Farmers at the Southwest Louisiana Rice Field Tour on June 1 were told their rice crops could be affected by drought if they’re not mindful of water levels in their fields.

“If you are losing water, you are losing nitrogen,” advised LSU AgCenter agronomist Dustin Harrell. The first application of nitrogen should be on dry ground just before the permanent flood, followed by a midseason application on the flooded field.

If the first application is made on a flooded field, some nitrogen will break down before the plants can absorb it, Harrell said. Applying nitrogen on a flooded field at midseason is recommended because the plants are large enough by then to absorb much of the fertilizer.

LSU AgCenter rice specialist Johnny Saichuk described this year’s crop as “short and confused.”

A cold April along with strong winds resulted in delayed flooding, Saichuk said. The drought is especially severe in areas where the underground water table needs to be recharged.

Sheath blight can already be found low on rice plants, said LSU AgCenter plant pathologist Don Groth. With consistent rainfall the disease will rapidly move up the plants.

Farmers facing the threat of sheath blight and blast should time pesticide applications for blast since it can cause more damage, Groth said.

Work is progressing on a rice hybrid at the Rice Research Station, said LSU AgCenter rice breeder Xueyan Sha. A new Della-type rice and a Clearfield Jazzman are in the works.

A new Clearfield medium grain line is being evaluated, said LSU AgCenter rice breeder Steve Linscombe. So far, it has outyielded CL261. Linscombe also said the Kellogg Co. has been pleased with their processing using CL261.

LSU AgCenter weed scientist Eric Webster warned farmers about the importance of properly cleaning equipment used to spray herbicides. Small traces of chemicals can remain in the plumbing of a spray rig, he said, and just a 1 percent solution of Roundup will hurt rice. “You can never be too clean.”

Soybeans are having difficulty coping with the heat and lack of rain, said Allen Hogan, LSU AgCenter county agent in Jefferson Davis Parish. Once the area gets rain, weeds should be attacked immediately.

Several unusual insects have been feeding on rice plants this year, including sugarcane beetles, leaf beetles, chinch bugs and billbugs, said LSU AgCenter entomologist Natalie Hummel.

The Mexican rice borer has been discovered southeast of Lake Charles, Hummel said, but it shouldn’t be a problem for rice until next year. The seed treatment Dermacor has effective control for the pest.

The local rice market could gain slightly, depending on the extent of a production decline this year in Arkansas, LSU AgCenter economist Kurt Guidry said. Stagnate prices have been attributed to a large ending stock, but much of that is low-quality rice.