conditions difficult to cut rice. Farmers in who have not finished harvesting their crop are anxiously watching Hurricane Harvey. Photo by Bruce Schultz/LSU AgCenter

A combine harvests rice near Crowley, Louisiana. This year’s crop won’t set any records after a growing season with excess rainfall that has stretched into the harvest, making field conditions difficult to cut rice. Farmers in who have not finished harvesting their crop are anxiously watching Hurricane Harvey. Photo by Bruce Schultz/LSU AgCenter

By Bruce Schultz, LSU AgCenter

CROWLEY — The 2017 rice harvest is wrapping up in south Louisiana with overall results considered fair because of unfavorable weather, but an approaching hurricane could complicate getting the remaining crop out of the fields.

Steve Linscombe, director of the LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station, said 2017 will not rank among the top yielding years. “We’re going to have an OK crop, but certainly not near a record yield,” he said.

Results vary widely. “It’s as much variation as I’ve seen in quite a while,” Linscombe said. “This has been one of the more difficult years for me to make an estimate on our statewide yield.”

At the start of harvest, yields ranged from good to very poor. “It’s been that way throughout the season with a gradual reduction,” he said

But Linscombe said he’s not surprised that this year’s crop has been subpar. Half of the days in June and July had measurable rain, and the cloud cover interfered with the sun’s radiant energy needed for photosynthesis.

Linscombe referred to an old observation that the best rice crops are made in years when pumping large amounts of water is required to maintain a flood to compensate for low rainfall.

Added to the cloudy weather was wind from Tropical Storm Cindy, which hit Louisiana in June just as many rice plants were flowering for pollination, he said. The winds damaged the panicles, resulting in numerous blank seed heads, resulting in lowered yields.

Milling quality has been good, probably because day and night temperatures were moderate, with many days not exceeding 90 degrees. Excessively hot nights usually result in grains with more chalk, Linscombe said.

On a positive note, the ratoon, or second, crop is off to a good start. Harvest began earlier than usual because of earlier-planted rice, and that should help the second-crop fields.

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