Frances Gould | 5/31/2016 2:59:30 PM
Brent Theunissen, LSU AgCenter research associate, harvests
rice from test plots at the Bieber Farm near Mamou. Researchers rely heavily on
off-station sites to provide better insight to how varieties and agronomic
practices perform in different settings. Photo by Bruce Schultz
Different farmers in the rice-growing areas of Louisiana provide land for LSU AgCenter scientists to test new rice breeding lines and agronomic practices in real world scenarios.
“The off-station work is extremely valuable to the breeding program and several other programs,” said Steve Linscombe, H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station director.
Yield trials in Acadia, Vermilion, Jefferson Davis, Evangeline, St. Landry, Evangeline, Franklin and Richland parishes provide a better idea how experimental lines will perform, Linscombe said.
A commercial advanced yield test is also grown at the locations with tests of 60 lines, varieties and hybrids, he said. This year the tests included lines and varieties from Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana, and RiceTec.
The off-station locations also provide a good setting for holding field days, and to allow farmers to see how new varieties and lines will perform. Farmers provide land and water for the research.
“Many of these farmers have worked with us for years, and we are grateful for the sacrifices they make to allow us to conduct this work,” Linscombe said.
Dustin Harrell, LSU AgCenter rice specialist and agronomist, said the off-station trials provide his projects with diverse settings.
“Off-station locations are invaluable because we get to look at different environmental conditions, different soils, and different weather patterns,” he said.
A fertilizer recommendation on silt loam soil may not apply to heavy clay soils, for example.
Part of Harrell’s work involves testing different fertilizer rates on new varieties. “We like to have at least three years of trial data before we come out with a recommendation.”
Harrell also does ratoon research off-station to study ways of improving second-crop yield. His work has shown that mowing or rolling stubble forces regrowth from the lower part of the plant, resulting in bigger panicles with more grain. Also, the plants grow at a uniform rate that makes it easier to decide when to harvest.
“You get a 5-barrel increase on average,” he said.
Because the soil at the Rice Research Station has been well maintained with nutrients, going to a setting with lower quality nutrient levels is essential for some of Harrell’s work.
“When it comes to fertility research, I can’t do potassium, phosphorous and zinc research at the station,” he said. “I have to go to off-station locations to look at those issues.”