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Rice yields higher than last year

VIDALIA — Even after two straight years of dry and unreasonably hot weather, Concordia Parish rice farmers are doing better than they expected.

With the rice harvest in full swing, LSU AgCenter Concordia Parish County Agent Nan Huff said farmers are looking at yields approximately 40 bushels an acre higher than in 2010.

Huff said 11,543 acres of rice were planted in Concordia Parish in 2011, with yields averaging anywhere from 140 bushels an acre to 180. The average yield in 2010 was 136 bushels per acre.

“Things have been better throughout the parish,” she said. “(Rice) was able to come out in very good shape.”

Natchez resident and rice farmer Walter Davis said he started harvesting his rice crops Aug. 11, and the first two weeks of the harvest have been outstanding.

“Things are looking great,” he said. “We are looking much better than last year.”

Davis said the 920 acres of rice planted in Clayton were approximately the same amount of rice he planted last year.

“Even though it was just as hot and dry last summer, we did pretty well,” he said. “So we knew we could do it again this year.”

Davis said due to the high heat, he, like most farmers who saw positive results this summer, irrigated his fields.

“If we wouldn’t have done it, we might as well have not planted,” he said. “But we did, and the irrigation really paid off.”

Davis said even with the two summers of dry weather, he didn’t have to use as much water as he was expecting.

Huff said rice wasn’t affected as much by the drought because of the way it is planted.

“The rice seed is grown in water, so the lack of rain played a very minor role,” she said. “(Rice) farmers did experience higher irrigation costs, but nothing too ridiculous.”

Huff said the summer’s high heat had the greatest effect on the crops.

“The heat just affected the rice during pollination,” she said. “But it wasn’t too much of a problem, especially with yields like this.”

Davis said the high price of rice, $546 per metric ton, is going to be a huge asset to rice farmers looking to make money.

With the harvest almost complete, Davis said the last thing left to do on his land is prepare the ground for duck hunting.

“We do this every year,” he said. “It is always something we love to do.”

The U.S. Rice Federation designates every September as rice month to coincide with the harvest, and Concordia Parish rice farmers will know just how well they did by the end of next month.