Rice planting is nearing completion in southwest Louisiana, where most of the state’s rice is grown, and it has begun in northeast Louisiana.
LSU AgCenter state rice specialist Dustin Harrell said farmers took advantage of favorable planting conditions beginning around March 10 and planted much of the crop during the past two weeks in southwest Louisiana. Warm weather has helped the crop emerge quickly.
“Last week we already had some rice at 3 inches and two leaves,” Harrell said. “It’s moving along much differently than last year. It’s growing much faster.”
Harrell expects to see a nearly 5% increase in rice acreage across Louisiana this year.
“It just penciled out better than some of the other crops out there,” he said. “The acres in southwest Louisiana will probably remain somewhat similar. The increase we are going to see is in our northeast Louisiana planting area.”
The increasing popularity of growing furrow-irrigated rice, also called row rice, is fueling the increase in northeast Louisiana. The practice is now being recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“The USDA risk management agency has come up with an insurance plan. It will be an insurable practice for 2020, as well as alternate wetting and drying, another water management practice. So, both of these practices can be insured,” Harrell said.
Harrell conducts on-farm research plots at several locations across the state. The outbreak of COVID-19 may curtail some of that research, but he will continue his programs at the LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station at Crowley.
“Some of that off-station research may be put on hold and may not be completed this year,” Harrell said. “But all the research in the station should be 100% go.”
Harrell said if things return to normal soon, it may give him an opportunity to do some research on late-planted rice.
The coronavirus outbreak has shuttered schools, and Harrell believes this has presented an opportunity for young people to be involved in planting rice. He has seen older school-aged children driving tractors and engaged in helping with the planting.
The AgCenter mission of keeping farmers informed is still moving forward despite the virus’ effect on ordinary day-to-day operations, Harrell said.
“We have means of communication that we can use,” he said. “We can use text messages; pictures sent through text messages. I can answer questions electronically. We can do a lot of diagnostic work virtually now.”