Johnny Saichuk says it’s easy to tell when Louisiana rice farmers are about to harvest a crop like they did when the state average hit a phenomenal 7,500 pounds per acre in 2013.
“One thing I’ve noticed when I have a real good rice crop is you look across the field before it heads, it looks like a billiards table, smooth and flat,” said Saichuk, Extension rice specialist with the Louisiana State University AgCenter.
The 2014 crop, in contrast, “is late, and it’s uneven,” said Saichuk, who spoke at the Northeast Louisiana Rice Field Day. “We got started late because of the wet conditions, and the crop is running, I think, about two weeks behind where it was last year.”
Trying to compare this year’s crop with last year’s would not be fair, however, Saichuk said. “When you look at last year, you can write that one down in your book because you may never see another year like that again. That was just a phenomenal year, and I don’t expect anything like that this year.”
Saichuk said he and Steve Linscombe, rice breeder and director of the LSU AgCenter’s Southwest Region, were asked to estimate the 2014 rice yield. “We both came up with the same figure – 6,500 pounds per acre,” Saichuk noted. “And we’re both being conservative. I hope that number’s wrong. I hope that number is more like 6,900 or 7,000 pounds.”
Northeast Louisiana rice producers planted more rice in 2014, including significantly more medium grain rice because of the markets. The “big changes” will be more medium grain and less aromatic, said Saichuk. The percentage of hybrids vs. conventional rice won’t be available until the AgCenter completes its surveys later this year.
Disease pressure has been light in Louisiana rice, and insects have not been a major problem beyond a few fields where stink bugs reached threshold levels, but just barely. In many of those, farmers had to make a judgment call about spraying.
“With the advent of the Clearfield System, even in fields not in Clearfield rice this year, I see – compared to the early years of my career – much, much cleaner rice fields, much better-looking rice fields,” said Saichuk. “We don’t have near the weed pressure we used to have.
“I’m starting to see some problems in some areas where we have outcrosses or off-types, something that’s giving us problems in terms of resistance to the Clearfield herbicide. Some of those guys are starting to see the effects of not managing things the way they should have. So the Provisia rice being developed by BASF is a welcome addition.”
Saichuk said he’s not ready to give up on this year’s crop. “I don’t think it looks as bad as it did a month ago. “It’s lumpy, it’s uneven, but the crop is looking much better right now.”
The field day was held at Woodlands Plantation near Rayville, La. LSU AgCenter specialists are conducting trials at Woodlands, which is managed by Ashley Dickson, and on the John Owens Farm near Gilbert, La. The event was sponsored by BASF, Horizon Ag, the LSU AgCenter, the Northeast Louisiana Rice Growers Association and the USA Rice Federation. For more on rice production in the U.S., visit http://www.usarice.com/.