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Serving: Central

Gustav bogs down rice harvest

Reached Tuesday morning, Johnny Saichuk had just finished cleaning debris out of his yard in Lafayette, La. The LSU AgCenter rice specialist had yet to tour south Louisiana for a “full picture” of hurricane damage but did offer a brief assessment of current conditions. Among his comments:

On what could have been…

“We got pretty lucky, the hurricane could have been a lot worse. Where I live in Lafayette there are power outages, branches down and that sort of thing. I’m sure there’s rice down too, but I haven’t had a chance to check on that enough to provide a full picture. I do know the damage was minimal at the Crowley research station.”

On pre-hurricane harvest efforts…

“There was probably 10 to 15 percent of the south Louisiana rice still in the field when the hurricane hit. I don’t know for sure, but suspect everything left in the field is probably down.

“Most of the rice from the central part of the state north is yet to be harvested — hopefully it won’t suffer much damage.

“It was too wet even without this latest storm. Last Friday, we were trying to harvest a verification field in Concordia Parish. The combines were getting bogged down even though the field had been drained for over a month. We had to give up and go to another field that could be cut — everyone was scrambling to cut everything they could before the bad weather hit.

“Growers were dumping rice in bins just as fast as they could. Then, the bins were full and there was nowhere to put the grain.”

How were yields before the storm hit?

“They were good up until we had to stop. If we lose that last 10 percent of the crop, or so, it’s going to hurt for sure. Maybe it’ll dry up quick and we’ll be able to pick up a bunch of that rice. If not, some growers are going to be in a jam.

“In one field we were cutting last week in Concordia Parish the yield monitor had readings as high as 215 bushels. Another field in Madison Parish I’m working would’ve been in the 200-bushel range — I’m not sure if that one is still standing.”

Weather forecast?

“I’m not sure. But Hannah is out there as a threat.

“Even though it’s humid, we’re thankful it isn’t terribly hot on top of all this moisture. Right now, it’s overcast with southwesterly winds.”


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