Bill spares south Louisiana growers

The Louisiana sugarcane crop, in general, was spared any serious damage as a result of the storm, said Ben Legendre, Extension sugarcane specialist with the LSU AgCenter in Baton Rouge.

Legendre said he drove through Terrebonne, Lafourche, Assumption, St. James, St. John and St. Charles parishes and noted that some cane was leaning.

"I would anticipate that little or no impact of the storm was felt in the other sugarcane parishes," he said. He did say, however, that several fields in low-lying areas are flooded and will probably remain flooded for several days.

"It is possible that in these fields there could be some reduction in population that could ultimately affect yield," Legendre said. "Overall, it could have been a lot worse."

Legendre anticipates most sugarcane will recover fully from the storm's effects.

"What the industry needs now is lots of sunshine," Legendre said. "Those that have been praying for rain can now say 'thank you, that's enough for now.'"

While sugarcane farmers were thankful for rain, farmers in southwestern and central Louisiana were equally thankful Bill tracked farther east.

"Bill really didn't affect us," said David Lanclos, LSU AgCenter soybean and small grain specialist in Alexandria.

Lanclos said most crops in the state didn't need additional rain, and Bill's path prevented any damage from too much rainfall. "I'm not anticipating any yield drop," he said.

Lanclos pointed out that the area of the state where rainfall was heavier – in the Baton Rouge area – is where the row crops and soybeans were in most need of water.

LSU AgCenter rice specialist Johnny Saichuk said Tropical Storm Bill didn't hurt rice fields, but it was a close call.

"This storm certainly had the potential to cause as much damage as Tropical Storm Allison did two years ago," Saichuk said Tuesday afternoon while touring southwest Louisiana rice fields.

Allison caused significant flooding of rice fields in June 2001, submerging extensive acreage for several days and leaving the crop susceptible to disease. Allison's heavy rain was followed by another two-week period of steady rain in August 2001 that devastated much of the rice still left in the fields.

But Saichuk, speaking under clear skies Tuesday afternoon, said, "We got lucky with Bill."

Since the storm went east of southwest Louisiana's rice-growing region, it actually pulled drier air up from the Gulf of Mexico, and that should help rice plants mature. "It's a pretty day today (Tuesday)," Saichuk said. "What we really need for our rice now is dry weather until harvest, if we can get it." (South Louisiana growers will begin harvesting rice in the next few weeks.)

Rick Bogren and Randy McClain are writers for the LSU AgCenter.

e-mail: [email protected]; [email protected]

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