Rice farmers warned that budget cuts could hurt LSU AgCenter research effort

Weiki Li provides an update on his work to develop hybrid rice at the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station Field Day on July 1. Li has developed two medium-grain lines and two long-grain lines that show promise, but release of a hybrid would not be for several years. (Photo by Bruce Schultz)

News Release Distributed 07/02/10

CROWLEY, La. – The LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station Field Day held Thursday (July 1) gave the rice industry a chance to learn what researchers are doing to help farmers.

But field day participants were told state budget cuts are looming that could adversely affect LSU AgCenter research projects.

Dr. Mike Strain, commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, said the LSU AgCenter is facing a proposed 23 percent reduction, $18 million, in its operating budget. “That is unacceptable. You cannot run these research stations without funds,” he said.

LSU AgCenter Chancellor Bill Richardson said the cuts would come after recent budget reductions totaling 39 percent.

“That will put us back to the 1970’s and 80’s, without an adjustment for inflation,” Richardson said.

But the chancellor had good news, announcing G&H Seed had made a donation to the LSU Foundation to fund an endowed professorship in agriculture. Mike and Ray Hensgens of G&H Seed made the presentation.

Paul Coreil, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor, announced a new program to mentor young people interested in a farming career. Called the Louisiana Young Ag Producers, the program is open to juniors and seniors in high school.

Mike Salassi, LSU AgCenter economist, said the beginning discussions of the 2012 farm bill are under way in Congress. He encouraged the rice producers in attendance to give their recommendations to their congressional representatives.

Salassi said U.S. rice acreage is at its highest level since 1999, which is one of the reasons for low prices right now.

California rice farmer Frank Rehermann, chairman of the U.S. Rice Producers Group, said the rice industry must present a unified effort on the farm bill to ensure that the safety net is retained.

“We’re going to have to fight for every nickel we can get,” he said.

Dwight Roberts, president of the U.S. Rice Producers Association, said the House Agriculture Committee approved a bill to loosen payment restrictions for Cuba to pay for agricultural imports from the United States. In addition, the committee agreed on removal of a travel ban to Cuba by U.S. citizens, he said.

The bill must be approved by several other committees, he said, but its passage would be a big boost for rice exports.

Roberts said the Mexican market for rice has potential for expansion. A rail facility at Lacassine will help farmers get rough rice to Mexico, he said. He said area farmers who joined the limited liability corporation to run the facility have put up a total of $785,000, and the Louisiana Legislature made a commitment for helping with the remainder of the facility’s cost.

The Lacassine project will create the best rail facility on the Gulf Coast, capable of handling 40 to 50 rail cars a day, he said. “Just this week, west of Beaumont they are loading a few rail cars in an inefficient facility,” he said.

Roberts said the Mexican rice industry is eager for the new facility to be built, and it may be open as early as next summer.

Jackie Loewer, chairman of the Louisiana Rice Research Board, gave the LSU AgCenter a check for more than $300,000 as a quarterly payment to support rice research projects. The funds were obtained from check-off money paid by farmers at the rate of 5 cents per hundredweight of rice.

After the field day, the Rice Research Board re-elected Loewer of Acadia Parish as chairman, Clarence Berken of Jefferson Davis Parish as vice chairman, and Richard Fontenot of Evangeline Parish as secretary-treasurer.

During a tour of research plots earlier in the day, researchers at the Rice Research Station gave an overview of their work.

Steve Linscombe, LSU AgCenter rice breeder and director of the Rice Research Station, talked about lines of rice that show promise as potential varieties. Potential releases include LA2048, a semidwarf conventional long-grain; LA2162, a semidwarf medium-grain; and LA2051, a semidwarf Clearfield long-grain. Each of these experimental lines has shown advantages in some respect over current varieties. He also said that two newly released Clearfield varieties (CL111 and CL261) appear to show promise in commercial fields this summer.

Xueyan Sha said a line of aromatic rice, designated as 2149, has superior aroma compared to Jazzman, an aromatic variety released by the LSU AgCenter last year. He said 2149 has three times as much of the chemical that emits the distinct aroma. A decision whether to release it as a variety could be made later this year.

Eric Webster and Justin Henley, LSU AgCenter weed scientists, discussed their work on different formulations of Propanil herbicide. Henley said Newpath herbicide for Clearfield rice is not suitable to control all broadleaf weeds, and a complementary herbicide containing Propanil will give a broader spectrum of control.

Webster said Ricestar HT hasn’t caught on among many farmers because it tends to show some injury to rice plants, but he said much of the visible effects are just cosmetic.

“I want to see some injury,” Webster said. “If it’s not brown, it’s not working.”

Command herbicide will cause some whitening of young plants, he said, and it should not concern farmers. “If it’s not white, it’s not working.”

Rick Cartwright, University of Arkansas plant pathologist, said Arkansas farmers have 1.6 million to 1.7 million acres of rice this year. “It’s probably the biggest crop we’ve ever had.”

He said a drought during the past month has led to leaf blast problems. Smuts are a bigger problem in Arkansas than Louisiana, Cartwright said, and farmers had their worst year ever with that disease.

Don Groth, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist, said sheath blight’s effect on different varieties is not uniform. Medium-grain varieties tend to lose 4 percent of potential yield from the disease, but older long-grain varieties can have losses of 25 percent.

Groth said leaf blast has become evident in the Lake Arthur area.

“You really don’t have to worry about Cercospera as long as you have some Propiconazole in the mix,” he said.

Mike Stout and Natalie Hummel, LSU AgCenter entomologists, discussed their work with rice water weevils and rice stink bugs.

Stout said chemical companies have become more interested in material to control weevils, resulting in the registration of Dermacor and Cruiser seed treatments. A third seed treatment, NipsIt, could be registered in the next two years, he said.

Efforts continue to find a seed treatment that can be used in water-seeded rice, Stout said. “I’m optimistic in the next few years, we’ll have some product for water-seeded rice.”

Stout said research is also being done to determine if available seed treatments are compatible with crawfish production. “The good news is these new insecticides turn out to be a lot less toxic than the pyrethroids to crawfish.”

Hummel said demonstrations of seed treatments are being conducted in 15 Louisiana rice fields to compare the effectiveness of the chemicals. Dermacor is showing the best control, she said.

Weiki Li, in charge of the LSU AgCenter rice hybrid project, said seed production is under way for the first generation of a hybrid. “So far they look very, very good.”

Li said the hybrid line grown in small plots is producing a yield equivalence of 2,000 pounds per acre above the best current pureline varieties. He has two lines of medium-grain and two of long-grain rice under development.

Jim Oard, LSU AgCenter geneticist who is working with Li, said a hybrid release is still several years away.

Dustin Harrell, LSU AgCenter agronomist, discussed his work on zinc deficiency. The problem often results in a bronzing of leaves on the rice plants, he said.

He said many areas of the state have soil deficient in the element. Zinc should be added to soil if testing shows a level less than 1 part per million, he said, but it’s best to apply it to the soil and not just as a foliar application over a field of rice.

The effects of different seeding rates are being studied, Harrell said. The LSU AgCenter recommendation is 60-90 pounds per acre, he said, but this may be adjusted downward, depending on the results of the study.

“Many producers are going below that recommendation, and they are getting good stands,” Harrell said.

Gary McCauley, Texas A&M rice specialist, said variety selection and planting date are important for getting a good second crop of rice. Seeding rates should be increased slightly to achieve a higher yield in the ratoon crop, he said. He said Texas farmers have successful second crops by using a flail mower on the first-crop stubble.

Bruce Schultz

1/4/2011 1:10:07 AM
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