Rotational Ponds Used In Crawfish Aquaculture

The most common rotational pond systems are rice-crawfishrice, rice-crawfish-soybeans, and rice-crawfish-fallow. In the ricecrawfish- rice crop rotation, both rice and crawfish crops are harvested annually. This is commonly referred to as double cropping.

In  the rice-crawfish-soybeans rotation, farmers produce three different crops in 2 years. In the ricecrawfish- fallow rotation, farmers leave the field fallow between rotations to control weeds and prevent crawfish overpopulation.

In this system, crawfish are produced in different physical locations from year to year. Well managed crawfish rotation systems use farm resources efficiently, diversify production, and add income for many farm families.

However, maximum production from each crop usually is not achievable. Some management compromise is necessary from one or all crops.

Rice-Crawfish-Rice:

Rice fields are the most readily adaptable areas for crawfish culture. The rice farmer can use the same land, equipment, pumps and farm labor that are already in place. After the grain is harvested, the remaining stubble is fertilized, flooded and allowed to re-grow.

This ratoon crop is the forage base for crawfish production. Maximum crawfish production is sometimes compromised because rice culture takes precedence over crawfish production. For example, rice production often requires the use of pesticides and different water management than is optimal for crawfish.

These ponds are usually drained in early spring (March 1 to April 1) so that rice can be replanted. This shortens the crawfish harvest season 1 to 2 months and reduces potential crawfish yield. A typical time-table is as follows:

  • March – April: Plant rice.
  • June: At permanent flood (rice 8 to 10 inches high), stock 40 to 50 pounds of adult crawfish per acre.
  • August: Drain field and harvest rice.
  • October: Re-flood rice field.
  • December – April: Harvest crawfish.
  • March – April: Drain pond and replant rice (restocking of crawfish may or may not be necessary).

Rice-Crawfish-Soybeans:

This rotation allows for the production of three different crops in 2 years while offering the advantage of better weed and disease control than rice-crawfish-rice rotation. It also has the  advantage of a longer crawfish harvest season. Pesticide use may limit crawfish production in this rotation. A typical timetable is as follows:

  • March – April: Plant rice.
  • June: Stock 40 to 50 pounds of adult crawfish per acre at permanent flood.
  • August: Drain field and harvest rice.
  • October: Re-flood rice field.
  • December – May: Harvest crawfish.
  • Late May – June: Drain pond and plant soybeans.
  • October – November: Harvest soybeans.
  • November – March: Re-flood pond and harvest crawfish (or leave field fallow).
  • March – April: Plant rice (restocking of crawfish is probably necessary).

Rice-Crawfish-Fallow:

This rotation allows the farmer to leave the land fallow for a certain period to break the natural cycle of weeds and crop diseases. Fallowing also prevents crawfish overpopulation. This system allows for optimum production of both crops, but requires more land and reduces potential income. A typical timetable is as follows:

  • March – April: Plant rice.
  • June: Stock 40 to 50 pounds of adult crawfish per acre at permanent flood.
  • August: Drain pond and harvest rice.
  • October: Re-flood rice field.
  • December – June/July: Harvest crawfish.
  • July: Drain pond.
  • August – March: Fallow.
  • March – April: Plant rice.

 

Authors:

W. Ray McClain , Jimmy L. Avery and Robert P. Romaire