News / USA

Despite the Oil Spill, Louisiana Rice is Still Nice

So far, paddies and their burrowed 'mudbugs' are OK

When rainfall is plentiful, rice grows into lush plants above the shallow water in which it's planted.
When rainfall is plentiful, rice grows into lush plants above the shallow water in which it's planted.

Multimedia

Audio
Ted Landphair

Since Louisiana leads the United States in the production of rice, a lot of people wonder whether the oil that has spread into the state's marshes from the gushing spill offshore will threaten this year's crop.

So far, the answer is no. Even though some of Louisiana's quarter-million hectares of rice farms are located within shouting distance of bespoiled marshes, rice ponds rely on fresh water from wells and rainfall - not saltwater that, even without oil, would kill tender plants.

Looking at this harvester, you'd think this was a wheat field. It's rice, all right, gathered up in a wide pond that's been drained.
Looking at this harvester, you'd think this was a wheat field. It's rice, all right, gathered up in a wide pond that's been drained.

The ponds' earthen banks are also home to finger-sized shellfish called crawfish. And these mudbugs, as some call them, are about to become an even more important part of the region's seafood platters now that shrimp, oyster, and crab harvesting has been shut down in affected areas of the Gulf of Mexico.

From the air, much of South Louisiana still looks like a quilt dotted with picture frames. The frames are levees that hold in the water for paddies in which rice is grown. And it's from low-flying airplanes each spring that pilots sow the rice crop by tossing seeds from 900-kilo bags into the wind. The farmers call it flying the seeds.

Here's a single crawfish, or mudbug. It's considered a delicacy, both by Louisianans and their visitors and by the raccoons that steal them from traps in rice ponds.
Here's a single crawfish, or mudbug. It's considered a delicacy, both by Louisianans and their visitors and by the raccoons that steal them from traps in rice ponds.

In a dry spell, saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico can seep into Louisiana's aquifers.  So far, though, the oil hasn't reached very far inland, and saltwater has not seeped into the farmers' wells.

A rich harvest is by no means assured, however.

Troublesome red rice shoots can appear amid the preferred white rice. Piglet-sized rats called nutria can gnaw levee tunnels that drain entire rice fields overnight. 

Blackbirds by the thousands can descend and devour newly dropped seeds. Raccoons can turn over traps and eat every crawfish inside. A drought can begin at any moment. And low prices brought on by foreign competition can make the whole enterprise unprofitable.

In short, the Gulf oil spill might be the least of Louisiana rice farmers' worries right now.


You May Like

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid