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

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More