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Outliers Push for Reducing Tillage on Louisiana’s Cajun Prairie

Tillage is everywhere in Louisiana in spring, but two farmers hope that could change.

Driving around south-central Louisiana in March could probably make an ardent no-tiller break out in hives

Tillage is everywhere. Many rice growers use a process called “laser leveling,” in which producers use lasers to guide soil shaping to flatten out the basins that will hold water during growing season. 

A rotation of rice and crawfish is common on the Cajun Prairie, a triangle-shaped prairie region of southwest Louisiana.

Crawfish trap anchors offer a window onto how tillage has compacted the soil, says Justin Fuselier, who farms and ranches outside of Eunice, La.

“They have a little 3/16-inch metal rod that sticks out about 7 or 8 inches and runs all the way up to the handle,” he says. “You stick the rod in the ground, and it anchors it. Sometimes you can’t even stab that rod in a flooded field. How’s that for compaction?”

Amid widespread conventional tillage practices of the Prairie, Fuselier and his neighbor, Jody Sittig, stand out. 

The Rice-Capades

In wetland rice cultivation, fields are typically tilled, then planted in spring, then flooded once the rice has reached a certain development, then drained and harvested. To keep the water around the rice plants, fields are surrounded by berms, which require periodic refreshing. Once the rice has been harvested, the remainder is used for foraging crawfish typically in the fall, which are collected by traps the following spring. 

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FIELD STUDY. Justin Fuselier examines fields sporting the remnants of sprayed-down covers in Jodi Sittig’s rice field near Eunice, La.,

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Brian o connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor started at Lessiter Media as the Lead Content Editor for Conservation Agriculture in November 2021. He previously worked in daily print journalism for more than a decade in places as far flung as Alaska and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where he shared a national award for coverage of two Category 5 hurricanes that struck the islands in 2017. He's also taught English in Korea, delivered packages for Amazon, and coordinated Wisconsin election night coverage for the Associated Press. His first job was on a Southeast Wisconsin farm.

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