The rice breeding program at the LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station has had international impact. Some of the varieties developed by AgCenter scientists have made their way into fields far away from the station, which is located near Crowley.
But the main focus of the breeding program has always remained on Louisiana rice farmers and their needs.
“At the end of the day, that’s really who we work for,” said AgCenter rice breeder Adam Famoso. “They support us, and we’re working to maximize the profitability of their operations.”
At the station’s recent annual field day, Famoso spoke to farmers about a new variety called PVL03. It offers many positive traits, including resistance to blast disease — which he said is particularly important in Louisiana.
“We have an excellent climate for disease. It’s hot and humid and wet,” he said. “Our growers don’t get paid on how resistant a line is, but they get paid on yield and quality, and disease is a major factor in determining what a given field or given variety is going to do in terms of yield and quality.”
Another characteristic that’s important to consider in the breeding process is how early a variety matures. Being able to harvest earlier means less time, money and effort put into managing the field. And because of the timing of harvest season, getting rice out of the field even one week earlier is significant, as it reduces the chances of losing the crop to a hurricane.
Packing several ideal traits into one variety can be a challenge, and there’s always room for improvement, Famoso said. Coming up with a new variety also takes time. Several years can pass between making the initial cross of parent plants and the variety hitting the market.
The plant breeding process has intrigued Famoso since he first encountered it as an undergraduate student at Pennsylvania State University, where one of his professors bred geraniums.
“I like the fact that it is a process,” Famoso said. “We’re doing each step of that process every year, so you always have things that are getting near release. You always have new crosses that you’re making with new parents you’re excited about.”
But there’s nothing like seeing a variety he had a hand in developing growing in farmers’ fields.
“The thing I like the best is when you actually get something completed and it’s out there and you can drive around and see that variety on acres,” he said.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture