Farmers scrambled to harvest some crops, move cattle ahead of storm

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    A combine cuts a rice crop as a storm approaches. South Louisiana farmers are hoping Hurricane Laura will have minimal effects on their crops and livestock. LSU AgCenter file photo by Bruce Schultz

    A combine cuts a rice crop as a storm approaches. South Louisiana farmers are hoping Hurricane Laura will have minimal effects on their crops and livestock. LSU AgCenter file photo by Bruce Schultz

    Farmers across the western side of Louisiana were scrambling this week ahead of Hurricane Laura to get crops that needed harvesting out of their fields and move livestock away from coastal areas.

    Laura is expected to hit Louisiana near the Texas line as a Category 4 hurricane with 145 mph sustained winds possible and move into north Louisiana with potential hurricane force winds.

    A previous storm that hit the Cameron Parish coast almost 15 years ago is being used as a reference with expectations Laura will bring a devastating storm surge to southwest Louisiana coastal parishes.

    Granger said rice farmers had been working into the night this week to get their crop harvested, noting the storm could ruin half of the parish’s second rice crop.

    Cattle were moved as far as north Louisiana, and it’s expected the storm will cause considerable damage with saltwater flooding. “Their fences will be gone,” Granger said.

    Bradley Pousson, AgCenter agent in Cameron Parish, said cattle owners learned about moving their herds early after hurricanes Rita in 2005 and Ike in 2008. “We prayed we’d never have to do this again, but here we are,” Pousson said.

    Jimmy Meaux, AgCenter agent in Calcasieu Parish, said that cattle producers started moving herds this past weekend. « It just takes them a while to get them out of the marsh,” he said.

    AgCenter regional beef cattle specialist Vince Deshotel has been helping cattle producers find safe pastures for their herds, and farmers are receiving hay donations.

    The start of sugar cane harvest is just a few weeks away, and farmers are in the middle of planting cane for next year’s crop. Blair Hebert, AgCenter agent for sugar cane in the Bayou Teche region, said farmers have been able to finish about a third of the planting.

    But the cane awaiting harvest will be affected by wind. If the plants are blown over, or lodged, the stalks will tend to grow upright if the cane isn’t knocked flat, but broken cane stalks will not recover.

    “Sugar cane is a very resilient crop, and we’re certainly going to test it,” Hebert said.

    This year was shaping up to produce a good sugar cane crop, possibly one of the best. “It sure had that potential to be up there,” he said.

    A big problem for farmers after Rita was the amount of debris pushed into the fields by the tidal surge, complicating harvest.

    AgCenter rice specialist Dustin Harrell said rice grain that’s still in the field could be knocked off the plants, and stalks could be blown down. Mature rice will sprout and become worthless if it is flooded. “Basically, you could lose the whole crop,” he said.

    North Louisiana farmers were rushing to get their corn crop out of the field, which has been looking good. Laura also has the potential to inflict serious damage to the state’s soybean crop.

    Keith Collins, LSU AgCenter agent in Richland, Franklin and Ouachita parishes, is worried about Laura’s wind. “This corn is dry and very susceptible to breakage,” he said. Soybean crops also have been looking good.

    Harvesters can cut corn that has been knocked to the ground, but the process is slowed considerably. “If everything falls right with the rows, they are more apt to get it. If it’s off the ground at all, they can get it,” Collins said.

    As for soybeans, “it just depends on the height and how heavy the pod count is,” Collins said.


    SOURCE: https://www.w24news.com

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