Rice Farmers Told To Be On Guard For Pests

Bruce Schultz  |  4/19/2005 10:29:21 PM

News Release Distributed 07/21/04 

MAMOU – Rice farmers are being advised not to let their guard down as pests continue to threaten their maturing crops.

Farmers got management updates on this year’s rice crop from LSU AgCenter experts during field tours last week (July 13 and July 15) in Acadia and Evangeline parishes.

LSU AgCenter plant pathologist Dr. Don Groth warned farmers that rice is vulnerable to blast disease, which could cut yield by up to 90 percent and affect milling quality.

The danger from blast occurs after rice has headed 50 percent to 70 percent, Groth said, but it can be treated with fungicides such as Gem, Quadris and Stratego.

Groth said recent rainy weather made conditions ripe for sheath blight.

Some bacterial diseases, such as bacterial leaf blight, are afflicting plants, too, but there are no treatments for those diseases, Groth said.

Keith Fontenot, an LSU AgCenter county agent in Evangeline Parish, also told farmers that rice stink bugs are becoming more widespread and are causing damage to maturing rice. The bugs are feeding more actively in the early morning and late afternoon, he said, so the most effective application of pesticides is made either late or early in the day.

Another LSU AgCenter county agent, Ron Levy of Acadia Parish, said whorl maggots, which first were incorrectly identified as leaf miners, are infesting some fields in Acadia, Jefferson Davis and Vermilion parishes.

To prevent some problems and help the crop, LSU AgCenter rice specialist Dr. Johnny Saichuk urged farmers to hold water in their fields as long as they can. Heavy clay soils should be drained three weeks prior to harvest, and fields with lighter soils can be drained later, he said.

As for other problems, Dr. Eric Webster, an LSU AgCenter weed scientist, said herbicides are available for most weeds, but some, such as Brook paspalum and Peruvian water grass, seem unaffected by spraying with chemicals.

Turning to the financial situation, LSU AgCenter economist Dr. Gene Johnson said indications are that the healthy rice market should continue, because China and India have produced less rice than they consumed last year.

"It could be a very good market if things stabilize," he said.

Currently, most rice sold in South America is from Thailand, and Saudi Arabia buys most of its rice from Thailand, he said. Brazil bought 5 million tons of U.S. rice last year, but that’s not expected this year, he said.

Johnson said the possibility exists for selling U.S. rice to Iraq later this year, and the decision will be made by the Iraqi Grain Board. Earlier this year, the United Nations Food Aid program bought Southeast Asian rice to fill a 160-ton order for Iraq, Johnson said.

American rice is more expensive, Johnson said, selling for roughly $415 a ton, compared to $230 a ton for Thai rice.

During the field days, farmers also heard an overview of rice varieties in development, and they saw several test plots at the farm of Kody and Larry Biebers.

Dr. Steve Linscombe, rice breeder and regional director for the LSU AgCenter in southwestern Louisiana, said a new version of Clearfield is in development. That variety could mature three to four days earlier, with more lodging resistance and better yield than Clearfield 161, he said.

The LSU AgCenter has experimental plots at the Acadia Parish field of Keith Rockett near Mowata. Linscombe, who also supervises the AgCenter’s Rice Research Station at Crowley, said that during heavy rainfall early in the summer, the new Clearfield plants were submerged and he was doubtful that the plants would survive.

"I wouldn’t have given you a plug nickel for them," he said. "As you can see, it has come back wonderfully."

LSU AgCenter plant physiologist Dr. Richard Dunand said heavy rainfall could interfere with pollination, which usually occurs for a few mid-day hours. Panicles may mature with uneven grain filling, he said.

Dr. Xueyan Sha, an LSU AgCenter rice breeder, said he also is developing an aromatic Jasmine variety that may be available next year for seed production, and Dr. Qi Ren Chu said he has 10 lines of long grain rice under development.

Linscombe said testing at the station continues on Liberty Link rice, a genetically modified variety resistant to the Liberty herbicide. The technology is proven and safe, he said, yet delays are blocking its commercial production. Public perception of transgenic crops is holding back the use of Liberty, he said.

"The big problem we have right now is acceptability," Linscombe said. "Every time we have a foot in the door, somebody slams it shut."

A Bayer CropScience representative said earlier this year that the corporation is attempting to get European Union approval for the transgenic rice, a process that could take two years.

Dr. Jason Bond, an LSU AgCenter agronomist, said research is being conducted at the station to test new products, including an additive to urea to inhibit breaking down of the fertilizer.

Research discussed Tuesday is partially funded by rice producers through checkoff funds administered by the Rice Research Board.

In other reports during the field days, LSU AgCenter soybean specialist Dr. David Lanclos said some acreage in the state’s soybean crop has been lost recently. Some farmers have replanted as many as three times because of excessive rainfall.

"Now we are having situations where farmers are abandoning fields," he said.

Heavy rainfall had been preventing insect pests from reproducing, Lanclos said, but with the current dry spell their populations will increase.

Hot weather also will increase aerial blight disease, he said.

Plants that grew during excess moisture developed shallow roots near the soil surface, Lanclos said, and that is leading to leaf scald problems. He said the remedy is to irrigate, using poly pipe.

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Writer: Bruce Schultz at (337) 788-8821 or bschultz@agcenter.lsu.edu

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