Sunday, September 19, 2021

As harvest ramps up in Texas and Louisiana, time will tell on yields

• By Steve Linscombe and Kane Webb •

rice harvest along the Gulf Coast
Rice harvest along the Gulf Coast — photo courtesy USA Rice

Texas rice harvest is well underway west of Houston and just getting started on the east side of the state. This is typical as the west zone tends to plant earlier than the east. The consensus among growers in the area is that yields are average at best to below average.

Another common comment from growers is that fields are taking longer than normal to mature due to excessive rainfall and overcast skies earlier in the season that tended to slow down the crop.

Harvest coming at you

East of Houston at the Helena Agri-Enterprises location in Raywood, manager Dorsey Jones said most of the rice farmers in his area are just starting harvest. Early yields are off about 10%, although the limited number of quality samples have all been excellent.

Timothy Gertson, who farms around Lissie, said yields are off 10% to 20% on the Lissie Prairie. False smut was a significant problem in the earliest harvested rice but not as severe in the rice he is currently harvesting.

LG Raun, who farms near El Campo, said his yields were closer to normal, but he is dealing with significant lodging in his later rice. His early harvest conditions were excellent, but the excessive rains recently have complicated matters as he has about 80 acres remaining to be cut.

Terry Hlavinka, who farms near East Bernard, said his yields are off 10%, and his harvest is approaching 50% completed. However, based on a report from Rice Belt, west of Houston is only around 35% harvested, which could possibly have a negative impact on the ratoon crop.

The ratoon, or second crop, is critical for many Texas rice growers. Ideally, the first crop harvest should be completed by Aug. 15 to optimize ratoon crop production. But many producers will move that date to Sept. 1 in a year like this one. When asked about ratoon regrowth this year, most said it was “decent but a little too early to tell.”

South Louisiana

In the South Louisiana rice growing region, producers are dodging afternoon rain showers, but harvest is moving along despite the obstacles. Harvest began with wetter-than-optimal conditions, causing some rutting and complications with progress. But the weather improved somewhat over the past week, bringing drier conditions in most areas.

“The yields we’ve seen so far are solid, but we’re not going to break any records,” said Ross Thibodeaux of Thibodeaux Brothers in Midland. “Considering everything the crop has been through this season, it’s not bad. But you always want your yield to be a little higher.”

Thibodeaux is about halfway through with harvest and hopeful that “the weather will hold out for everyone to get to the end.”

Eric Unkel of Unkel Farms in Kinder said, “The harvest is steady, yields are average. The crop isn’t great, but it isn’t as bad as it could have been considering all the early season complications we went through.”

John Morgan, with Supreme Rice Mill in Crowley, weighed in when asked about the quality of this year’s crop.

“Conventional varieties, LSU Clearfields and PVL02 have shown good to excellent early milling. RiceTec 745 is good as well and the rest are a mixed bag but above average at this point, especially on total milling yields. It’s a little early to get a handle on the degree of chalk and uniformity of grain size.”

In northeast Louisiana, harvest is getting close. Damian Bollich of Jones said, “We are one to two weeks away from harvesting the early planted rice. Growers in the area began cutting water off last week.”

Bollich said the early planted rice looks good.

“I am optimistic that the yields will reflect what we’re seeing in the fields. Time will tell.”

This article originally appeared in USA Rice’s “The Daily.”

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