On April 4, the planting season's starter pistol sounded in Louisiana. “We've been planting piecemeal for a couple of weeks now,” said Johnny Saichuk. “But today, the planting is finally going fast and furious.

“The rains stopped long enough for the fields to dry and folks are trying to get rice planted in three directions. Things are busy — planters and trucks are running up and down the roads.”

In the southern part of the state, the LSU AgCenter rice specialist said, rice producers are likely 30 to 40 percent planted. “We increase that percentage way up by week's end. They're also starting to plant in north Louisiana now.

“From what I hear, there's an increased interest in hybrids as a group. Clearfield varieties will be widespread — I think seed is hard to come by again. We've got to clean up a bunch of red rice fields.”

Saichuk said there's also much interest in Cheniere, a fairly new variety developed at the research station in Crowley. “This is the first year it should be available for major acreage because last year was Cheniere's first year out of foundation seed.”

Saichuk said several people “in the know” believe the USDA acreage estimates are too high for Louisiana. “We don't believe we'll increase acreage at all. We'll either be stable or even under last year's total. We ended with 535,000 acres last year.”

Standing in a corn field outside Alexandria, David Lanclos, LSU AgCenter corn and soybean specialist, is also watching the planters do their work.

“It's a great day to be hanging out with Mother Nature,” said Lanclos. “It's been a productive weekend in the state for planting corn and early beans.”

Lanclos is “fairly confident” there's well over 150,000 acres of corn in the field. “That's well behind where we need to be. I think we'll end up with 400,000 acres of corn — maybe a little higher. We're moving into good planting conditions. The late planting — due most to excess rainfall — is the only downside currently.

“We've also got some growers putting in some early, early soybeans. I estimate we have 40,000 to 50,000 acres planted currently. I suspect we'll have around 650,000 acres total.” Louisiana usually grows 800,000 to 900,000 acres of soybeans.

“Last year, we had 1.1 million acres of soybeans. The drop this year is attributable to two things. First, we don't have the high August premium — last year, we had a 200,000-acre bean bump due to that. And second, another 130,000 to 150,000 acres will be lost because farmers don't want to mess with the threat of Asian soybean rust.”

Sentinel plots for Asian rust are still unaffected by the disease. “We've got 22 throughout the state. We aren't encouraging the planting of anymore since actual crop planting is going whole-hog now.”

Despite several reports to the contrary, Lanclos said no Asian rust has been found on overwintering soybeans — or any other host. “I can shoot that down point-blank,” he said. “Some Internet site reported that and it just isn't true.”


e-mail: dbennett@primediabusiness.com