By Carroll Smith
“It was a dark and stormy night” was first penned by English novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton in the opening sentence of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford, according to Wikipedia – an online encyclopedia. Now, in 2013, Bulwer-Lytton’s words popped into my head more than once this spring, but with a little different twist: “It was a wet and chilly day.”
I obviously wasn’t the only one thinking this as I talked with farmers in rice-growing areas and read comments on a Facebook farmers’ group. In many places, the chilly temperatures and wet conditions persisted as growers hoped that the weather would soon straighten itself out.
Louisiana rice specialist Dr. Johnny Saichuk noted the following in his May comments on page 19. “This year, March started out cool as it usually does, but most of us thought that was temporary. We were wrong. Farmers started planting and, at the first sign of a wet weather pattern, flooded up fields and water-seeded.
“It stayed cold all through March and April, and, at this writing, we are expecting record cold for the first week of May. We have a lot of rice that, based on planting date, is 60 days old, but looks like it is 30 days old. Without sunshine and warmer temperatures, it just will not grow.”
Texas rice specialist Dr. Mo Way echoed some of the same observations: “Southeast Texas is experiencing a very cold spring. In fact, weather forecasters are predicting record lows in southeast Texas during the first week of May. This means rice is off to a slow start, and much rice remains susceptible to seedling diseases.”
I even had my own experience during the first of May when I was scheduled to meet with the Mississippi rice farmers and scientists who are featured in the cover story on page 6. Once again, when I got up that morning and stuck my head out of the door, my first thought was, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Yep. It was a wet and chilly day. In spite of the untimely weather conditions, they all graciously carried on with the interview and made sure I got lots of good information for the article.
Although it has been a challenging season opener, perhaps Missouri rice consultant Amy Beth Dowdy says it best at the conclusion of her comments on page 13. “I have faith that my growers will get this crop in, and it will work out all right. It may seem like they are behind the eight ball right now, but they can and will overcome these obstacles. They have in the past, and they will again.”
I, too, believe in the tenacity of our rice farmers. They are always ready to give Mother Nature a run for her money even when she draws a line in the mud in front of the planters “on a wet and chilly day.”
Send your comments to: Editor, Rice Farming Magazine, 1010 June Road, Suite 102, Memphis, Tenn., 38119. Call (901) 767-4020 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.