The week of Aug. 16, “we had a bunch of rice that went down,” says Johnny Saichuk, LSU AgCenter rice specialist. “Some of our fields got a 10-inch rain.”
The rains left behind dramatic field conditions. Saichuk — interviewed on Monday (Aug. 23) — recalls visiting an Avoyelles Parish verification field where, “one week, it was drained and I could walk in it wearing street shoes. When I went back after the rains, the water was two inches from the panicle.”
How is harvest going otherwise?
“Not too well. I don’t have any idea where USDA got their figure about us having a record yield. None of the researchers think that’s going to happen. In fact, I can’t find anyone who thinks that’s going to happen.
“Far and away, the most common comments are that yields are down from last year — which was right on the edge of a record — but down from previous years, as well.”
Are the yields kind of a surprise or were you looking at the crop a couple of months ago thinking ‘hey, this isn’t looking so good.’
“I felt that way two months ago. There was just too much cloud cover and rain. When you get big yields –like we had last year — the month of June is wall-to-wall sunshine. You make rice when it’s hot and dry. When it’s hot and humid, you don’t.
“I’m not a bit surprised at the yield reports. Disappointed, yes, but not surprised.”
Was disease a big issue, as well?
“Very much so.
“This was a year when we could have used two fungicide applications. A lot of people applied fungicides early because diseases arrived early. Then, the fungicide wore out. And we know that’s what will happen — fungicides can’t hold forever.
“Conditions were favorable for disease that stayed around way too long. The cycle never broke.
“On top of that, panicle blight hot a bunch of our crop. We can’t do anything about that bacterial disease — fungicides don’t work on bacteria.
“Just about every rice disease is, or has been, in the crop. We had a very bad disease year, no question.”
How far along is harvest?
“If it doesn’t rain the rest of this week, we’ll be just about finished in south Louisiana. North Louisiana is about 40 percent complete.”