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Weather is weather

Mark Twain

Folks who are prone to quoting old adages like "Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it,” often incorrectly attribute the famous saying to Mark Twain, but it was Twain’s contemporary, writer Charles Dudley Warner, who coined the phrase.

Twain, a gifted speaker, quoted the saying in a speech and got the credit for an interesting turn of a phrase. It’s not known if Warner ever uttered another quotable quote.

Louisiana farmers often talk about the weather and I guess a few of them complain, but one thing is certain: no one can do anything about the weather. Weather, good and bad, happens and there’s not a darn thing the cattleman from Texas, the corn farmer from Iowa and the cane farmer from the bayou can do about it. Farmers ultimately endure weather and then they take steps to overcome the hardship caused by the adverse climatology.

Corn crop flooded Louisiana 2016Last year at this time Louisiana had already experienced a gully washer of a rainfall that put much of the state’s northern corn fields and cattle pastures underwater – 40,000 acres of freshly planted corn had to be replanted at great expense.

Then last August, southeastern Louisiana got upwards of 25 inches of rain in one weekend that caused extensive flood damage, especially in East Baton Rouge and Livingston parishes. Folks in some areas have yet to return to their flooded homes.

Fortunately for cane farmers in Lafayette and Iberia, the flood waters receded long before harvest time and the sugarcane crop was relatively unscathed. By the time October rolled around, harvesting conditions were good and dry.

Ah, but perhaps the conditions were too dry. Sugarcane farmers enjoy planting seed cane when the weather is dry but after the crop has been planted, a degree of precipitation is necessary to ensure the seed cane has a good growth boost. A bit of rainfall after mature cane has been cut also ensures that the following year’s ratoon crop has a jump on next year.

Louisiana Flood 2017The irony is, after Louisiana experienced its wettest August ever, it suffered through an exceptionally dry Octobers, the fifth driest ever. Sugarcane farmers are surveying fields now to make sure their seed and second and third year stubble has a healthy stand. If the growth is poor and they have a chance to plant soybeans, they might plow out the field. That’s a tough farming decision.

LSU AgCenter sugarcane researcher Ken Gravois said more than once at the winter grower meetings that it won’t be the wet weather of 2016 that affects next year’s sugarcane crop the most but the dry October.

Sugarcane is a crop well-suited to Louisiana’s sub-tropical climate. It can handle a lot of rain. It can straighten itself if it gets knocked down by wind; it loves hot weather but it takes an exceptionally strong freeze to destroy it. Generally a successful cane crop can be made reliably year after year despite the weather, but most farming is a "wait and see” proposition.

So farmers talk about the weather and some may complain about it. They know they can’t do anything about it but pray and hope for the best.

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