El Niño to bring heavy spring rains

Published 12:04 am Monday, February 8, 2010

VIDALIA — It’s predicted to be a wet spring, but that may not be such a bad thing if conditions are right.

In a news release from the LSU AgCenter, LSU climatologists said that the El Niño weather phenomenon will cause heavier rains in the late winter and spring than average.

And while heavy rain last fall spelled devastation to many crops in the area, a lot of rain could help the spring season, Concordia Parish County Agent Glen Daniels said.

“If we can get in between rain, get in while it is dry and plant early, it will work well because water is one of the essential nutrients in crop production,” he said.

The possibility that rain could delay planting is there, but because the area’s soybean farmers — the group most likely to be affected — tend to plant early, they might not be affected, Daniels said.

“There is an optimum planting date, and (the rain) can be a plus if you can get in during that window for maximum, optimum yield,” he said.

It’s not so much the spring rain, but rather what happens in the summer, that will make a big difference. An almost bumper crop was killed last year by a six-week stretch of no rain in June and July.

“If you can get some rain in July and August, you can get a good crop,” Daniels said.

Soybeans should dominate the area’s crop acreage this year, and Daniels said he expects nearly 90,000 acres of beans to be planted.

“The problem is that Brazil may have a record yield, and if that happens you could see bean prices drop,” he said. “You could lose $3 a bushel if the Brazil crop is as big as they say it is.”

Corn production should be between 25,000 and 26,000 acres, and Daniels said he expects rice acreage to increase to between 16,000 and 17,000 acres because of current prices.

“Rice acreage has been creeping up more and more every year, and I think we will again see a modest increase,” he said. “At one time we were only producing 9,000 acres of rice, and now we’re doing nearly double that.”