Bruce Schultz | 7/2/2005 2:59:42 AM
CROWLEY – Farmers from across South Louisiana who attended the LSU AgCenter’s Rice Research Station Field Day Thursday (June 30) got a first-hand look at new techniques and new technology.
Farmers got briefings at the station on new insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, prospective varieties, Asian soybean rust and an irrigation technique new for Louisiana.
Much of the work discussed by the scientists has resulted from funding by farmers who voluntarily pay a checkoff fee on their rice crops to fund projects chosen by the Louisiana Rice Research Board.
Also at the event, the rice industry honored Dr. Charlie Bollich for his work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop popular varieties of rice such as Lemont and Labelle.
Genetic material in every long-grain rice variety developed at the LSU AgCenter’s Rice Research Station since 1991 can be traced back to Bollich’s work, according to Branch rice farmer Jackie Loewer, who made the presentation on behalf of several rice industry organizations.
Bollich is originally from Mowata, and he worked at the Rice Research Station before moving to Texas, where he worked for more than 30 years.
He is retired and now lives in Beaumont, "But Crowley is in my heart," he said.
Farmers also heard that key decisions will be made soon on Capitol Hill that will affect their livelihoods.
"We’re at a critical juncture in agricultural policy," remarked Johnny Broussard, director for legislative affairs and communications for the USA Rice Federation.
Broussard said Sept. 16 is the deadline for congressional committees to submit proposed cuts for programs with mandatory spending, and it’s anticipated that significant cuts will be recommended for agriculture.
"So we’ve got a lot of work left in a short amount of time," he said. "We’ve been told not to expect to know much until a few days before Sept. 16."
Broussard said major trade issues also are under consideration, including the Central American Free Trade Agreement. CAFTA was ratified Thursday in the Senate, and it is expected to be debated in the House in July.
Proposals also are being considered in Congress to ease trade restrictions with Cuba.
Dr. Michael Salassi, an LSU AgCenter economist, delivered a mixed bag of news. He said rice stocks are 66 percent more than last year, and they are the highest since 1993.
The USDA’s 2005 rice crop projection calls for 5.5 million hundredweight less than last year’s crop, Salassi said, but the price probably will remained depressed because the supply on hand is 4 percent more than last year.
Domestic rice consumption has increased, and the 2005 exports of 121 million hundredweight – a 14 percent increase over last year – would be the second highest ever, Salassi said. The amount probably increased because the U.S. price has become more competitive with rice from Thailand, he said.
But Salassi said cuts on Capitol Hill could amount to $3 billion during the next five years.
In other comments, Dr. Bill Richardson, chancellor of the LSU AgCenter, credited farmers and the Southwest Louisiana legislative delegation for support the AgCenter during the recent legislative session.
"A lot of people do not understand the value of agriculture in the state economy," he said.
Dr. Paul Coreil, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor for extension, also explained that local school boards and police jurors help fund parish extension offices. And Dr. David Boethel, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor for research, said cooperation between scientists and county agents is a big help for farmers.
During the field tour that was part of the day’s events, Dr. Boris Castro, an LSU AgCenter entomologist, said several new products could be available soon in the fight against rice water weevils.
Castro said coating fertilizer with Mustang Max and Karate shows promise.
"We’re very excited about the results we are getting," Castro said.
Etofenprox, a product from the Japanese chemical company Mitsui, has demonstrated good potential to control rice water weevils, he said. Unlike the others on the market, the chemical is not a pyrethroid, so it would offer diversity for farmers, he said.
Tests on the granular chemical Dinotefuran also are promising, Castro said, and farmers would have a large leeway of when they could use the pesticide. Its effectiveness appears to be equal to or better than Furadan.
Dr. Mo Way, Texas A&M entomologist, said stink bug problems are increasing in Texas. Some farmers had to apply insecticides four to six times last year, he said.
