Don Groth named to rice research chair

Bruce Schultz  |  7/1/2019 7:36:29 PM

(07/01/19) CROWLEY, La. — The Louisiana Rice Research Board provided an additional $500,000 earmarked for research during the annual LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station field day on June 26.

Those funds bring the total to $1.5 million set aside from Colombian Free Trade Agreement money that must be designated for rice research in Louisiana. Interest generated by the account will be used to fund an endowed chair to enhance efforts at the rice station.

Don Groth, AgCenter plant pathologist and resident coordinator of the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station, is the first recipient of the chair, and the money will be used to pay for research.

“It took years of hard work by a lot of people to get this established,” Groth said.

Research money on all levels is decreasing, Groth said, and funds for the chair will be a significant boost to research at the rice research station.

Mike Strain, commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, said the Truth in Labeling Act approved by the legislature this year protects the rice market against products that are called rice but are actually other vegetables cut into a rice shape.

Betsy Ward, USA Rice chief executive officer, said the law, along with similar legislation in Arkansas, influenced a company to change its product from “cauliflower rice” to “riced cauliflower.”

She said a recent 120,000-metric-ton sale of rice to Iraq was the result of efforts by several individuals, including U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham.

Abraham said he met with the Iraqi trade minister recently. “Everybody here had a direct influence on getting those Iraqi tenders,” he said.

Abraham also said the trade agreement with Canada and Mexico is pending. “We need it ratified,” he said.

Trade with those two countries is worth $1.5 billion to $2 billion for Louisiana agriculture, he said.

Bill Richardson, LSU vice president for agriculture, said the 2019 legislative session went well enough for the AgCenter that it can move beyond a standstill budget.

Richardson announced two major retirements of Ann Coulon, AgCenter associate vice president for administration, and Rogers Leonard, AgCenter associate vice president for plants, soils and water resources. Richardson said a search is underway to fill Leonard’s position.

Also speaking at the field day was Richard Fordyce, administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency.

Farmers across the country have had to deal with adverse weather this year. “There are a lot of parts of the country with excessive rainfall that’s made it tough to get fields planted,” Fordyce said.

On the field tour, AgCenter researchers talked about their work in rice.

AgCenter rice breeder Adam Famoso said two new Clearfield lines in development will undergo testing for an additional year before researchers decide which will be released as a variety.

The new Provisia variety, PVLO2, has better yield than the first Provisia variety, PVL01, with a shorter grain shape and earlier maturity.

One conventional long-grain line is also being advanced for consideration as a variety, Famoso said.

AgCenter geneticist Brijesh Angira said the use of genetic markers is helping the breeding process by screening lines for desired traits.

Many of the PVL02 original lines had a gene that would have produced more grain chalk, and those lines were eliminated, he said. And the breeding process was shortened by a year.

The genetic screening process also identified a gene for varietal susceptibility to Cercospora disease, Famoso said.

AgCenter weed scientist Eric Webster is studying the addition of the Loyant herbicide to urea fertilizer. He also is studying how soybeans are affected by drift from Loyant.

PVL02 probably will show less injury than PVL01 after being sprayed with Provisia, he said.

Work is ongoing to determine how Amistar Top can be used more effectively. “When farmers put it out last year, they were not pleased,” Groth said.

It’s possible the product would be more effective if it is applied earlier when the rice canopy is more open. In addition, different formulas and combinations with crop oils are being studied, he said.

The new product Excalia shows good potential against sheath blight and it being tested at three locations, Groth said.

AgCenter entomologist Blake Wilson said work is ongoing to determine the optimum threshold for spraying for stem borers. Tenchu is as effective as pyrethroids against stink bugs, and it has longer residual activity.

Wilson also is studying possible chemical controls for apple snails.

AgCenter hybrid rice breeder Jim Oard said the hybrid LAH169 developed at the station is early-maturing with half the chalk of current hybrids on the market.

Talks with potential partners in the hybrid project are underway for commercialization, he said.

Another hybrid, CLH161, has all the advantages of LAH169 but with resistance to the Newpath herbicide, Oard said.

Steve Linscombe, retired AgCenter rice breeder and current director of The Rice Foundation with USA Rice, described a newly released study of the sustainability of U.S. rice production.

“We have made huge improvements in the sustainability of rice production without even knowing it,” he said. “This documents shows how good of a job you have been doing through the years.”

From 1980 to 2015, the industry has sharply decreased its use of fertilizer and water with a reduction in greenhouse gas production, while also creating significant habitat for wildlife, Linscombe said.

AgCenter rice specialist Dustin Harrell said rice can be one of the most efficient consumers of nitrogen if best management practices are used.

Harrell said a urease inhibitor should be used if fertilizer has to be applied on moist ground. But the product is a waste of money if it is used on fertilizer applied in standing water.

Research on the use of row rice, or furrow-irrigated rice, is showing that an additional 100 pounds of urea is needed for that practice. Three applications of 100 pounds, seven to 10 days apart beginning at the normal pre-flood timing, was shown to be the most efficient, he said.

Harrell also said much of his work involves testing new varieties to determine the fertilizer needs of each one.

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LSU AgCenter geneticist Brijesh Angira explains how the genetic screening process has accelerated the LSU AgCenter rice breeding program during the annual LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station field day on June 26. Photo by Bruce Schultz/LSU AgCenter

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LSU AgCenter entomologist Blake Wilson holds up rice plants affected by rice water weevils during the annual LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station field day on June 26. Photo by Bruce Schultz/LSU AgCenter

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LSU AgCenter plant pathologist Don Groth holds a tray of blast-infested rice during the annual LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station field day on June 26. Photo by Bruce Schultz/LSU AgCenter

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Current and past members of the Louisiana Rice Research Board pose with a check for $1.5 million during the annual LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station field day on June 26. The funds will be used for an endowed chair. The board designated funds from the Colombian Free Trade Agreement to be used for research. The board had already approved $1 million and provided an additional $500,000 at the field day. Photo by Bruce Schultz/LSU AgCenter

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