Farmers in central and northeast Louisiana are counting their losses in the aftermath of the second of two tropical storms to hit the area in as many weeks.

Growers in Arkansas and Mississippi, on the other hand, were counting their blessings that the winds and rain from Tropical Storm Lili weren't nearly as bad as had been originally predicted when it reached their states.

“We lost up to one-eighth of a bale with Isidore (the tropical storm that hit on Sept. 26), but far more than that with Lili,” said Roger Carter, a consultant with Agricultural Management Services in Clayton, La. “Estimates range from 150 pounds up to a bale or more per acre.”

Carter said cotton that had been defoliated was more vulnerable when Lili came through on Oct. 3 than the cotton that still had leaves the previous week. Lili initially was predicted to pack 60 to 70 mph winds and dump 5 to 7 inches of rain.

Before Lili hit, 40 to 50 percent of Louisiana's soybean crop was still in the field, according to David Lanclos, Extension soybean specialist with the LSU AgCenter in Alexandria.

“Right now, 10 to 20 percent of that total is ready to be harvested,” he said. “If there's any positive in this, there were still plenty of late beans not ready for harvest when the two weather systems hit with rapid succession.”

The biggest problem in terms of damage is lodging.

“We're seeing a lot of lodging all over the state,” says Lanclos. “The good news is that, for the most part, these beans aren't on the ground.”

Lanclos suspects the reason more beans aren't in the dirt is by the time Lili hit, the plants had no leaves to catch wind and push them down.

“We do have pods that are in trouble. The lowest pods on plants in some fields are actually still in water. That will obviously cause harvest issues in terms of seed quality.”

From a yield standpoint, Lanclos says if dry weather will come in and stay for a while, most of the beans will be cut. However quality losses at the elevator will be an issue regardless.

And the weather doesn't appear to be cooperating. The outlook calls for rain in Louisiana for the next four days.

Carter said cotton that had been ready to pick for a week was also more vulnerable than greener cotton. “Delta Pearl and DPL 555BR fell out worse than other varieties, but still may have higher yields,” he noted. “There will also be some grade losses, but to what extent we do not yet know.”

Losses will continue to mount as damaged petioles weaken and let bolls fall, Carter said. “Sandy Stewart (LSU Extension cotton specialist) noted the damaged carpels and expects some bolls to just disintegrate prior to picking. Others will fall out in front of the picker.

“The cliché ‘it could have been worse’ fits, but it is still hard to swallow.”

Lanclos says farmers are likely putting their most experienced drivers at the harvesting wheel. Harvest efficiency is something everyone is watching.

“I'm estimating that we could stand to lose anywhere between 5 and 10 percent of the soybean crop based on combine driver experience.

“In other words, if a driver knows what he's doing and can really pick a crop up off the ground, there's going to be a whole lot more beans in the back.”

Reports are that Lili didn't bring widespread destruction to the Arkansas cotton crop.

“Things look pretty decent and could have been a whole lot worse. I'm in DeShay County right now and cotton seems to be hanging in the plant well and isn't strung out a bunch. We just need some dry weather,” says Bill Robertson, Arkansas Extension cotton specialist.

Forecasted rain for later in the week worries Robertson.

“But right now, the wind is blowing and the sun is out. I think some pickers may run later today. We dodged two of these. Who would have thought that two of these major systems would follow essentially the same path, and we'd pretty much escape both times? We're lucky, lucky.”

Before Isidore, Robertson spoke with farmers who were picking in the range of 1,200 pounds. After Isidore, one of those farmers “told me he thought he'd lost between 100 and 150 pounds. I haven't spoken to him since Lili. Actually, after Isidore, he was more concerned about the fields he'd just put Prep on. The bolls were just beginning to crack and he was more concerned about hard lock.”

Robertson says the other hot issue in the state's cotton is re-growth.

“Some folks shredded their stalks and some haven't. But stalks are squaring. Boll weevil eradication efforts are on going and we're trying to figure out a good plan to deal with this. We're a good month away from a frost and we don't want to spend money unnecessarily.”

So far the cheapest thing is to band some 2,4-D behind a shredder.

“Some folks in Texas are already doing this. There's no formal recommendation yet, but we're studying it,” says Robertson.


e-mail: dben@primediabusiness.com.