Rice farmers learn about latest research at July 1 field day

Bruce Schultz, Linscombe, Steven D.  |  7/3/2015 12:13:59 AM

Dustin Harrell, LSU AgCenter rice specialist, and Jarrod Hardke, University of Arkansas rice specialist, talk about the most effective ways of applying fertilizer to minimize nitrogen losses. Photo by Bruce Schultz

Bobby Miller of Eunice, far left, and Johnny Hensgens, far right, are honored for their service on the Louisiana Rice Research Board during Wednesday’s field day at the Rice Research Station. Presenting them with plaques was Clarence Berken, LRRB vice chairman. Photo by Bruce Schultz

Adam Famoso, LSU AgCenter rice breeder, talks about his background before he joined the faculty at the Rice Research Station in May. Photo by Bruce Schultz

Clayton Hollier, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist, talks about the use of fungicides in a rice crop. Photo by Bruce Schultz

Herry Utomo, LSU AgCenter molecular biologist, explains how genetic markers are used to help breeders select genetic traits. Photo by Bruce Schultz

News Release Distributed 07/02/15

CROWLEY, La. – LSU AgCenter researchers at the Rice Research Station Field Day on July 1 outlined their work to help farmers produce a better crop more efficiently.

Researchers said their work heavily depends on funds provided by rice farmers through the checkoff system. For every 100 pounds of rice farmers sell, 5 cents is allocated to the Louisiana Rice Research Board to fund research projects.

Steve Linscombe, director of the Rice Research Station, said the station’s successes can be attributed to the checkoff system. “It’s world-class because of the consistent support we get from you, the producers, with your checkoff funds,” he said.

Dustin Harrell, LSU AgCenter rice specialist, said this year’s heavy rainfall has made crop management even more of a challenge. He said applying fertilizer on a flooded field will result in loss of nitrogen, and the first application should be on dry ground, followed by an immediate flood.

The second best option is applying fertilizer on muddy ground with a chemical to prevent a rapid breakdown of the fertilizer, he said.

Jarrod Hardke, rice agronomist at the University of Arkansas, said several nitrogen applications could be spread out over the growing season if a field fails to get dry.

Jim Oard, LSU AgCenter hybrid breeder, said two hybrid lines with the Clearfield trait show promise. He said the hybrid program’s priorities are high yields and quality grain composition with good milling characteristics.

Oard said a hybrid release is likely within two to three years, and a hybrid with the Provisia technology could be ready in four years.

Herry Utomo, LSU AgCenter molecular biologist, said gene sequencing is being used to identify traits such as grain quality in the hybrid program.

“One pair of genes out of 400 million base pairs can make a difference,” Utomo said.

Mike Stout, LSU AgCenter entomologist, said more work is being focused on developing rice lines with insect resistance. Lina Bernaola, a doctoral entomology student, said the effects of a fungus, mycorrhizae, are being studied. So far, research has shown the fungi make rice more susceptible to insects and disease. But understanding why that happens could lead to new ways of protecting a crop.

Jong Ham, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist, said rice lines with disease resistance are being identified with genetic markers to help the breeding program pick new rice lines.

Clayton Hollier, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist, stressed the importance of fungicides when needed. “It doesn’t increase yields, it protects yields,” he said.

Hollier said farmers may have relied too heavily on fungicides instead of using the material only when needed.

Linscombe talked about his breeding program and the work on the Provisia technology. He said 18 experimental lines with the Provisia gene have shown potential in recent years, and it’s possible a limited commercial release of Provisia will be available in 2017.

“We’ve only been able to do this because we spent a lot of time at the winter nursery in Puerto Rico,” he said.

Linscombe said the work in Puerto Rico was only possible because of funding provided by the Louisiana Rice Research Board.

He said two Clearfield lines, a long grain and a medium grain, are good candidates for release as varieties this year.

The station’s new rice breeder, Adam Famoso, told farmers he wants to try using genetic markers earlier in the breeding process for new lines. Famoso came to the LSU AgCenter after working as a rice breeder for Pioneer for five years, focusing on rice for Southeast Asia.

Eric Webster, LSU AgCenter weed scientist, said the Provisia herbicide has decreased effectiveness when it is mixed with other herbicides in a solution with water from the St. Joseph area, but he said he hasn’t determined why that occurs.

Webster said drift from the Provisia herbicide appears to stop growth of other rice immediately.

Doctoral student Ben McKnight talked about his work on a new herbicide, benzobicyclon, for aquatic weeds. He said it requires one to two weeks to make a noticeable difference, but it is effective on cattails, sprangletop, duck salad, pickerelweed and rice flatsedge.

Webster said benzobicyclon offers a new mode of action against weeds. “That will really help us on the resistance management scheme.”

Mike Salassi, LSU AgCenter economist, said rice prices increased on June 30 on news that the U.S. rice crop is 5-6 percent less than last year. He said Louisiana’s rice acreage of 450,000 is 2.5 percent less than last year.

Salassi said the large amount of rice stocks is keeping prices low, but farmers who signed up for the Price Loss Coverage under the farm bill will be able to benefit from the program.

Farmer Clarence Berken, vice chairman of the Louisiana Rice Research Board, said 95 percent of farmers have agreed to provide checkoff funds for the station, “making it the best rice research facility in the U.S.”

He said a Colombian Free Trade Agreement is providing funds to the station, but that funding will eventually be depleted. He said the money is being used for a $1.5 million reserve fund, $600,000 for an endowed research chair and $300,000 to fund improvements at the station, which include two new tractors, a new irrigation well and a gas chromatograph.

Berken said since 2001, Louisiana yields have increased twice as much as the four other major rice-growing states.

Berken recognized two former rice board members, Johnny Hensgens, of Lake Charles, and Robert Miller, of Eunice, for their 17 years on the board.

Ronnie Anderson, president of the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation, said Richard Fontenot of Ville Platte, rice board secretary-treasurer, was recently elected as third vice president of the LFBF, replacing Linda Zaunbrecher of Gueydan.

About 400 people attended the field day, including U.S. Sen. David Vitter and Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle.

Vitter praised the research station for its work to help farmers. He said budget cuts in recent years have hurt the facility’s operations. “It’s been pummeled by a death of a thousand cuts in recent years,” he said.

Vitter said he is fighting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory scheme under the Waters of the U.S. that would expand the agency’s jurisdiction “almost to every pond and seasonal body of water around.”

Vitter said he supports new trade agreements that would open markets for U.S. commodities such as rice. “We need to make sure those deals are productive good deals.”

Angelle said as a member of the LSU Board of Supervisors, he supported the LSU AgCenter. He said as a state Water Resource Commission chairman, he spoke against a state attorney general’s opinion that concluded the state should be compensated for agricultural use of surface water.

He said as PSC member, he worked to help establish a value-added mechanism to enable the burning of rice hulls to generate electricity at a Lake Charles rice mill.

Mike Strain, commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, said the Rice Research Station is key to helping farmers. “The key to profitability is in increased production and efficiency.”

Bob Cummings of the USA Rice Federation said six years of negotiations for selling rice to China may be at an impasse, but a meeting between the two countries may result in an agreement. Linscombe said Chinese consumers want American rice because of fears that Chinese rice is contaminated by polluted soil and water.

Bruce Schultz

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