Fay compounds wet August for Louisiana farmers

The remnants of Tropical Storm Fay have put Louisiana farmers in a wait-and-see mode. They are waiting to get back into their fields to plant and harvest crops while seeing the quality of crops ready for harvest being diminished by the wet weather, say LSU AgCenter experts.

While the majority of the state’s soybean crop is not ready to be harvested, the early-maturing varieties are, said Ronnie Levy, the state soybean specialist for the LSU AgCenter.

Some of these early variety beans are planted in a soybean-sugarcane crop rotation. Beans are harvested in early August with sugarcane being planted shortly after the bean harvest.

“Just about all soybeans in the sugarcane rotation have been harvested, but there are still beans out there ready to be harvested,” Levy said.

For those beans already ripe, wet conditions can lead to a reduction in the quality of the bean. According to Levy, mature beans may begin to sprout in the pod or simply rot because of the damp conditions.

“A farmer can watch a field go from being a profitable situation to a financial loss fairly quickly because of unfavorable weather conditions. We’re not there yet, but there are plenty of anxious producers out there,” Levy said.

August is a busy month for sugarcane producers. During this time they are planting in their fallow fields or harvesting soybeans with cane going in shortly afterwards. They are also beginning to prepare for the sugarcane harvest that generally begins in late September.

A wet August has slowed planting down considerably, according to Kenneth Gravois, research coordinator of the LSU AgCenter’s Sugar Research Station in St. Gabriel, La.

“For many it’s at a standstill,” Gravois said. “The wind from the storm caused some cane to lodge in isolated areas, but it was not that significant.”

Working in damp conditions causes wear and tear on equipment and leaves ruts in the fields that can become problems. Water can accumulate in ruts and create difficulty for future work in the fields such as spraying, fertilizing or harvesting.

Through the first three weeks of August, the Sugar Station had received nearly 9 inches of rain for the month, 3 more inches than average. With the height of the tropical storm season approaching, it is important for cane growers to get their crops planted so that they can focus on the upcoming harvest, Gravois said. The wet weather has not allowed planting.

This year, nearly 1 million acres of soybeans were planted in Louisiana, an increase of nearly 400,000 acres from last year. Sugarcane is grown on approximately 400,000 acres in 24 south Louisiana parishes.

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