New partnership between LSU AgCenter, Horizon Ag to benefit rice industry

(04/29/24) BATON ROUGE, La. — The LSU AgCenter is partnering with Horizon Ag, a seed marketing and variety development company, to initiate a new rice breeding program focused on varieties for southern rice-producing areas, which include Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas.

This partnership will give Horizon Ag access to the AgCenter’s elite rice breeding germplasm and result in collaborative breeding efforts.

LSU AgCenter rice breeder and director of the AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station Adam Famoso said the partnership offers tangible benefits to the two partners—the rice industry and rice producers.

“The contract research activities will be leveraged to support our existing and future station research and breeding efforts, and will enable expanded testing within the LSU breeding program,” Famoso said. “The AgCenter will provide contract research services such as field testing and evaluation of Horizon’s breeding materials.”

The initial agreement is set for five years, beginning this year. Horizon Ag will hire a rice breeder and support staff who will be housed in an independent lab at the Rice Research Station. New varieties released by Horizon will be in addition to the AgCenter’s breeding activities.

Horizon Ag’s CEO Tim Walker said the company saw decreasing financial support for rice breeding programs in the southern rice-growing region and sees this partnership as a way to invest in the LSU AgCenter’s breeding program while working alongside it for the betterment of the rice industry.

“We see this as an opportunity, a need and a mutual benefit,” Walker said. “The industry will be better having more breeders working towards a common goal of improving grain yields and quality, both of which are very important to southern USA rice farmers.”

The AgCenter will receive royalties from varieties released by Horizon Ag, helping sustain the size and scale of its rice research efforts.

The AgCenter’s rice breeding program also will have the opportunity to test its experimental lines in wider geographies and environments through additional testing networks that Horizon Ag will establish.

“We are excited for this groundbreaking public-private partnership with Horizon Ag. This collaboration is a first-of-its-kind initiative designed to enhance the sustainability and competitiveness of the Louisiana rice industry, bringing substantial benefits to our rural communities,” said Matt Lee, LSU vice president for agriculture. “It is designed to bolster economic development through employment and the local procurement of materials and supplies. Together, we are poised to lead in agricultural innovation and research, establishing new benchmarks for success and sustainability in the rice industry."

While this partnership is unique, Horizon Ag has worked with the AgCenter before.

“We worked closely with LSU and our partners when we really revolutionized the industry with Clearfield rice. Then we did the same thing launching the important Provisia technology, and they were both launched as LSU varieties,” Walker said. “This is the evolution of that relationship and a unique and innovative step for the rice industry.”

The LSU AgCenter has long been a leader in rice breeding, releasing 63 varieties through its program at the Crowley station, the world’s oldest rice research station. Groundbreaking technologies developed at the station have been pivotal in combating weedy rice, enhancing crop yields and sustainability.

John Denison, chair of the Louisiana Rice Research Board, offered his support of the agreement.

“As the costs of research continue to rise, I am excited to see additional investment into the rice breeding program,” Denison said, “Louisiana’s breeding program and our Rice Research Station have been world-renowned for decades, in large part because of the investment from our Louisiana growers through our checkoff. We hope this partnership complements the breeding program overall and continues to yield advancements and new varieties in the market that help keep Louisiana rice farmers successful and sustainable.”

Adam Famoso in the greenhouse

LSU AgCenter rice breeder Adam Famoso working in the greenhouse of the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station. Famoso will collaborate with Horizon Ag on a new rice breeding program. LSU AgCenter file photo

Tim Walker

Tim Walker, CEO of Horizon Ag. Horizon Ag is partnering with the LSU AgCenter to initiate a new rice breeding program focused on varieties for southern rice-producing areas. Photo provided

4/29/2024 4:14:51 PM
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