At the rice verification field in Evangeline Parish, from left, LSU AgCenter extension agent Keith Fontenot, crop consultant Lucas Pitre, Nutrien Ag Solutions representative Dennis Fontenot and rice farmer Alex Sylvester with his son meet about management strategies for the field. Photo by Ronnie Levy
The Louisiana Rice Research Verification Program brings results from the research station to the farm, aiming to help rice producers improve sustainability and profitability.
Six fields across central and southwestern Louisiana made up the program for 2023. LSU AgCenter rice specialist Ronnie Levy said even with the extremely hot and dry conditions, the fields performed well.
“Overall, we had a good year. We had a couple of fields that were probably not quite as good as we would have liked,” Levy said.
Acadia, Allen, Avoyelles, Calcasieu, Evangeline and Vermillion parishes each had a field in the program. Most of the fields were planted in late March or early April, with the Avoyelles field planted in early May, later than the ideal time. Varieties planted included Provisia 03, Mermentau, CLL17, Jupiter and DG 263L. Most of the farmers who cooperated were first-time verification participants with the exception of the farmer in Evangeline Parish.
Weekly visits to the fields with the farmer, parish AgCenter agent and crop consultants helped Levy work with the team to make decisions on how to manage the field throughout the season.
Levy’s reason for administering the program is to assist in implementing new technologies developed through research efforts into wide-scale use in Louisiana rice production. He said farmers participate in the program for different reasons.
“Some are looking for higher yields. Some of them are looking at not necessarily the high yields, but the profitability in it,” he said.
While Levy works to employ best management practices across all fields, the actual management will vary.
“If you try to manage for a real high yielding crop on some of the marginal land you know the potential is not quite there,” Levy said.
The verification field Levy worked with in Vermillion Parish had been out of production for several years and had never been planted in rice. It was located farther south than any field that had been in the program in more than a decade. Levy was concerned about the potential for saltwater issues and a different spectrum of weeds in that area than most producers see in the in the heart of the rice producing area. Levy said with good management strategies, the field produced a great stand with little weed, disease or insect issues.
Levy said the hot, dry conditions mostly kept fields disease free, bacterial panicle blight did show up in the Evangeline field, and what looked to be a 50 or 60 barrel per acre crop showed a dip in projected yields at harvest.
“Once it hits and you see the disease on the head, you know it's going to reduce the yield,” Levy said.
Even though it wasn't the yield he expected, Levy said the verification field yielded better than several of the fields on the farm that had been managed separately.
That’s the benefit of the verification program that farmers have seen year after year. Good management practices can help farmers achieve higher yields, increase profits and use fertilizers and herbicides more efficiently.
Levy said the program also provides a good opportunity for teaching newer AgCenter agents about rice and rice production, training them to better serve the rice farmers in their parishes.
Rice farmer Cody Dauzat and his father, Brent Dauzat, visit with LSU AgCenter rice specialist Ronnie Levy at Dauzat’s Avoyelles Parish rice field. Cody Dauzat is new to rice farming and this field was part of the LSU AgCenter Rice Verification Program. Photo provided by Ronnie Levy