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Research station helps farmers achieve record yields

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CROWLEY, La. (KNOE 8 News/LSU AgCenter) – The threat of rain kept activities indoors at the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station’s 105th annual field day, but that didn’t dampen enthusiasm for the event Thursday (June 25) with roughly 400 people in attendance.

For the second year, LSU President F. King Alexander was at the event.

“This is truly one of the best research stations in the world,” Alexander said.

A record rice yield in Louisiana last year was achieved with the help of research, Alexander said.

Steve Linscombe, LSU AgCenter rice breeder and director of the Rice Research Station, said much of the work being conducted at the station is funded by a checkoff program that requires farmers to pay a 5-cent fee dedicated to research for every 100 pounds of rice sold.

“Certainly, if we didn’t have those monies, we wouldn’t have the size and scope of research that we have,” Linscombe said.

Jackie Loewer, chairman of the Louisiana Rice Research Board, which allocates the checkoff funds, said a lawsuit that led to changes in the checkoff program is still pending in court.

“Funding for rice research is in jeopardy,” Loewer warned. “The truth is, if we lose our court case, what you see here in the fields and the poster session may go away.”

The board had to use reserve funds to pay for research last year because the checkoff system was declared unconstitutional, Loewer said. Legislation passed this year and signed by the governor revised the checkoff program to pass legal muster.

Loewer presented a check for $634,000 to Bill Richardson, LSU vice president for agriculture, for funding rice research projects.

Loewer credited state Rep. Jack Montoucet, of Crowley, for getting the checkoff legislation passed.

“The truth is, I didn’t do this by myself,” Montoucet said, explaining that several agricultural groups and other legislators were involved.

The new checkoff system includes a refund provision, but Montoucet implored farmers to continue investing in rice research “at a world-class research facility.”

“Shame on you if you don’t participate,” Montoucet said.

Presenters at the field day talked about their work to develop new varieties, help farmers with fertilizers and contend with weeds, diseases and insects, in addition to an outlook on the rice market. Scientists from the University of Arkansas and Mississippi State University also were on the program.

Linscombe said a new Clearfield medium-grain variety CL271, released by the LSU AgCenter last year, has potential to replace CL261 with higher yields and good blast resistance.

A considerable amount of work has been done on the herbicide-tolerant Provisia system of rice from BASF. “The beauty of this system is that it will be able to control outcrosses from the Clearfield system,” Linscombe said.

LSU AgCenter weed scientist Eric Webster said he has been testing the Provisia herbicide to see if it is compatible to use in tank mixes with broadleaf herbicides. He said no adverse effects have been found in tank mixes at the Rice Research Station, but problems have been found on heavy clay soil at the Northeast Research Station near St. Joseph.

University of Arkansas weed scientist Bob Scott said herbicide resistance in weeds treated with herbicides used in the Clearfield system has not been the problem anticipated 10 years ago in Arkansas. He said the bigger problem facing Arkansas rice farmers is barnyardgrass that has become resistant to propanil herbicide. Sedges are also starting to show herbicide resistance, Scott said.

LSU AgCenter entomologist Mike Stout said monitoring continues on the eastward spread of the Mexican rice borer. He said the insect population in Calcasieu and Cameron parishes has caused damage to some rice crops.

LSU AgCenter plant pathologist Clayton Hollier said fungicide timing changes with late planting. “If we are planting late, we need to treat earlier,” he said.

Hollier advised an application between panicle initiation and early boot if a crop is planted late.

LSU AgCenter plant pathologist Don Groth said varieties eventually lose resistance, but new varieties are showing stronger resistance traits. That means fungicide applications may not always be required, but it also means farmers will have to scout their fields closely instead of assuming fungicides will be needed.

LSU AgCenter agronomist Dustin Harrell talked about how farmers can use inhibitors with nitrogen fertilizers. But he said using a urease inhibitor like Agrotain with nitrogen applied to a flooded field provides no benefit.

LSU AgCenter hybrid breeder Jim Oard said work continues at the station to develop rice hybrids. “I believe the potential for future of hybrids in Louisiana is quite good,” he said.

Yields of four hybrid lines developed by the LSU AgCenter are 10-20 percent higher than inbred varieties, and quality is good, Oard said.

LSU AgCenter economist Mike Salassi said the 500,000-acre increase in Arkansas to roughly 1.5 million acres of long-grain rice this year will drive prices down. Projections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture call for long-grain prices to fall to $21.50 a barrel or $13.50 a hundredweight, Salassi said, while medium-grain prices could stay at $25 a barrel or $15.40 per hundredweight.

Farmers should be preparing to make several decisions related to the new farm bill, Salassi said.

Bob Cummings of the USA Rice Federation said an investigation by the U.S. International Trade Commission is studying factors affecting the U.S. rice industry. Governments in countries such as Vietnam and Brazil are giving farmers subsidies that help keep their prices lower than U.S. rice, he said.

The Iraqi Grain Board has agreed to buy 30,000 metric tons of American rice, Cummings said, and most of that will be from Louisiana.

Rogers Leonard, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor for plant sciences, said the field day recognizes the world-wide importance of the Rice Research Station, and he said Linscombe is “the glue holding this place together.”

Leonard advised farmers that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will hold a listening session on July 9 at 11:30 a.m. to get comments from farmers on the potential effects of revisions to the Clean Water Act. The session will be held at the Acadia Parish Extension Office on Cherokee Drive in Crowley.

The Louisiana Rice Research Board and Louisiana Rice Promotion Board met after the field day.

The LRRB re-elected Loewer as chairman, Clarence Berken as vice chairman and Richard Fontenot as secretary. The board also agreed to hear research proposals on Nov. 4.

 

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