LSU AgCenter researchers receive awards at rice meeting

Bruce Schultz  |  12/13/2016 9:58:31 PM

(12/12/16) MEMPHIS – Steve Linscombe of the LSU AgCenter received the Rice Industry Award at the 2016 USA Rice Outlook Conference recently (Dec. 7-9) for his work as rice breeder and director of the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station.

Richard Fontenot of Evangeline Parish was recognized as Rice Farmer of the Year.

Linscombe has worked for the LSU AgCenter for 34 years, and his breeding work has resulted in 24 new varieties.

Linscombe said breeders get the credit for new variety releases, but the accomplishments result from the work of a good support staff. “There’s a lot of people we work with at the LSU AgCenter and the Rice Research Station who deserve a lot of credit.”

Linscombe also thanked his wife Judy for her patience and support.

He said the cooperative research between the LSU AgCenter and universities in other U.S. rice-producing states is essential to making progress for rice farmers.

Linscombe said the Louisiana check-off system that funds research and promotion is vital to his work and the Louisiana rice industry. “Our rice leadership has really stepped up to the plate to make sure those research and promotion funds drive our programs well into the future.”

Bill Richardson, LSU vice president for agriculture, said Linscombe’s work has placed the Rice Research Station at the forefront of international rice research.

“Dr. Linscombe’s strong leadership and vision have developed the Rice Research Station into one of the world’s most important sites for applied rice research and education,” Richardson said. “His contributions to the rice industry over three decades have served to increase crop yields and grain quality while improving the sustainability of the rice production system.”

Fontenot, winner of the Rice Farmer of the Year award, said 2016 has been a difficult year for most rice farmers. He thanked his wife Rhonda and son Lance for their support, and he said his success at farming results from working with his father Bryan and brother Neal on their farm near Vidrine. In addition to rice, the Fontenots farm crawfish, soybeans, cattle and hay.

Fontenot was recognized in 2008 as the Louisiana Farmer of the Year, and he received the 2015 Distinguished Service Award from the Louisiana Rice Council. He is secretary-treasurer of the Louisiana Rice Research Board and is active in the Louisiana Farm Bureau and American Farm Bureau.

Fontenot said the U.S. rice industry relies on farmers and others in the rice industry who work together, especially during difficult crop years such as 2016.

“As a team both on our farm with my brother and father and with this fantastic staff of USA Rice, we’ve been better able to overcome the difficult year to face 2017,” Fontenot said. “We are all team members of the U.S. rice industry and for that I’m proud, and it’s one of the reasons I’ve done the advocacy work that I do.”

Rogers Leonard, LSU AgCenter associate vice president for plants, soils and water resources, said Fontenot is deserving of the recognition for his work in the field and in organizations.

“He is one of the early adopters of the LSU AgCenter’s best management practices for rice and soybean production in his region of Louisiana and he offers tremendous support to our research and extension programs,” Leonard said. “His leadership and association with Louisiana’s farmer organizations have helped to guide agricultural policy in our state.”

Also at the conference, Scott Manley with Ducks Unlimited received the Distinguished Conservation Award, and Arkansas farmer Gary Sebree was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. The awards are sponsored by Horizon Ag, Rice Farming magazine and USA Rice.

Three Louisiana farmers, Scott Franklin, of Rayville; Ross Thibodeaux, of Midland; and Alan Lawson, of Crowley, were among the seven selections for the 28th Rice Leadership Class. Also chosen for the class were Jarrod Hardke, of Arkansas; David Martin, of Missouri; and Kimberly Gallagher and Brian Greathouse, both of California.

The leadership program is sponsored by John Deere, American Commodity Company and RiceTec.

Dustin Harrell, LSU AgCenter rice agronomist and extension specialist, told conference attendees the 2016 crop started well with good early planting conditions in March in south Louisiana. But heavy rains created problems for the rest of the spring, he said.

Northeast Louisiana was hit by more than 20 inches of rain that interfered with planting, he said.

High night temperatures during flowering and grain filling probably decreased yields, which are down about 8 percent from expectations.

About 2 feet of rain in mid-August in south Louisiana was disastrous for many farmers who still had a crop in the field, Harrell said.

He said some farmers had all their crop harvested when the rain fell. “We had some farmers who had just barely begun with their harvest.”

Rice yields and quality suffered from the high water, he said, and some rice sprouted. Stubble for ratoon rice was also submerged with muddy water which complicated regrowth, he said.

Total flooding damages were estimated at $68.9 million to the rice industry, Harrell said.

Overall, Louisiana yields in 2015 averaged 6,850 pounds, he said, down by 2 percent in 2016. “We’ve had three years in a row where we’ve had decreasing yields in Louisiana.”

University of Arkansas economist Bobby Coats predicted Arkansas farmers will plant 1.1 million acres of rice in 2017, down from 1.5 million acres in 2016.

Harrell said many Louisiana farmers in 2017 won’t have any choice but to plant rice, and he expects 2017 Louisiana acreage similar to last year or slightly lower than in 2016.

Linscombe said two new varieties, grown last year for seed production, will be available on a limited basis for production this year: a Clearfield long grain, CL153, and a Clearfield medium grain, CL272.

Work at the Rice Research Station on the Provisia rice technology is advancing favorably, he said, and a Clearfield Jazzman variety should be released soon.

A Clearfield hybrid looks promising and it is a candidate for commercialization, Linscombe said.

He said a state-of-the-art genetic analysis system is being used at the Rice Research Station to screen rice lines for desired traits. “Going into the future, this is going to pay off for all the breeding programs.”

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Steve Linscombe of the LSU AgCenter, far left, received the Rice Industry Award at the USA Rice Outlook Conference in Memphis recently (Dec. 7-9). Linscombe, a rice breeder and director of the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station. Richard Fontenot, of Evangeline Parish, far right, received the Rice Farmer of the Year Award, and Arkansas rice farmer Gary Sebree, center, received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Photo by Bruce Schultz/ LSU AgCenter

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Three Louisiana farmers, Alan Lawson, of Crowley; Scott Franklin, of Rayville; and Ross Thibodeaux, of Midland, were chosen for the next Rice Leadership Class. They were among seven individuals in the rice industry who were selected for the program at the USA Rice Outlook Conference in Memphis. From left to right are David Martin, of Missouri; Lawson; Kimberly Gallagher, of California; Franklin; Thibodeaux; Brian Greathouse, of California; and Jarrod Hardke, of Arkansas. Photo by Bruce Schultz/LSU AgCenter

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