Off-Station Rice Research in Louisiana

Steven Linscombe  |  4/16/2012 7:29:08 PM

Planting in Jeff Davis Parish

The rice crop in southwest Louisiana appears to be off to a good start with good conditions for planting and early seedling growth. Our salt water issues relating to last year’s drought have been alleviated with the abundant rainfall in the region since early January. As of April 2, the Rice Research Station had received 23.70 inches of rain in 2012. This total was not reached until July 18 in 2011. Many areas in the region have received considerably more rain than this. In spite of the rain, most rice planting areas have had long enough periods of dry weather to allow for drill and dry broadcast seeding. A substantial acreage in the region was also water-seeded this year. As of this writing (early April), most of the research areas, as well as all of the foundation seed fields, have been planted at the Rice Station. In addition, several of our off-station research locations also have been planted.

These off-station research locations are critical to our research efforts. They are planted in rice farmers’ fields and are basically miniature research stations. In most cases, we have independent flooding and drainage capabilities. This allows us to flood and drain fields independently of the farmer’s crop in adjacent fields. While these research areas are sometimes seeded into a stale or no-till seedbed, typically, the farmer will work the area to be planted. We will then transport all of our research planting equipment to the site and plant the trials just as we do on the research station. At harvest time, we transport our small plot combines and harvest these trials just as if they were located on the station.

In 2012, we will have off-station research in seven parishes – Acadia (R&Z Farm), Evangeline (Bieber Farm),Franklin (Owen Farm), Jeff Davis (Hoppe Farm), St. Landry (Sunland Properties), Vermilion (Lounsberry Farm) and West Carroll (Fairchild Farm). Rice research has been conducted at some of the farms for many years. For example, 2012 will mark the 28th consecutive year at the Lounsberry farm site and the 18th consecutive year at the Hoppe Farm site. The Acadia, Evangeline and Jeff Davis sites are coordinated by the rice breeding project while the Franklin, St. Landry and West Carroll sites are coordinated by the rice agronomy project. The Vermilion location is shared between the two projects.

These off-stations sites are extremely valuable for rice research efforts. For example, the breeding project has a Commercial-Advanced (CA) yield trial at most locations. The CA trial has 60 lines, including released varieties as well as advanced experimental pure-lines and hybrids, from breeding work at the station. Having these lines tested at multiple locations greatly enhances our ability to determine the yield, milling and overall agronomic performance of newer varieties as well as the experimental lines. This is invaluable information as we decide which newer varieties will be recommended to Louisiana rice producers, as well as which experimental lines have good potential to be released as new varieties or hybrids in the future. This allows for evaluating these lines under multiple environments, which provides variation in soil types, disease pressure, planting dates and general differences in overall growing conditions. Through the years, these off-station sites have shown us that we cannot rely totally on the performance of a rice line on the Rice Station. Sometimes a line will consistently perform well here on the station but not so well at some of the off-station sites. These multiple locations also provide good information on performance stability. Some lines may do extremely well at some locations in some years but not nearly as well in other environments. Whereas other lines may seldom or never be the best performer in any trials but have consistently good and stable performance.

These multiple locations are important in evaluating fertilizer needs for new varieties. These locations vary from very light textured soils in southwest Louisiana to heavy clays in the central and northeast rice growing areas. These trials help in evaluating the nitrogen requirement of varieties over different soil types.

Another dividend of these off-station sites are the field days associated with most of the locations. Through the efforts of extension agents and local grower groups, parish and regional field days are held at most of these research locations each year. This allows growers and others to view the latest in new rice research technology under the growing conditions of their production area.

This off-station research is only possible because of funding provided by rice producers through check-off funds administered by the Louisiana Rice Research Board. Louisiana rice farmers recently overwhelmingly approved a five-year continuation of the valuable research funding program. This program has been in existence for more than 40 years and has led to numerous new varieties and technologies that have helped keep the Louisiana rice industry economically viable. The equally important rice promotion check-off was recently approved for continuation as well by a large majority of rice producers.

Latest updates from the Rice Research Station are available on Facebook. Search for LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station and “like” the page. The annual Rice Research Station Field Day is scheduled for June 28. The first field tours will roll at 7:15 a.m. After a tour, participants will have an opportunity to visit an extensive poster display area and displays of the latest new rice production equipment. The main speaker program will begin at 10:45 a.m. and the program will conclude with a sponsored lunch. Please mark your calendar and join us on that day.

Permisssion granted April 15, 2012 by B. Leonards to republish article on http://www.lsuagcenter.com/.

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