Continuing a century-old tradition, rice farmers gather for annual field day at AgCenter station

(06/26/24) CROWLEY, La. — For the 115th year, farmers gathered June 25 for the LSU AgCenter’s annual rice field day, where they heard updates on researchers’ efforts to breed higher-yielding varieties, develop pest management strategies and encourage beneficial agronomic practices.

The event, attended by about 300 people, was held at the AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station near Crowley. Touring the station on trailers lined with hay bales, visitors got a firsthand look at the rice fields where scientists conduct studies aimed at helping farmers grow a better crop.

“We develop new varieties that are grown by the farmers in Louisiana and throughout the South, and some of the varieties and technologies that have been developed here at the rice station have been grown throughout the world,” said Adam Famoso, station director and rice breeder.

At Famoso’s stop on the field tour, attendees heard about potential new varieties that are being evaluated and could be released to the industry in the coming years.

Some incorporate the Clearfield and Provisia technologies, which convey herbicide resistance, allowing farmers to spray their rice fields to control weeds such as red rice. Also under consideration are several conventional long- and medium-grain varieties as well as jasmine, popcorn and other specialty types of rice.

The station’s most recent release, CLL19, came earlier this year. A high-yielding Clearfield variety, it’s already being farmed on about 70,000 acres in Louisiana.

As harvest draws near, Famoso is looking forward to seeing how the yields and quality of CLL19 fields stack up against others.

“We’re really excited in a few weeks here when the combines get rolling to see what it does in the real production fields,” he said. “This is one we think could be a pretty impactful, notable variety that can be around for some time.”

The continuous development of new varieties and production methods is important to the industry, said Ronnie Levy, AgCenter rice specialist.

“We probably have the cleanest crop that I have seen in all my years because of all the new technologies and new herbicides that producers are using,” he said.

The 2024 growing season has been favorable in other ways, too. Weather conditions were good early in the season.

“Right now, we have a lot of rice headed out,” Levy said. “We even have rice getting close to harvest, so we’re anticipating a good crop this year. It’s just a matter of what the weather is from now until we can get it out of the field.”

Some fields could be harvested as soon as the first part of July, a couple of weeks earlier than usual, he said.

Levy estimates there are about 460,000 to 470,000 acres of rice in Louisiana this year.

Rice is a major contributor to the state’s economy, with the most recent AgCenter estimates putting the crop’s annual impact at more than $580 million. Research has allowed the industry to thrive.

“The main focus of this station is to maintain and increase the profitability and sustainability of the Louisiana rice industry,” Famoso said. “That’s why it was founded in 1908, and that’s what we still strive to accomplish today.”

Extension personnel, who share research findings with farmers, also play a vital role in improving the industry. The AgCenter has earned many accolades for its impressive combination of scientific innovation and education, said LSU Vice President for Agriculture Matt Lee.

“We are one of the best agricultural science and extension organizations not only in the country but in the world,” Lee said, noting the AgCenter has been recognized as a top agricultural institution in national rankings.

The field day showcased the value of rice research and extension initiatives.

“This is where you see the land-grant mission really shine,” said Tara Smith, director of the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service.

“We think this is the best rice station in the country, mainly because of the people that work here,” added Michael Salassi, director of the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station, of which the rice station is a branch. “They don’t just do a good job on field days. They do a good job the other 364 days of the year, and we couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Two men standing near a rice field.

LSU AgCenter rice breeders Adam Famoso, right, and Brijesh Angira review varieties under evaluation at the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station’s 115th annual field day June 25. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

Rice plants in a flooded field.

Potential new rice varieties are being tested at the LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station near Crowley. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

Group of people seated on trailers watch a drone flying in the air.

Attendees of the LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station’s 115th annual field day view a demonstration of a spray drone. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

Man standing in flooded rice field.

LSU AgCenter rice specialist Ronnie Levy speaks during the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station’s 115th annual field day. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

Man speaking at lectern to crowd of people.

LSU Vice President for Agriculture Matt Lee addresses attendees of the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station’s 115th annual field day. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

6/26/2024 8:07:41 PM
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