"We're seeing stink bugs now everywhere - all the fields we visit," said Boris Castro, entomologist with the LSU AgCenter. "A lot of places the farmers have sprayed already, some twice."
Castro and LSU bug expert Mike Stout discussed rice water weevil and stink bug control Thursday at the annual Rice Field Day at the LSU AgCenter's Rice Research Station near Crowley. More than 600 participants - farmers, scientists and others - attended the field day under overcast skies.
Other field day highlights included Milo Hamilton, an Austin, Texas, market analyst whose nopotatoes.com Web site gives advice on grain sales. He told farmers that rice prices should firm up this fall.
"I expect a lot of rice to be sold at more than $6.50 per hundredweight," Hamilton said. Prices are about $1 below that today.
Hamilton's advice to farmers is to start selling a portion of the rice crop at harvest and continue throughout the fall. But don't try to time the exact top of the market, he stressed. Instead, sell throughout the fall as the price rises, according to Hamilton's advice.
One factor spurring Hamilton's prediction of a "bull market" for rice is a heavy demand for rough rice from Brazil, where farmers have been slapped by poor weather conditions. Hamilton expects Brazil to enter the market buying huge quantities of rough rice by September.
In another field day highlight, Joe Musick, long-time resident director of the LSU AgCenter's Rice Research Station, was honored for more than 18 years of service at the station.
R. Ernest Girouard Jr., chairman of the Louisiana Rice Research Board, presented Musick with a silver tray and a pocket watch.
The 67-year-old Musick quipped: "It's been a lot of fun. It feels like I just started yesterday."
As for the problem insects discussed during the field day, rice stink bugs don't yet rival the water weevil as the No. 1 pest in rice fields, but the level of the flying insects present this summer makes it a contender, LSU AgCenter entomologists said.
The best insecticides for controlling stink bug infestations appear to be Karate and Mustang Max, both of which show control for four to five days after applications, Castro said.
One reason stink bugs are a bigger pest this year than in 2002 may be the dry weather that plagued rice farmers until the past two weeks. With drought-like conditions killing other grasses, "the stink bugs moved to whatever rice was blooming, because there weren't that many grasses to feed on," Castro said.
Farmers should scout fields closely, looking for off-white egg masses on the leaves of rice plants. The eggs are shaped like little barrels, Castro said.
When the stink bugs hatch, the insects typically feed on the remnants of their eggs for a day or so, giving farmers time to prepare insecticide treatments.
Adult stink bugs attack the rice plant and often prevent rice kernels from developing. Or in more mature plants, they suck the contents from rice kernels, leaving dark circles of damage that also can serve as pathways for plant diseases.
Scouting methods include walking through rice fields with a net and making up to 100 sweeps in different sections of the field. Castro said insecticides should be used when 30 bugs are captured every 100 sweeps during the first two weeks after heading of the rice plant.
LSU AgCenter officials praised the turnout at this year's Rice Field Day. Cool weather and no rain helped attract more than 600 visitors.
Field tours of the 1,000-acre research station began at 8 a.m. Exhibits included presentations on rice fertility, new rice varieties, insect control, rice diseases and weed control.
Girouard, who is chairman of the Louisiana Rice Research Board, also presented LSU AgCenter Chancellor Bill Richardson with a check for more than $327,000, which will be used to fund research at the station.
Randy McClain is a writer for the LSU AgCenter.