ALEXANDRIA, La. - Louisiana is wet and miserable, Extension specialists and crop consultants report. Even a return to “normal” weather within the state wouldn’t get the water off fields fast enough.
“It’s kind of funny,” says Sandy Stewart, the state’s Extension cotton specialist. “But even if the weather turns normal that means afternoon thunderstorms for much of the state. So even then, it would be hard to dry out. It’s incredible: over the last couple of years we’ve gone from one weather extreme to another. We actually had to dust in some cotton last year and now this. It’s hard to get your balance.”
As of today, some areas of southern Louisiana – reportedly between U.S. Highway 90 and Interstate 10 -- have received 20 inches of rain in less than a week. While still optimistic that all isn’t lost, many are certainly worried.
“Right now, it’s hard to estimate how many acres have been lost,” says David Lanclos, Extension corn and soybean specialist. “We had a lot of producers plant within 10 days of these rains and those fields are in the most jeopardy. We have no idea if those fields will even get a stand. Another day or two and some fields will have been underwater for a couple of weeks.
“Arcadia, Avoyelles, Jeff Davis, Rapides parishes – that whole area – is bad. We were just in Jeff Davis looking at a field situation on a 4-wheeler. We were riding through water 18 inches to 2 feet deep across fields. That’s the norm.”
Northern Louisiana is in better shape but has still received substantial rains.
“Looking at radar maps, it looks like Alexandria south is where the heavy stuff hit,” says Randy Machovec. “Alexandria, where I work, has been deluged. Parts of Alex have gotten anywhere between 11 and 15 inches of rain. The rain just won’t let up.
“We started the major rain event last Tuesday,” says Machovec, consultant/owner of CenLa Crop Care. “At my house, we got 5 inches Tuesday night and another 4 inches Wednesday morning. By this morning (May 17), I had about 15.5 inches – and we’ve had another 3.5 inches since. So that’s 19 inches of rain in less than a week. Imagine that!”
Machovec says while the water level receded a good bit a couple of days ago, it’s now rising again. The front ends of many fields are still salvageable, he says. The back ends “are lakes. I see a lot of beans totally underwater. Some of the cotton I work around Bayou Rapides doesn’t look too bad. You know, whether these fields weather the storm or not is a crap-shoot at this point.”
Forecasts call for drier conditions beginning mid-week. Two or three days of sunshine won’t get farmers back in fields, though.
“We’re at least a week to 10 days of pure sunshine away from getting into fields – and that’s all of south and central Louisiana,” says Lanclos.
Lanclos is “pretty much convinced” that most late-planted fields – due to seed rot and other problems – are shot. The fields that had germinated seed and some height are struggling.
“Those fields are underwater one day, the water runs off the next day and then they flood up again. That’s been the pattern for a week, and it isn’t good for seedling diseases and the crop’s health,” says Lanclos. “Now, we’re seeing even the crop that’s a bit more mature showing signs of water stress. We’re seeing yellowing of terminals and that’s a bad sign.”
Stewart says he’s had plenty of water-logged cotton to inspect. Ends of fields have been underwater for an extended period.
“What we’re most concerned about are the fields planted just prior to the rains,” he says. “Some of it had emerged and some hadn’t. We’ll be making a whole bunch of replanting decisions on those fields. The cotton that has been established – some as large as four or five leaves – seems okay. It just needs to dry out. The younger cotton is our main concern.
“Before these rains hit, we were probably 90 percent planted. Unfortunately, where we had our heaviest rainfall totals in the south, the cotton planting had just occurred when the clouds arrived.”
Lanclos says before the rains hit, some wheat was harvested. Reports are it looked good: 40 to 60 bushel yields.
“Now, though, the wheat that’s still in the field is turning black,” says Lanclos. “The heads are looking bad. I haven’t heard of any reports about sprouting in the heads, but it’s still early and the rain hasn’t quit.”
Lanclos is frustrated but resigned. “Right now, we’ve got to take a patient attitude. What else can we do? Some of these fields will still be okay but there is going to be some serious replanting going on in south Louisiana. The high spots in fields may be okay in some areas. That’s what I’m praying for anyway.”
Stewart also harbors much hope. “We may come out of this better than we think. Today, I was encouraged to see some cotton that had achieved a stand that I didn’t think possible. Over the next few days things may turn out better than we think now.”
Machovec, meanwhile, talks on a cell phone while walking through a field, mud sucking at his boots.
“It’s unreal out here. You know, we’ve already had to replant some of acres due to earlier rains. It’s been reported that Avoyelles Parish, since late April, has had 26 inches of rain. We’ll definitely have to replant some of our fields because of this latest deluge. That means we’ll be planting some fields for the third time in a couple of months. That’s no fun. Fortunately I work with some excellent farmers who know what they’re doing.”
Stewart sums it up: “At this time, we just can’t tell how bad it is. Everyone is holding their breath.”