Off-Station Trials Important to Rice Industry

Steven Linscombe  |  4/10/2008 9:04:46 PM

Off-Station site in Vermilion Parish

Rice research scientists from the LSU AgCenter conduct many research projects at locations other than the Rice Research Station near Crowley. These off-station sites are located throughout the rice-growing regions of the state. These trials are conducted in cooperation with rice farmers who provide land, irrigation water and many other services. They also are patient in dealing with some of the idiosyncrasies associated with small plot research activities.

In 2008, these off-station trials will be conducted at four locations in southwest Louisiana: Jimmy Hoppe’s farm south of Fenton in Jeff Davis Parish, Kent Lounsberry’s farm south of Lake Arthur in western Vermilion Parish, Kody and Larry Beiber’s farm west of Mamou in Evangeline Parish, and R&Z Farms (Keith Rockett, Dwayne and Doug Zaunbrecher) east of Mowata in Acadia Parish. In addition, two locations will be planted in Richland Parish in north Louisiana, Elliot Colvin’s farm north of Rayville and Woodsland Plantation southeast of Monroe. These sites are normally between 2 and 6 acres.

These sites are treated as miniature research stations. The site must have independent flooding and draining capabilities. This will allow us to flush, flood or drain the research area without affecting the producer’s adjacent fields. The farmer prepares the seedbed in the research area for drill-seeding. Then we travel to the site with the same small plot planting equipment we use at the Rice Research Station. Seed for each plot is weighed and packaged in the lab over the winter and laid out in a logical planting order before traveling to the off-station site.

The field is squared off and laid out for planting, and the planting operation itself is normally completed within 2 to 3 hours. After planting, the site is managed similarly to sites on the research station. This includes water management (flushing, flooding and drainage as appropriate) and proper fertilization, as well as weed, insect and disease control. Often, fertilization and pest control treatments may be part of the research studies so care must be taken to avoid jeopardizing these treatments when managing the rest of the research area.

Researchers visit these sites often (once or twice a week at a minimum) to take notes and collect data and make management decisions. As the rice approaches maturity, these visits become more frequent because each plot will have a hand-harvested sample removed at harvest maturity for milling and other quality analyses. When all plots have reached harvest maturity, we travel to the site with our small plot combine used to harvest each plot. We then record the weight, grain moisture and test weight for later comparisons. At some south Louisiana locations, the research area is fertilized and re-flooded after harvest to generate ratoon (second) crop data.

These off-station sites are invaluable to our research effort. One good example is in new variety development. Typically, all of the early generation selection and advancement, as well as preliminary yield testing of breeding lines, are conducted either at the Rice Research Station or at the winter nursery facility in Puerto Rico. However, as lines move into advanced testing prior to potential release, these off-station testing sites provide excellent information on the stability of these lines. Stability refers to the ability of lines to perform consistently over a number of different environments, which are provided by the different soil types and disease pressure regimes, as well as general growing conditions at these various sites. We have had a number of experimental lines through the years that looked very good at tests here on the station. However, evaluating these same lines at the off-station sites allowed us to discover inherent characteristics that warranted a decision not to release. On the other hand, consistent superior performance over locations and years by a potential release can corroborate data produced on the research station and help justify a variety release. In addition to variety development, typical areas of research conducted at these off-station sites include fertility and agronomic studies, as well as disease, insect and weed control work.

County agents are vital to the success of our research program. They are instrumental in locating cooperating farmers, as well as helping in the planting, data collection and harvesting of the research sites. In addition, most locations serve as the venue for a parish or area field days, which are coordinated by the agent. These field days are well-attended and allow producers to see new technology in a farmer-oriented setting.

Some of these cooperators have exhibited great perseverance in working with researchers on off-station research. For example, 2008 marks the 24th year this work has been conducted on the Lounsberry Farm in Vermilion Parish and the 14th year for these studies on the Hoppe Farm in Jeff Davis Parish.

Permission granted by B. Leonards (LA Farm & Ranch) on April 2, 2008 to republish article on www.lsuagcenter.com

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