By Deborah Willenborg, USA Rice
SOUTHWEST, LA -- Tropical Storm Harvey is cutting a wide path across the mid-south as heavy rain and winds up to 40 mph move through rice growing regions in the area. Early yields had indicated an average year here and a bumper crop for northeast Louisiana so a lot is riding on what the weather does in the next couple of days.
Dustin Harrell at the LSU AgCenter in Rayne, LA, reported that approximately 95 percent of the rice in the southwest region of Louisiana had been harvested before the storm hit, with 10,000 acres or so unharvested at the time. Harrell said, "The hardest hit areas were Calcasieu, Cameron, Vermilion, and Jeff Davis Parishes. A lot of that rice was lodged and, what was not lodged has a lot of grain sprouted on the panicles due to continuous wet conditions. This will cause reductions in quality if this rice can be harvested quickly, or may cause complete loss if it cannot be harvested soon."
According to Harrell, the big unknown at the moment is the ratoon rice in that area. Ratoon rice is very important economically and it too can be lost if the ratoon stubble remains submerged for several days.
In Lake Charles, Ann Stone at Farmers Rice Milling Company, said, "Heavy rain caused us to lose 48 hours of business time, not being able to mill, ship out to customers, or receive rough rice."
Farmers in the area are keeping a close watch on their rain gauges and waiting patiently for the storm to head out.
About 36 miles northeast of Lake Charles, Eric Unkel plans to begin harvesting tomorrow on his place near Kinder. He said, "We didn't receive that much rain although it's still too wet to get trucks into the field to load out right now."
Kevin Berken, who farms rice and soybeans in Lake Arthur, 40 miles south of Kinder, had already harvested all of his first crop and reports getting about 16 inches of rain so far. "We've been lucky that the rain was spread out over the last five days and not a continuous downpour. My soybean crop is a different story - we don't know at this point how much of a negative effect the daily rains will have. It's not going to help that's for sure."
At Paul Johnson's operation located on the Jeff Davis/Cameron Parish line, all of his main rice crop is harvested, but the ratoon crop is still in the field. "We spent all day yesterday hauling hay bales by boat to low spots in our protection levees to try to keep rising water off of the farm," he said. "Right now about a third of my ratoon crop, about 30 percent of my overall annual production, is under water. Storm surge, strong southerly winds, and high tides make the drainage in our area a slow process."
"In comparison with all those to the west of us who have lost their homes and crops, we are in pretty good shape," Berken said. "Hopefully the waters will recede quickly and we can move on. We certainly don't need any more weather issues like the low pressure that has a possibility of heading our way for next week. That would drive the stake through our hearts."