Medium-Grain Rice Acreage Up in Louisiana

Steven Linscombe  |  3/16/2015 9:33:01 PM

Jupiter rice variety – the most commonly grown medium grain in the southern U.S.

    Louisiana rice producers grew a higher percentage of acres of medium-grain rice varieties in 2014 than had been grown in many years. This was primarily due to a significant premium offered for medium grain for the 2014 crop. This premium was mainly related to a large reduction in California rice acreage in 2014 because of water shortages (down to 400,000 acres in 2014 from 550,000 in 2013). California rice producers grow primarily medium-grain types. California is still facing significant water shortages, and the Louisiana medium-grain acreage will be up again in 2015. However, it does not appear that the premium for medium grain will be near as great in 2015. This is primarily due to a significant increase in medium-grain planting intentions in Arkansas.

    Louisiana rice growers have recently grown primarily long-grain varieties and hybrids and, prior to 2014, have only grown a limited amount of medium-grain types. The grain types are differentiated by grain shape as well as cereal chemistry characteristics. Amylose is a type of glucose that makes up the starch contained in a rice grain. Typically, the long-grain types produced here will have an amylose content between 21-25 percent of the total makeup of the milled rice grain. Conversely, a medium-grain type will normally have an amylose content of 13-16 percent. 

    Another important grain characteristic is referred to as gelatinization temperature. This is the temperature at which a cooking rice grain will change texture to a softer gel-like substance. Long grains exhibit an intermediate to a high gelatinization temperature, while medium grains show a low one. These characteristics cause long grains to cook drier and flakier and medium grains to cook softer and sticker. Some consumers prefer the cooking characteristic of long grains, while others prefer medium-grain types. Across the United States, long-grain types dominate milled rice sales as this is the grain type preferred by most U.S. consumers. The southern U.S. rice production (approximately 2.5 million acres) is predominated by long-grain production, while California’s production has historically been predominated by medium-grain types. 

    In addition to consumer preference, the different cooking characteristics of the two grain types affect their suitability for certain food manufacturing processes. An example is the cereal industry. Most puffed rice products are made with medium-grain types. Other types of cereals typically use long-grain rice in their production. This preference is a matter of how the cereal chemistry characteristics of the grain type perform under the different processing operations. Another example is the use of rice for beer production. Some brewing is set up for the use of medium-grain types, while others use long grains. 

    Louisiana has not always been predominated by long-grain production. In the early 1980s, the state was producing approximately 65 percent medium grains and 35 percent long grains. By the mid 1990s, this had reversed to 65 percent long grains and 35 percent medium grains. For the 10-year period prior to 2014, the state produced less than 5 percent medium grains. 

    Several factors contributed to this shift. A major one is the fact that 30 years ago the medium-grain varieties available had better yield potential and disease resistance than the available long grains. Rice breeders released several superior long-grain types that reversed this difference, and soon the long grains yields were comparable with or superior to the medium grains being grown. Market dynamics also changed. Historically, a great deal of the rice produced in Louisiana has been exported, and over the years, some of the markets that preferred medium grains became less important, while those that preferred long grains became more important. There were also some shifts in demand for the different grain types by U.S. food manufacturing companies. 

    Louisiana producers will plant three different medium-grain varieties this year. Most of the acreage will be in Jupiter (released in 2005). A more limited amount of acreage will be planted in Caffey (released in 2011) and CL271, a Clearfield medium grain released in 2014. Because many producers have not grown a medium-grain variety for a number of years, we have received a number of questions regarding medium-grain production both this year and last. The bottom line is that basically, there is little difference between production practices for the two grain types. Seeding rates are similar as well as fertilizer requirements. While medium grains typically have a higher level of resistance to sheath blight disease than long grains, in most cases, a fungicide application will be recommended to optimize production. Another consideration is second-crop production. Typically, medium grains are not as high yielding or consistent in the production of a second crop in southwest Louisiana, where this is a common practice. However, a successful second crop can be produced with any of the three available medium-grain varieties. 

    For additional information on all rice varieties, as well as other production tips, consult the LSU AgCenter publication 2015 Rice Varieties and Management Tips (#2270) available at your local extension office or on the LSU AgCenter website; www.lsuagcenter.com.

This project was partially supported by USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Permission granted March 15, 2015 by B. Leonards (LA Farm & Ranch) to republish article on www.lsuagcenter.com.
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