Avoyelles farmers had ‘above average’ year

Yields increase or remain stable for eight major crops

Agriculture is still the heart of the Avoyelles Parish economy, and it maintained a steady beat in 2017, County Agent Justin Dufour said.

“Overall, I would say Avoyelles had a slightly above average year in terms of crop production,” Dufour noted.

While many areas rely heavily on one or two crops, Avoyelles has eight commercial crops with more than 1,000 acres each.

Preliminary production rate for those eight crops are: corn, 179 bushels/acre; cotton, 600 pounds/acre; grain sorghum, 90 bushels/acre; rice, 68 hundredweight/acre; soybeans, 46 bushels/acre; sugarcane, 8300 pounds/acre (raw); sweet potatoes, 310 bushels/acre; and wheat, 40 bushels/acre.

Those numbers compare to 2016’s 162 bu./acre for corn, 600 lbs./acre of cotton, about 65 bu./acre of sorghum, 64 cwt/acre of rice, 42 bu./acre of soybeans, 8300 lbs./acre (raw) of sugar cane, 136 bu./acre of sweet potatoes and 35 bu./acre of wheat.

“Production systems, soil types and topography all play huge factors in determining the success of crops,” Dufour continued. “Avoyelles is quite diverse in those variables as well.

Dufour said most corn producers “were satisfied with their crop this year. Some operations averaged in the 200-210 bu./acre range, mainly due to optimal and cooperative weather during planting and growing season.”

Soybean is still the parish’s most common crop. Growers’ success “fluctuated throughout the parish. I feel many growers were satisfied with the quantity of yield, but not necessarily the quality.” The problems were due to “untimely rains during the growing and harvesting season,” he added.

The number of acres planted in grain sorghum and wheat continue to fall, “despite both having semi-average years,” Dufour noted.

“For sorghum especially, the yield was good but the quality was low,” Dufour said. “We had some growers who reported having trouble finding any place that would take their crop due to quality issues.”

On the positive end of the spectrum, sugarcane “had an exceptional year, in terms of tonnage production.

“The consistent below-freezing temperatures may have an impact on next year’s crop , being that sugarcane is perennial and relies on existing rhizomes to produce plants for multiple years,” he added.

“Sweet potatoes followed a disastrous year with a very solid, productive year overall,” he continued.

Meanwhile, cotton continued its run of bad years.

Dufour said cotton is in a “3-year rut,” with rainy weather heavily impacting both the number of bolls and quality of the cotton. This year, cotton had the opposite problem from sorghum’s.

“The cotton that was produced was getting high marks for quality, but the boll production wasn’t there,” Dufour said. “The plants were putting more into producing vegetation than they were in making bolls for reproduction.”

He has hope that the crop once known as “King Cotton” in the state will make a bit of a comeback.

“Despite the below-average yield trend, we are expected to have an increased amount of acres due to optimistic projected futures price,” he said.

Rice had a good start due to above average temperatures during the planting season. However, untimely rainfall that affected fertilizer retention and pesticide applications resulted in an average year for the crop.

There were 84,598 acres planted in soybeans, 14,503 acres in corn, 11,875 in rice and 10,415 in sugarcane.

The parish’s fifth-largest agricultural production is in honey, with 9,549 acres dedicated to that industry. Hay production accounts for 8,108 acres. Sorghum was planted in 6,682 acres, cotton was on 4,920 acres and crawfish took up 3,954.6 acres.

There were 2,238 acres in wheat and 1,738 acres in sweet potatoes.

Avoyelles’ “minor” crops include almost 159 acres in pecans and almost 133 acres in nursery crops.

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