Sugarcane crop predictions down from record year - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Sugarcane crop predictions down from record year

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Raceland, La. - Machines roar across the fields at Ellender Farms, hurrying to get all of the sugarcane in the ground.

"These are the planters that we use to put the stalks in, and they'll put them in the row," says Wallace Ellender.

Ellender's crews are a little behind on the planting this year because rain keeps slowing down the work. And the job must be finished soon.

The Raceland Sugar Mill opens in about two weeks, marking the beginning of harvest season. The weather needs to cooperate.

"We're always prayerful for a cool, dry fall because conditions make for a good harvest," says Ellender. "We're fearful of a wet, rainy fall because it makes conditions hard."

Mother Nature hasn't blessed the sugarcane like she did in 2012.

Even with Hurricane Isaac knocking down many plants, the state saw a record crop that produced 1.7 million tons of raw sugar.

The 2013 crop is a foot shorter than last year at this time.

"The first half of may was the coldest half of May on record," says Ken Gravois, sugarcane specialist for the LSU Ag Center. "So all that made for a crop with a lot of potential to just kind of fall short of that potential."

But farmers like Ellender remain optimistic.

His family has been planting and harvesting sugarcane for 160 years.

Ellender knows about the ups and downs and all the hard work it takes to make every harvest the best it can be.

"We have about a four-month period that we're 24-7, and I can't make many plans in the fall," he says.

Hopefully all those long hours will soon have a sweet return.

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