Way demonstrated a simple tool used in a study by Texas A&M graduate student Luis Espino to determine if insect populations have reached the threshold that would require spraying. He said a sweep stick, a long pole with 15 inches of its length painted in orange, is better and quicker than using a net.
The orange end of the stick is waved horizontally through rice panicles and the insects are counted, he said. Only two or three passes with the stick are needed to get a good sampling, he said.
In another presentation, Dr. Eric Webster, an LSU AgCenter weed scientist, advised farmers not to use the herbicide Clincher on dry rice fields.
"If you’re walking in the field and not getting mud on your boots, don’t spray," Webster said.
Dr. Jim Oard, LSU AgCenter agronomy professor, also reported he’s continuing a study to determine outcrossing of red rice in fields where herbicide-resistant Clearfield rice has been used.
"Our data indicate it will occur at low rates," he said.
Outcrossing is inevitable, he said, but growers can reduce the likelihood by using the full rate of Newpath herbicide, always rotating Clearfield with another crop or letting land go fallow, and scouting for red rice early.
Oard said he’s examining commercial rice fields where Clearfield has been grown on previous occasions to find out if outcrossing has increased or decreased.
"We’re trying to prolong the utility of this technology for the farmer," Oard said.
Turning to effects of this year’s weather, Dr. Don Groth, an LSU AgCenter plant pathologist at the Rice Research Station, said this year’s dry weather has not been good for testing of fungicides.
"Dry weather is probably the best fungicide we have," he said. "It dries up the lesions and the sheath blight stops growing."
Clayton Hollier, LSU AgCenter pathologist, reminded farmers that fungicides don’t increase yields but rather that they only protect a crop’s yield potential. But he said the chemistry must be used before diseases get out of hand.
Also during the field day, LSU AgCenter rice breeders Drs. Steve Linscombe, Xueyan Sha and Qi Re also discussed new varieties that may be approved for release this year, as well as the varieties Trenasse, Jupiter and Clearfield 131 that were released for seed production last year.
Linscombe said the transgenic, herbicide-resistant rice Liberty, which was developed through work conducted at the Rice Research Station in conjunction with Bayer Crop Science, would be a good companion variety for Clearfield if it is placed on the market.
"We hope that is sooner, rather than later," he said.
Linscombe said this year the 1 billionth acre of transgenic crops was planted, but ironically Liberty hasn’t been made available to farmers because companies that use rice in their products are reluctant to accept it, even though U.S. government agencies have approved the variety and Liberty herbicide.
"I’m hopeful there will be a limited release in two or three years," he said.
As for Asian soybean rust, Allen Hogan, an LSU AgCenter county agent in Jefferson Davis Parish, told farmers that a Brazilian scientist, who is the foremost expert on the disease, will give a presentation at 1 p.m. July 7 at the LSU AgCenter’s Dean Lee Research Station near Alexandria. Hogan said as of Thursday (June 30), no case of Asian soybean rust has been confirmed in the state.
Dr. David Lanclos, LSU AgCenter soybean specialist, said Louisiana farmers have probably planted more than 700,000 acres of soybeans. A price spike probably prompted some reluctant farmers to plant, he said.
Farmers also saw a demonstration of polyethylene pipe being used for irrigation. The method is used throughout Missouri and Arkansas. The plastic is sold in large rolls and laid out to put water on several fields at once. Thursday’s demonstration used 15-inch pipe of a 10-mill thickness.
Earl Vories, an agricultural engineer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said poly pipe eliminates a lot of guess work in flooding a field. He said the old method of flooding a top field and letting the water trickle down to the lower fields is difficult and that a mistake can be costly.
"You don’t want to guess wrong and run out of water, and burn up the bottom of a field," he said.
So that usually means farmers waste water making sure they have enough to cover all their fields, Vories said, adding that poly pipe has reduced water consumption by 24 percent in Arkansas.
Writer: Bruce Schultz at (337) 788-8821 or firstname.lastname@example.org