The secret is out! Having an adequate supply of water is the secret to having a good rice crop, and some producers are trying somewhat nontraditional methods for getting it there.

That's what Walter Davis, an LSU graduate and Concordia Parish rice producer, told about 20 people who attended an irrigation field day this summer hosted by the LSU AgCenter's Concordia Parish office. Davis uses a system of ditches to help in irrigating his rice fields.

“It's cheaper to run water from field to field with this system,” he said, adding, “We use surface water, so we don't have to pump out of the ground. This is good for the environment, because we aren't using groundwater for irrigation.”

Frank Caulkins of Monterey, La., farms with Davis and said water is pumped from a flume ditch out to the fields. “We use a Benoit pump and some new gates that we had built for this,” he said. “This method of irrigation makes farming rice easy, because it's easy to keep water in the fields.”

On the Angelina Plantation, also in Concordia Parish, Lee Bean uses a side inlet system to irrigate rice grown on the plantation. “We have polyethylene pipes that provide water into each cut at the same time,” said Bean, general manager of the plantation. “We can have water over the entire field in just 12 hours.”

The water flowing onto the Angelina Plantation fields comes from wells set about 50 to 60 feet below the surface, Bean said. Water also is recycled from the low end of the fields back up to the high end to reduce groundwater pumping.

“Using the side inlet method is a new way for irrigating rice in Louisiana,” said Bill Branch, LSU AgCenter irrigation specialist. “The water comes into the side of each cut at the same time instead of into the top cut and then through gates into the second cut and then the third one and so on. The water comes in from side-to-side instead of from top-to-bottom. Arkansas researchers say this method of irrigation conserves both water and labor, reduces energy cost and improves weed control.”

Johnny Woodruff, another Concordia Parish rice producer, also uses polyethylene pipes to irrigate his fields.

“We pulled our levees and put this pipe on each side of the road,” Woodruff said. “Pipe is spread along the edges of each field with two sliding gates used to regulate water flow into each cut. We can flood an entire field from the sides instead of running the water from top to bottom.”

Woodruff also catches runoff water from his fields to reuse for irrigation. “This is environmentally friendly because the pesticide treatments used in the fields are not getting into area streams or lakes,” he said.

The irrigation field day was organized by Glen Daniels, an LSU AgCenter county agent in Concordia Parish. Daniels said he planned the day to help rice producers and county agents from southwest Louisiana learn about new irrigation techniques being used in Concordia Parish.

“If producers don't know about well capacity and how water quality affects crops, this can have a negative impact on their fields,” Daniels said. “In the case of row crops, timely irrigation is critical, and we are helping several growers with irrigation scheduling. We here at the LSU AgCenter want to help producers get as much as they can from their crop land.”

AgCenter adds climatologist

LOUISIANA STATE Climatologist Jay Grymes has accepted a part-time appointment with the LSU AgCenter to assist with climate and weather-related educational and research programs.

“We are expanding our weather and climate services,” said William B. Richardson, chancellor of the LSU AgCenter, in announcing the appointment that took effect July 1. “This will involve enhancement of data collection and delivery systems. Jay's expertise will help guide our efforts.”

The LSU AgCenter has more than two dozen automated weather stations located at research stations across the state, Richardson said. These initially were developed to support agricultural research conducted at these stations, but their use is being broadened to provide data for local communities, agricultural producers and non-agricultural industries.

“We will be expanding our use of the Internet to help provide Louisiana citizens with the up-to-the-minute and historical information they need about weather-related matters,” Richardson said. “Jay also will take a lead role in community education about use of this data.”