LSU AgCenter rice nursery in Puerto Rico survives hurricane

Bruce Schultz  |  10/16/2017 7:46:33 PM

(10/16/17) CROWLEY, La. — A Puerto Rico farm facility used by several universities, including the LSU AgCenter for rice variety development, survived Hurricane Maria with minimal damage.

Adam Famoso, LSU AgCenter rice breeder, said he managed to reach farm manager Anthony Rivera in Puerto Rico by telephone.

“We were relieved to learn Anthony and his family are OK, but now they face the difficulties of living with limited communications and getting their electricity from generators,” Famoso said.

Rivera reported the rice in the fields had minimal damage.

“All things considered, it’s not as bad as we were worried it could have been,” Famoso said. Some rice plants show signs of tip burn from high winds, and some plots were flooded for a couple of days from rainfall.

Famoso said a shipment of Provisia rice seed had arrived in Puerto Rico for planting when the storm hit, and it was picked up Monday. “It’s raining there now. So as soon as it dries up, that seed will be planted,” he said.

Seed for 6,000 rows of experimental lines is being sent this month for planting, and planting that material also will be delayed.

“It’s nothing catastrophic,” Famoso said. “We’re not going to lose anything.”

AgCenter rice breeders travel to Puerto Rico several times a year for planting, maintaining and harvesting the rice lines. AgCenter hybrid breeder Jim Oard said an upcoming trip is scheduled.

“We will probably go down there to harvest around Thanksgiving or in early December,” Oard said. “We have to give credit to Anthony for coming back there and putting things back together again.”

The winter nursery is located near Lajas on the southwest side of the island, opposite from the side where the Category 4 storm made landfall.

The tropical island, an American territory, offers U.S.-based crop breeding programs the opportunity to grow their material year-round with the ability to ship seed to and from Puerto Rico without undergoing a lengthy quarantine required of foreign-grown seed.

Oard said parcel service has been restored to Puerto Rico, making it easier to ship and receive seed to and from the island.

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LSU AgCenter rice nursery breeding plots near Lajas, Puerto Rico. Photo by Bruce Schultz/LSU AgCenter

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Farm foreman Anthony Rivera stands in front of the LSU AgCenter winter rice nursery near Lajas, Puerto Rico. Photo by Bruce Schultz/LSU AgCenter

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