Recent rainfall is causing problems for rice farmers across Louisiana after they planted the smallest crop on record this year, according to the LSU AgCenter rice specialist.

Speaking during the LSU AgCenter’s Northeast Rice Field Day Tuesday (July 25), Dr. Johnny Saichuk said July rains have caused disease problems in North Louisiana and have interfered with the start of harvest in South Louisiana.

The LSU AgCenter expert said at the same time, this year is one of the worst he can remember for rice water weevils.

The state’s rice crop of 360,000 acres is 32 percent less than last year’s total. The decrease is being blamed on low rice prices and saltwater damage to fields along the coastal parishes from Hurricane Rita.

Overall, the U.S. total of 2.9 million acres of rice planted is down by 13 percent from last year.

As for good news, during the events this week at Woodsland Plantation near Rayville, Saichuk said the rice harvest in South Louisiana has just started, and yields are good so far.

Dr. Steve Linscombe, an LSU AgCenter rice breeder and regional director for southwestern Louisiana area that includes the Rice Research Station at Crowley, said the dominance of the Cocodrie variety of rice, developed by the LSU AgCenter, may fall to the Cheniere variety, also a product of the LSU AgCenter breeding program.

“I think we may have a few more acres of Cheniere than Cocodrie this year,” he said.

Dr. Bill Williams, LSU AgCenter weed scientist at the Northeast Research Station near St. Joseph, said his research is showing the best strategy for controlling weed is to treat it with glyphosate herbicides after harvest, preferably before mid-October.

“At this time, we don’t have a magic bullet for in-season alligator weed control,” he said.

Williams also said the best way to attack grasses is before the permanent flood, even with Newpath herbicide.

“There’s no way Newpath will be able to control the grasses post-flood,” he said.

Dr. Don Groth, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist at the Rice Research Station, said draining rice fields to combat rice water weevils can increase chances for exposing a crop to the blast fungal disease.

Groth also said fungal diseases will not thrive in dry conditions with temperatures above 95 degrees. For that reason, he said, many fields in South Louisiana did not have to be treated with fungicides this year.

bschultz@agcenter.lsu.edu