North La. plots help researchers, producers

Frances Gould, Schultz, Bruce  |  10/10/2013 10:56:45 PM

LSU AgCenter agronomist Dr. Dustin Harrell applies nitrogen on test plots near Rayville. Researchers conduct tests in north Louisiana’s rice-growing area to find out how agronomic practices work in conditions and soils that are different from the environment in south Louisiana’s production areas.

Photo By: LSU AgCenter

A specialized combine harvests off-station research plots in Evangeline Parish, while farmer Richard Fontenot cuts his rice crop. Rice breeders depend on remote locations to determine if a potential variety of rice will perform well in different areas of the state.

Photo By: LSU AgCenter

Rice research plots in north Louisiana have been used for more than 40 years to test rice varieties and agronomic practices in a diverse range of settings.

"This has been a long-term endeavor – since the 1960s, with the expansion of rice in northeast Louisiana," said Dr. Steve Linscombe, LSU AgCenter regional director and director of its Rice Research Station. "This is a huge benefit to the research scientists and the producers of north Louisiana."

Linscombe said the different environment in the northern part of the state, particularly with heavy clay soils, provides a contrast to the silt loam soils found in most of south Louisiana.

As a result, such items as fertilizer recommendations vary in north and south Louisiana, Linscombe said.

Even disease problems vary within the state. Often, kernel smut and false smuts are more prevalent in north Louisiana, and stem rot can reach near-epidemic levels.

"Having this different environment is important for many researchers working on a wide range of issues," Linscombe said, recognizing, however, that the north Louisiana studies and demonstrations are greatly aided by farmers in the area.

Linscombe said the LSU AgCenter appreciates the extra work done by rice farmers who allow research to be conducted in their fields. For example, plots that usually are about 5-6 acres have to be drained and flooded independently from the rest of a field, and a farmer must avoid applying fertilizer to the research area since nitrogen rates often are one focus of research.

Depending on the research, a fungicide may or may not be used. For example, nothing is used on variety trials to get a true picture of disease resistance or susceptibility.

The Northeast Louisiana Rice Field Day is conducted at one of these research sites in a farmer’s field. "This is a very good opportunity for producers to get a look at our research," Linscombe stressed.

Linscombe said the LSU AgCenter also appreciates the contributions all rice farmers make to the research. "These off-station trials would not happen if not for the checkoff funds," he said.
LSU AgCenter agronomist Dr. Dustin Harrell said he had two active north Louisiana research plots – working with Elliott Colvin in Rayville and John Owen in Gilbert.

The research focused on nitrogen trials by varieties, general variety trials and rice disease research.

"One of the main benefits was that we are able to look at these varieties to see how they respond in a heavy clay soil instead of the silt loams of south Louisiana," Harrell said.

LSU AgCenter plant pathologist Dr. Don Groth also conducted a variety and fungicide test at the Rayville site, using Stratego, Quadris and Quilt with varieties CL151, CL152, CL261 and CL131.

"Some of the worst sheath blight we’ve ever seen was in north Louisiana," Groth said. This year, however, Groth found little disease at the Rayville location, and he said disease was not widespread in an adjacent commercial rice field. That could have been because of dry weather or simply the location, but he will conduct the test again next year, Groth said.

(This article was published in the 2012 Louisiana Rice Research Board Annual Report.)

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Please click on the links above to go to the Rice Research Board Reports home page, to go to the 2013 report, and to go to the PDF version of the 2012 report.

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