Louisiana Weather Update

Photo of a flooded LA rice field taken from inside a pickup truck
Cloudy skies as far as the eye can see
May 05, 2017
CROWLEY, LA – Wet weather is the theme in the midsouth this week and Louisiana is no exception.  The northern part of the state dodged the bullet this time, but a lot of rice, and other crops - soybeans and crawfish - have been impacted in central and south Louisiana.  The hardest hit areas seem to be in Avoyelles, Evangeline, and St. Landry parishes.  However, the excess water there will move south so it is too early to determine what the extent of damage will be in any given area.

Michael Fruge, a rice farmer in St. Landry Parish, reported 10 inches of rainfall last Saturday.  “I spent all of Sunday repairing busted levees.  The process of using tractors with blades to repair levees destroyed a lot of rice and we also had damage to soybeans in this area,” he said.

Over in Jeff Davis and Cameron Parishes, Paul Johnson’s rain gauge measures 12-14 inches since Saturday.  Johnson said, “My rice is ok for now, but we’ve got deep water on every acre and I’m just hoping it drains off before the water from central Louisiana arrives.”

Kevin Berken, also in Jeff Davis Parish, is dealing with very deep water but is working to get it pumped off.  If successful, Berken is not expecting any impact on his rice.

“I can only estimate rain totals here as my 8-inch rain gauge overflowed last Saturday,” said Jeffery Sylvester in his report from Avoyelles Parish.  “We started pumping water off immediately and building up protection levees to stop water from the surrounding area from entering the farm.  Then Wednesday dropped another five inches that overtopped the raised protection levees so we’ve got nowhere to discharge pumped-off water.”  Sylvester expects to lose 2,000 acres of rice because the water cannot recede quickly enough, and noted that although his crawfish ponds are okay for now, many of his neighbors will likely lose much of their crawfish in addition to their rice.

St. Martin Parish received less rain Saturday but by Wednesday total precipitation was between eight and nine inches.  Jeff Durand expects some stand reduction on younger rice and still has 40 percent of his crop to plant.  “This is rice planted following crawfish,” said Durand.  “These latest rains will delay those plantings by a week or more, which will likely reduce the yields on those acres.  We’re also losing some crawfish on ponds where the water topped the levees.”

The full extent of the impact on Louisiana rice production will not be known for a couple weeks.  The big factor, according to Dr. Dustin Harrell with the LSU AgCenter, is how long the rice is submerged.  “How long the rice can live underwater depends on the conditions and the stage of rice development but consensus tells us rice can live under submerged conditions about eight days,” said Harrell.  “For now, we just need to focus on fixing washed out levees and getting the water off the submerged rice as soon as we possibly can.”