Louisiana rice harvest starts early but is battling the weather

Louisiana’s rice harvest has started early this year, but it has recently been slowed by rainy weather. When farmers could get into the fields, yields have been excellent.

Louisiana rice farmers have begun harvesting what is shaping up to be one of the better crops in the past five years. Good weather through most of the growing season and dry weather at the beginning of the harvest have been encouraging to farmers.

“Not record breakers, but solid yields, and so far, what we’ve managed to ship to the mills have been really good quality also,” rice farmer Paul Johnson said.

A stretch of rainy weather has significantly slowed the harvest and has kept many combines idle. Many farmers in southwest Louisiana grow a second or rattoon crop from their stubble, and wet harvest conditions hurt the second crop yield.

“We want to harvest that first crop dry because if the soil is wet when we harvest the first crop, we can cause a lot of rutting and then you lose a lot of area for that rattoon crop because you have stubble in the Dustin Harrell, LSU AgCenter’s rice specialist, said.

An uptick in rice prices has caused acreage to increase in Louisiana and farmers are hopeful prices do not fall too much as the new crop is harvested.

“It’s early in the new crop, we’re not sure where that’s going to head. Arkansas has a large crop and I’m sure we’ll see a little suppression from that, but obviously, a little room for optimism,” Johnson said.

Harrell says that growers in north Louisiana are planting more row rice acreage. This practice involves growing rice without the traditional levee system and irrigating the rice much like you would a corn or soybean crop. “

We can expect about 30,000 acres of that to be in row rice production, that’s a considerable increase from what we saw last year,” he said. “That’s almost double the amount of row rice.”