8/9/2011 10:21:49 PM
Originally posted October 1, 2010, by Natalie Hummel on Louisiana Rice Insects
On Monday, Johnny Saichuk (rice specialist), Donna Lee (county agent – East Caroll Parish) and I headed over to Beaumont, Texas for the annual Mexican Rice Borer (MRB) Site Visit. This meeting is held annually to share the latest results of a long-running cooperative research effort between Texas A&M and the LSU AgCenter. The research programs of Drs. Gene Reagan, Mo Way, Ted Wilson, and Bill White were showcased. The Mexican rice borer is a significant pest of rice and sugarcane production in Texas. It was been moving north and east across the rice and sugarcane belt of Texas since the early 1980s. Infestations result in significant reliance on insecticides to control this pest. The USDA breeding programs are also selecting for resistance to borers in sugarcane. I attended this training a few years ago, but this year it had a little more significance, as I have recently taken on sugarcane extension entomology responsibilities. This is in light of the retirement of Dr. Pollet and our inability to fill his position due to the ongoing budget crisis. So, I will have fun learning about sugarcane this next year. I can embrace one of my favorite quotes “life begins at the end of your comfort zone” – Neale Donald Walsh.
Bright and early on Tuesday morning, we gathered at the Texas AgriLife Beaumont Center. Dr. Ted Wilson, Station Director, welcomed us to the facility (Picture 1). Then we listened to a few comments from some of the scientists and graduate students conducting research on MRB. Dr. Gene Reagan talked about some of the latest research on MRB which has been funded by over $1 million in competitive grant funds over the past ten years. His student Julien Beuzelin discussed his research on alternate hosts for MRB (weeds) (Picture 2). Julien is also studying survival of rice in comparison to a number of different weeds. His research will be used to develop ecosystem-level management strategies.
We piled into our trucks and headed out to look at the sugarcane plots. In this area, USDA is evaluating varieties for resistance to Mexican rice borer. Dr. Bill White and his technician Randy Richard are evaluating a wide variety of lines, some of which are susceptible or resistant to borer infestations (Picture 4). This information on varietal resistance will be valuable when the Mexican rice borer becomes established in Louisiana, which will likely occur in the next ten years due to natural movement across the border with Texas.
Next, the group headed over to look at the Sun Grant/Chevron energy cane and high-biomass sorghum research area. These sorghum plants are really something to see (Picture 5). Post-doctoral scientist Dr. Lv is working with Ted Wilson to evaluate the physiology and growth of the energy cane and sorghum.
After marvelling at the sorghum, we enjoyed a demonstration of the cane-splitting machine. This invention has improved the safety of sugarcane researchers. It mechanically splits the cane, avoiding the need to use a knife to split the cane and look for borer injury (Picture 6).
Finally, Mo Way showed us some of his rice plots where he conducted trials on insecticides to control Mexican rice borer this season. Borers are a much more significant problem in Texas rice than they are in Louisiana. Thus, Mo spends quite a bit of time exploring management options for these pests.
The program book for this training can be downloaded from www.lsuagcenter.com by clicking here. If you’d like to learn more about the Mexican rice borer, and ongoing research programs, please contact Dr. Gene Reagan. You can learn more about MRB in this extension publication.
Photos taken by Natalie Hummel, Anna Meszaros and Becky Pearson.