This year’s farming season is testing the skill and will of farmers.
There are problems: Seep water along the mainline Mississippi River levee, backwater in other areas and up until the middle of this week -- dry fields.
The Mississippi has been above flood stage for five months and will remain elevated into the summer, which directly affects the day-to-day operations of grain elevators.
For weeks, much of the central portion of the country, including this region, has been inundated with one rain system after another.
“We’ve got a flood on one side of the levee and crops that need rain on the other,” a problem reminiscent of 2011, LSU AgCenter Agent Dennis Burns said Tuesday. Burns serves as agriculture and natural resource agent for Catahoula, Concordia and Tensas parishes.
“Overall, it’s been a real rough start,” Burns said.
Problems with seep water have existed along the mainline Mississippi River since January.
“There is still a significant amount of land along the levee that is unplanted because of seep water,” Burns said. “Some of these fields will get planted but some will not.”
He said much farmland in southern Concordia still has water on it.
A significant amount of acreage has not been planted in the southern reaches of Catahoula Parish, either.
“In the Larto area, a number of acres are under water down there,” he said.
“I was in a field last week south of Vidalia that is planted in beans. The ground is wet and damp and the beans yellow looking. They’re growing in wet ground. This is good land but the beans don’t look healthy.”
He said the elevated stages would continue to disrupt grain elevator operators because the rivers are so high barges can’t get in to the facilities. Waterproof has a significant amount of grain in bins with last year’s crop, he said.
But further inland, corn farmers are irrigating.
“One farmer irrigated last week and will have to do so again if it doesn’t rain soon,” he said. “He would normally irrigate every 10 to 12 days but it could be every seven days as things are now.”
Having to irrigate more than normal will be an extra expense, Burns said.
“Anybody that has corn is irrigating,” he said. “It turned dry really fast. Some of the corn doesn’t have much of a root system so farmers will really have to be on top of irrigation.
“We shucked some ears and found some had potential but they’ll need water to make grain.”
The corn harvest will begin for some in July, Burns said, but most farmers won’t begin harvesting until August.
He said the cotton crop is “pretty much all planted. All three parishes finished last week. So far insects have been light.
“The cotton is growing and farmers are fertilizing it now. If we get a good rain this week there will be enough moisture in the fields for everybody to finish planting.”
He said the soybean crop is in the ground while rice farmers have a bit more planting to do.