Depending on location, Louisiana had a run from early April through the end of May that was among the driest springs in 50 to 100 years, says Jay Grymes, state climatologist at the Southern Regional Climate Center in Baton Rouge. For most of the state, this spring has been one of the five driest ever.
Then the pattern stood on its head. Since the first of June, the entire state has received above normal rainfall. In fact, rainfall over the last three weeks is running anywhere from 4 to 10 inches. Typically, June rainfall is 3 inches in the north and 5 inches in the south.
“So we’re well above that with almost a week left in June,” says Grymes. “We’re at a point for much of the agricultural part of the state where we’ve had enough rain. It’s overkill now. The dryness of the spring put the crops behind and when the rains arrived it allowed those crops to make up some ground.
“Now, though, some places have gotten too much rain and adversely affected crops. Essentially, we’ve seen an eraser taken to the drought we were experiencing only three weeks ago.”
Even starting out, things were unusual, says Joel Faircloth, Extension cotton specialist with the LSU AgCenter. Early on, there was more rain in the northern portion of the state than further south. The south half was very dry and, as a consequence, Louisiana’s cotton crop was late going in.
That’s changed lately, though. Rain has hit most of the state but over the past two weeks, southern Louisiana has caught the most. Some spots got over 12 inches of rain in just a handful of days. Faircloth says Concordia Parish and Catahoula Parish have felt the brunt of the rainfall.
“In northern Louisiana, over the past 10 days we’ve had some nice rains. Those rains have carried the crop pretty far even though it’ll soon be time to irrigate. We’ll need more rain showers in the next week or so to stave off irrigating. But for the majority of the state we don’t need any more rain for a few days,” says Faircloth.
In the areas that got so much rain, some of the cotton has been affected adversely.
“Some of our cotton has been underwater. I’ve not heard any reports of cotton that’s been disastrously affected – but I’m sure there are fields like that. I just haven’t heard.
“A lot of producers are beginning to spray for plant bugs. That pest is one that folks should keep checking on.”
Producers are also beginning to make Pix applications – “especially on fields with high levels of fertilizer, soils that are exceptionally fertile or on ‘growthy’ varieties,” says Faircloth.
Grymes says central Louisiana is in pretty good shape right now. Rainfall there, over the last three weeks, has hit at a range between 4 inches and 7 inches. There are even some pockets that got 10 inches.
“Once you get above 6 inches of rain over such a short period of time, standing water and saturated fields follow. So those rains, while welcome in the beginning, aren’t so welcome now,” says Grymes.
What about the rest of the summer?
“It looks like the pattern that we’d been locked into with the drought has been broken,” says Grymes. “Now, as we get into mid-summer, there’s no reason to think anything other than typical weather will emerge.
The July forecast calls for normal temperatures and near normal rainfall. Now, as Louisiana folks know, ‘near normal’ rainfall can sometimes mean I got an inch and my neighbor got 4 inches.”
That’s happened lately. On June 19, Grymes says “two little bulls eye’s on the map” – probably no more than 15 or 20 square miles – in a two-hour period, received 4 inches to 6 inches of rain. Literally, 3 or 4 miles outside those bulls eye’s no rain was reported.
“The hit-and-miss or popcorn showers have already started and should settle in as a pattern for the rest of the summer.”
In south Louisiana, one thing to keep an eye on is the tropical season.
“We’re expecting a fairly active time of it,” says Grymes. “Those storms can change things up quickly. We’re watching to see if anything begins boiling in the gulf. Concerns are a couple of months out, though.”