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Burn ban changes are good news for sugarcane harvest season

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PAINCOURTVILLE - Drought conditions have not improved, but the state is easing off the burn ban. It's coming just in time for one of the state's largest crops, sugar cane.

There are more than 500,000 acres of the sweet crop statewide. Burning the crop after it's harvested is now allowed, even with the burn ban still in effect. It's something farmers say is needed, as if they do not burn the crop, it will start to regrow and make things more difficult next season.

"We burn for many reasons, one of the reasons, if you leave the leafy matter material on top the row, you'll have an extremely high yield reduction. In the spring, it will retain moisture so you can't cultivate it in the spring," Lance Gaudet, president of Woods Farms LLC said.

On Thursday, the sugarcane harvester combines were quiet at the Woods Farms, but this time next week, Gaudet says things will be rolling.

"The process starts with us getting in the field, cutting it, delivering it to the mill," Gaudet said. "Hopefully we got good sugar, we'll continue that process for 90 days this year."

State burn ban changes now allow farmers to complete the entire harvest process faster, and that includes burning the crop. The one exception is standing sugar cane, as under the burn ban, standing sugar cane crops can not be lit on fire. For Gaudet, that doesn't impact his work.

"There's more of a chance of fire getting into another block, so we don't burn any cane standing right now, the machines we have, we have the ability to harvest the cane without burning," Gaudet said.

Gaudet says they will keep the dry conditions in mind as they burn the crops.

"We look at wind direction, we look at areas around where we are burning to see if there are areas that will get effected, from there we have a plan we make, if all the boxes check, we go ahead and do the burn," Gaudet said.

Individual parishes are allowed to call off the burn ban. So far, none have done so.

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