Dustin Harrell, LSU AgCenter agronomist, said fertilizer prices are high, with urea at $470 a ton, phosphate at $580 per ton and potash at $500 per ton. He said prices generally increase as the season progresses.

Using the urease inhibitor Agrotain will reduce nitrogen fertilizer loss, although it will increase costs, said Harrell. It’s particularly beneficial for fields that require longer than five days to flood.

Harrell is studying zinc deficiency, and it appears that some varieties are more sensitive to an inadequate amount of the micronutrient in the soil. The variety CL151 will have more lodging problems if farmers use excessive nitrogen. Nitrogen should be limited to between 90 and 130 pounds per acre with CL151.

Harrell also is studying seeding rates to determine a more optimum amount than the current recommendation of 60 to 90 pounds per acre. He said a rice crop only needs 15 plants per square foot, and a seeding rate of 47 to 70 pounds per acre could be more cost effective.

Exports benefit rice market

Kurt Guidry, LSU AgCenter economist, said the U.S. rice market is benefitting from an increase in exports. “The real question is: can we continue this pace as we approach the end of our marketing year?”

The current price around $14 per hundredweight could increase further with a spillover from the rising prices in other commodity markets.

It appears that the soybean market will remain strong because of China, Guidry said. “There doesn’t seem to be any indication they are going to stop buying soybeans from us any time soon.” Argentina and Brazil also sell large volumes of soybeans to China, and a shortfall from either of those two countries could boost prices even further.

Guidry warned that farmers face high input costs this year, with crude oil in the $85-$90 per barrel range, keeping farm diesel prices at $2.60-$2.70 a gallon.

“I don’t see fertilizer prices going down,” Guidry added.

It’s likely that soybean acreage will increase this year because of high prices, said Ron Levy, LSU AgCenter soybean specialist.

Levy said comparisons of row spacing and twin rows show no significant difference, but planting early can be beneficial. “The highest yields were from the earliest planting.”

Herbicide-resistant weeds

Jim Griffin, LSU AgCenter weed scientist, warned that glyphosate-resistant pigweed and johnsongrass are becoming more widespread in Louisiana. He said johnsongrass found near Erwinville, La., had resistance to 10 times the normal amount of glyphosate herbicide.

Farmers also heard from Randy Jemison, Louisiana representative for the USA Rice Federation, on regulations being imposed by the EPA. Jemison said the EPA will begin enforcing regulations by Nov. 10 that require containment levees and a fuel spill contingency plan for farms with fuel storage tank capacity exceeding 1,320 gallons.

Jemison said the Natural Resources Conservation Service has a pilot program in eight states, including Louisiana, to help farmers with the new regulations. Farmers have until Jan. 28 to sign up for the program at their local NRCS offices.

Salt in irrigation water

At the Vermilion Parish clinic, Stuart Gauthier, LSU AgCenter county agent, cautioned farmers against using irrigation water with moderate levels of salt.

“We don’t recommend using water with salt above 35 grains” or 600 parts per million, Gauthier said. Sampling of area canals showed surface water in many areas exceeded that amount.

Using water with high levels of salt for crawfish can jeopardize a subsequent rice crop and many soils will hold and accumulate salt. A $6 test conducted by the LSU AgCenter will reveal the level of salt in the soil. The LSU AgCenter does not recommend planting rice in soil with a salt level exceeding 750 ppm.

“We have areas in the parish that still have salt left over from the last hurricane,” Gauthier said.

Also at the Vermilion Parish clinic, Eddie Gaspard of Planters Rice Mill, said the bankruptcy of a Mexican rice company has affected the rough rice market, and American rice companies have indicated it will be a few months before they need more rice. He said China and India are starting to import rice, so that could help the market.