Louisiana’s first rice crop was disappointing, says Johnny Saichuk, Louisiana AgCenter rice specialist.That’s “particularly true for growers in northeast Louisiana but virtually everyone I speak with says their yields are lower than last year.

We didn’t do as well as USDA claims. They say our yields are around 6,500 pounds per acre. While we haven’t worked up our figures yet, I estimate we’re averaging at least 200 or 300 pounds less than that.”

Louisiana is just now beginning to harvest the second crop. “We may be 5 percent done,” says Saichuk. “Some of those yields are pretty good and others are mediocre. It’s hard to draw a conclusion on the second crop yet but I think it’ll be decent.”

Because of the high prices of cotton and corn, many expect “this year’s big jump in rice acres up in northeast Louisiana will go away in 2011.”

Saichuk cites extreme heat and its consequences as yield killers this season.

“It just got too hot. That hurt pollination and encouraged bacterial panicle blight, a disease most varieties are susceptible to.

“We also saw a flare-up of late season diseases – leaf scald, leaf smut – that are normally considered minor. Don Groth, an AgCenter plant pathologist, said he’d never seen so much leaf smut before. I attribute that outbreak with stressed plants. The ability of the plants to resist many of these organisms depends on good plant health. And the rice plants just weren’t healthy – it was too hot.”

As for 2011, Saichuk says there are several new Clearfield varieties that growers may want to consider.

“One is CL261 – the first time we’ll have a Clearfield medium-grain. It was in seed production last year and will be in commercial production in 2011.

“We’ve heard a lot of criticism of CL111 because of panicle blight. I hope growers don’t pass judgment just based on this year. It was so, so hot. In a normal year, I think it’s a good variety.”