Drought hammered crops in central Louisiana after planting this spring, which will keep them from reaching their yield potential. The dry weather resulted in a good deal of replanting, as well, adding to farmers’ costs.

“A large portion of our corn crop is still dryland. It has the potential to recover, but it will not reach its potential. I think yields will be off slightly even if it is wetter the rest of the growing season,” says Ronnie Levy, LSU AgCenter Extension soybean specialist.

“Drought in the central part of the state has been severe,” says Daniel Stephenson, LSU AgCenter weed scientist. “A lot of cotton was replanted. Soybeans have an extremely poor stand in some areas. This affected herbicide performance. If a weed is not actively growing it will not uptake the herbicide.”

During most summers, some areas get blessed with abundant rainfall while others nearby get nearly nothing. That is the case in Louisiana this year.

“It depends on where you are. It’s kind of spotted rainfall across the state. Some farmers haven’t gotten enough rain to make a crop. In other areas, they got a big rainfall but also had a lot of rain runoff from fields. In fact, we had some soybeans damaged by heavy rain and farmers had to replant a large number of acres because of it,” Levy says.

“We are seeing signs of drought stress in some areas, which isn’t good. Even short periods of drought influence plant growth and productivity.”

Levy, who also worked with corn and feedgrains until recently, thinks newer corn hybrids with more drought tolerance may benefit Louisiana farmers. “We’re making some strides with the newer hybrids. It looks like we will continue to see some with higher levels of drought tolerance. That could be a benefit in the Deep South,” he says.

“Strides in hybrids and new technology have kept farmers in business in the U.S. and will continue to do so, increasing efficiency and productivity.”

This summer’s drought is the latest in several years of weather adversity to hit Louisiana.

“The weather has been very detrimental to the quality of the crop producers have been able to harvest. It’s hit every crop: sweet potatoes, cotton, corn, soybeans. We’ve had corn and cotton damaged by hurricanes. We’ve seen a lot of sweet potatoes with heavy rains close to harvest that caused a lot of losses,” Levy says.

Farmers responded by retooling production practices.

“Quality harvest is a big concern due to rainfall and weather events. We’re seeing increasing use of harvest aids to increase efficiency, shortening the time between when the crop matures and when it can be harvested. They’re taking the green plant material out that would raise moisture levels in the crop,” Levy says.

Getting the crop out of the field earlier reduces risk.

“It helps avoid some problems with insects and disease,” Levy says. “It means we can reduce the number of applications of insecticides and fungicides and also reduce the potential for soybean rust. Rust doesn’t seem to do well in extremely hot temperatures and doesn’t seem to develop until the weather cools down. Getting soybeans out earlier is a benefit as far as having a potential problem with rust. Later soybean crops has the potential to have more injury from rust.”