The rice verification program’s success is established through a collaborative effort among producers, extension agents and AgCenter rice specialists. Examining a verification field in Acadia Parish in early June are, from left, Jeremy Hebert, Acadia Parish extension agent; Connor Webster, AgCenter weed research associate; Keith and Jonathon Rockett, of R&Z Farms; and Keith Fontenot, AgCenter extension associate. Photo by Ronnie Levy.
The LSU AgCenter Rice Verification Program continues to serve as a conduit for research data from test plots to producers’ fields across the state.
“We’re verifying research that’s being conducted at the Rice Research Station — and off station — to identify best management practices and recommended practices in all aspects of sustainable rice production,” said AgCenter rice specialist Ronnie Levy. “The verification program gives us more environments to examine a potential problem and make adjustments in all aspects of crop production.”
During the 2021 growing season, Levy and his colleagues examined CLL17 — one of the 57 rice varieties developed by breeders at the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station — following its 2020 release. The variety’s rapid release from the breeding program was in part due to its consistent increases in yield data and resistance to blast and other diseases.
“We wanted to monitor CLL17 closely to see if it would do well now that it is in larger acreage,” Levy said.
Levy and Keith Fontenot, extension associate at the station, monitor every aspect of the rice production cycle from week to week on the designated fields in the verification program. Applications of fungicide, herbicide and fertilizers and dates of flooding and rainfall rates are recorded and evaluated for sites that dot the map of Louisiana. For 2021, verification fields were in: Acadia, Allen, Calcasieu and Vermilion parishes. Those locations then change for subsequent years due to crop rotation cycles. Following the initial rice harvest for each field, Levy makes visits to the fields every other week for ratoon crop monitoring.
The growing interest in furrow-irrigated rice, especially in northeast and central Louisiana, is on the drawing board for Levy as more research data is harvested from AgCenter research plots. The practice of growing rice on rows irrigated with poly pipe is expanding as a method of growing the crop with less soil disruption and more flexibility for crop rotation for the producer.
“We’re looking at including some row rice in northeast Louisiana,” Levy said. “We couldn’t do that this year because of heavy spring rains and the higher price of other crops, like soybeans and corn.”
The verification program not only aids the growers, but also serves as an educational tool for AgCenter extension agents to expand their knowledge of rice production practices. Dustin Harrell, H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station resident coordinator, stressed the importance of the verification program as a learning tool.
“The verification program trains our new rice growers or growers who have been growing rice for only a few years on our best management practices,” Harrell said. “It is also a training program for crop consultants, growers, new extension agents. All these groups benefit from this program.”
Harrell said the verification program shows those involved what variables come into play during the regular course of a rice growing season.
“Every year has its own challenges,” Harrell said. “This year we started the year with a tremendous amount of rainfall. We have our best management practices, but the weather can dictate whether or not they happen.”
Harrell said the increases in precipitation caused difficulties in timing for applying fertilizers and herbicides, but he said that was one of the real-world experiences that makes the verification program so vital and so valuable.
“It’s all part of the learning process,” he said.