With a warmer-than-usual March, Louisiana producers are busy planting corn and rice. “I'm guessing we've got between 15,000 and 20,000 acres planted total across the whole state,” said David Lanclos, Louisiana Extension corn and soybean specialist. “There were a few farmers who mudded in some corn (the week of March 8), and it looks okay even after the big rain we got on Sunday (March 14).”

John Saichuk said rice planting also began the week of March 8. “Rice planting is looking really good — maybe 10 percent to 15 percent has gone in,” said the state Extension rice specialist. “We're going to be way up over last year's acreage total — at least around 100,000 acres. We were down 88,000 acres last year. We'll be back up at least that much, and that should mean we'll have around 500,000 to 525,000 rice acres.

“We got some rain over the weekend and that stopped a few folks wanting to drill. For those who'd already drilled, though, that 1-inch rain hit at a perfect time.”

Saichuk said mid-March has been warm with bright sunshine “and is supposed to stay that way for the next few days. Farmers are in the field rockin' and rollin'. We'd have planted more already, but farmers weren't expecting it to be as warm as it has been.”

Lanclos, driving back to his office and speaking on a cell phone, said he's taken the long way around to see how much progress is being made with planting corn. “Planting usually starts early on the lighter grounds around Point Coupee and Concordia parishes and up into the northeast. Right now, we're a tad behind where we want to be. But it's not a concern. The weather report looks promising — sunshine and winds are predicted — so grounds should dry up, and I look to see lots of corn planted in the next week or so.”

There is still a lot of moisture in the fields. “A lot of fields are burned down with water standing in the rows. Mother Nature needs a couple of days to dry things up.”

Things are still up in the air, but Lanclos suspects Louisiana's corn acreage will be close to last year's total of around 500,000. “We may even be slightly down — but there shouldn't be a huge swing. We should be going full steam this week, and any delay at all could help push acres to soybeans or even cotton. Everyone sees soybean and cotton prices and is looking for an excuse to switch. Corn prices aren't bad; they just aren't what the other two commodities are.

“I hear it all the time: ‘Oh, well, if there's a kink in the corn planting, I'll just switch to beans.’”

Regarding soybeans, everything Lanclos hears points to a big crop. “We've already run short on Group 4 beans. The August premium is driving that. I anticipate we'll see well over 1 million acres of beans in the state. We haven't had a crop that size in a long time.”

Saichuk said rice producers are interested in several “new” things. “I just got off the phone with a guy in our verification program. He wanted to try some Cheniere (a new long-grain rice variety developed at the Crowley, La., research facility). There are a lot of questions about Cheniere and farmers seem to be excited about giving it a shot. Clearfield 161 is also going in a bunch of fields.”


(Editor's note: a story on Cheniere and other new rice varieties will be printed in Delta Farm Press shortly.)