The farmers are dealing with low market prices, which makes it difficult to make a profit. Last year they dealt with too much salt in the fresh water they use to flood their fields.
Well, there is plenty of freshwater this time, because of the large amount of rain the last four weeks. That is the good news.
The bad news for farmers, other than the price, are the temperatures at night. The night temperature has been between 60 to 65 degrees, which is great if you are a human or animal. However, if you are a rice seed in the ground, then warm nights are not good this time of year.
Parish rice farmers are 60 percent complete planting their first crop of the 2012 season. Early projections have 50,000 acres of rice being planted in the parish this year.
“We are moving quick,” said County Agent Stuart Gauthier of the LSU Ag Center. “We are ahead of last year (planting). Farmers are able to plant more rice quicker because of grain drilling.”
Parish farmers, depending on the rain, should be through planting in two weeks.
Many farmers plant now because of the cool nights.
However, the nights, when they are warm as they have been, awaken the dreaded bacterial panicle blight, which otherwise sits dormant in the seed.
Bacterial panicle blight thrives in high nighttime temperatures, infecting the flowering parts of the plant and aborting kernel formation, known as “blanking.”
When the bacteria takes over, it destroys the grain. A farmer will not find out if his field is in infected until the plant is a few inches off the ground. The farmer will notice a discoloration.
If a field is infected with panicle blight, yields drop, which means less money for farmers.
“There is a problem every year (with bacteria panicle blight) which is why farmers plant earlier each year,” said Gauthier. “This year it has gotten warmer a month earlier than normal.”
Stuart explained that if the days are hotter, then a plant has to use more energy to produce photosynthesis. At night, a plant normally rests and the cooler the nights, the better.
But if the night is warm, a rice plant is under stress more and is unable to relax, which sets off the bacterial panicle blight in the seed.
There is no chemical on the market to kill the panicle blight.