By AgFax Media LLC, AgFax.com
A small amount of harvest started this week in Mississippi and maybe in Arkansas. But rainfall has sidelined combines in places.
Rain continues to bedevil farmers in southwest Louisiana. Growers caught a short break in the weather late last week and into this week and were able to make some headway. While a big portion of the crop is ready for harvest, another extended rainy period is taking shape. See comments by Dustin Harrell.
Johnny Saichuk, Consulting Agronomist, Ducks Unlimited, South Louisiana
"Growers are generally telling me that most of their yields have been well below average so far. That's not necessarily surprising. We had a horrible June in terms of rice production, and in this part of the state June is a critical month.
"Dry Junes typically mean good yields, but this June was about as wet as it could get. It was raining somewhere every day and the cloud cover blocked sunlight that plants desperately needed.
"Where yields might have been average or maybe better, it probably gets back to local conditions at key points in crop development, like during pollination.
"Most people do say the quality is good.
"Along with wet weather, nighttime temperatures were too high, with one stretch of lows in the 80s every night. That worked against yields, too.
"All last week growers were cutting around showers, but the weather has been more open in the last 4 or 5 days (from 8/2), and a lot of rice was cut in the first part of this week. One grower I've been working with this year has already finished and he's been disappointed with averages. He planted in the last week of February and the first week of March when we had mild conditions. He's in the extreme southern part of Vermilion Parish and about 100 acres of his crop flooded during a big rain event.
"We're supposed to slip into another rainy period later this week, which we sure don't need."
Dustin Harrell, Louisiana Rice Extension Specialist, LSU Rice Research Station, Crowley
"Farmers in southwest Louisiana are trying to harvest as fast as they can. After a break in the weather, rain has moved in again. The forecast looks very bleak. It's already raining in Crowley (afternoon, 8/2) and the forecast says we have 60% to 90% chances of rain for the next 4 days starting tomorrow.
"A lot of this rice is ready to be harvested and we're already behind because of the earlier rain. Whatever period we've had without rain, it wasn't enough to catch up. Even with the rain, grain moisture has been a little lower than we would have thought.
"Yields are a mixed bag – some very good, some very poor and then a portion that's been average. That makes it hard to generalize about how yields are trending. People keep telling me about cases where the same variety was planted on different sides of a road at about the same time but there was a significant difference in yields – one field did well but the other field was disappointing.
"Most of these differences get back to timing. If rice was flowering when those rains set in, that would have hurt. If the adjoining field hadn't started flowering yet, it wouldn't have been hurt. All the overcast days would have caught some fields more than others, depending on where plants were in terms of development or reproduction. One or two days could have made a big difference.
"I think we're still seeing the after effects from flooding caused by those heavy rains in the last day of April and first couple of days in May. Depending on how long flood water stayed on fields, some of the crop was set back compared to where water ran off faster.
"Disease also has jumped up, particularly sheath blight. That could be a factor, as well.
"The fact that some rice is drier than expected may have to do with people delaying harvest because the ground is too muddy. They're hoping to ratoon that rice and don't want to rut up the field. Even though soils have been sloppy wet, the grain would still be drying down to some extent.
"For ratooning, we want to see rice cut on or before August 15 for best yield potential and to avoid most of the risk of being caught by cold weather. So, we still have time.
"Some fields in northeast Louisiana are being drained or are near that point. The crop up there looks very, very good. If that's the case and farmers don't run into major problems, we may see high yields in that part of Louisiana, which could help with the final state average."