Station in 1911
Field Day Exhibit
Plowing and Leveling
Aerially Spraying Field
The Louisiana Rice Experiment Station was established in the spring of 1909 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, after farmers saw the need for improved varieties adapted for southwest Louisiana and needed help with growing the crop in the Gulf Coast conditions.
Eventually, the USDA phased out its role at the station, now run entirely by the LSU AgCenter, and the station would be renamed the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station. Rice farming on a widespread commercial basis in Louisiana began in the late 19th Century. The need for a research facility was realized to develop new varieties adapted for the Gulf Coast. “They were using some of the same varieties such as Carolina Gold for example that had been used for almost 200 years,” said Dr. Steve Linscombe, director of the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station. Linscombe pointed out that the wheat practices and equipment from the Midwestern grain states were adopted in Louisiana. Also, farmers from northern grain states relocated to Louisiana upon learning that their agricultural practices and experience could be used to grow rice. Many farmers in Louisiana had turned to rice after sugar prices crashed in the 1800s. Louisiana rice production went from 1.5 million pounds in 1864 to more than 40 million pounds by 1877, according to the March 1932 issue of “Rice Journal.”
By the late 1800s, developers were advertising land for sale in southwest
In the early 1900s, more
The USDA report detailed the origins of the new station at its original site west of Crowley: “A substation for rice culture was established at Crowley, and work was begun during the spring of 1909. The station is conducted in cooperation with this department. Local parties gave 60 acres of land for the use of the station and subscribed $3,500 for buildings. The legislature authorized its establishment by an act passed July 1, 1908, but no appropriation for the purpose was made at the time. F.C. Quereau was called from the
Dr. H. Rouse Caffey, former LSU AgCenter chancellor worked at the research facility from 1962 until 1970. Before Caffey’s death in 2012, he recalled the early days of his career at the station. “When I came to the rice station, they had just moved the rice station from West of Crowley to the east of Crowley on 719 acres of land. The old station west of town just had been relegated to rice pastures and beef cattle work.”
He said he started doing research work in northeast Louisiana after some efforts were initiated to get a rice research facility in that part of the state. “So, I started out field testing in East Carroll Parish, testing varieties, dates of planting, fertilizer, weed control, and insect studies, and that went on throughout my time; and it has served the people of northeast Louisiana very well.” Caffey suggests that the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station became the best facility worldwide. “And I’ve visited the international stations,” Caffey said. “I’ve visited IRRI (International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines); I’ve visited Chinese rice research centers; I’ve visited Arkansas, Texas, and Mississippi; and I’m convinced that the work in Louisiana stands above all the rest; and that’s because of the continued improvement of technologies by good researchers who are dedicated towards serving their Louisiana rice industry.” As an example, Caffey points out the first disease-resistant rice variety, Saturn, was developed by Dr. Nelson Jodon at the station. Jodon is considered a pioneer in the use of genetic markers for rice breeding.
The practice of water leveling was perfected at the station in the 1960s. Any major insecticide or fungicide labeled for use in the southern U.S. was tested thoroughly at the station, including propanil that allowed rice breeders to develop shorter rice less susceptible to lodging.
The station had a herd of cattle until 1990 to replicate growing conditions of farmers who are also in beef production.
“All of these advancements are designed to help farmers remain competitive and economically viable,” Linscombe said.