Nicholas Thompson, Mark Wimpy, Tim Walker at USA Rice Conference
Nicholas Thompson, left, and Mark Wimpy, right, both with W&W Farms, Jonesboro, Ark., visit with Tim Walker, general manager of Horizon Ag at the USA Rice Outlook Conference.

Horizon Ag introducing two higher quality long grain varieties

Horizon Ag bringing new varieties that will help address quality issues for U.S. rice industry.

They say good things come to those who wait. The agronomists who work at Horizon Ag are hoping rice farmers will agree two new varieties the company is introducing in 2017 will be worth the wait.

The new varieties – CL 153 and CL 172 – are among the first to be advanced from the company’s efforts to develop new, higher-quality and higher-yielding products for the southern long-grain market.

“From an overall industry standpoint going back to the 2010-2011 crop we had some challenges with that crop, and quality really came to the forefront,” said Tim Walker, Horizon Ag’s general manager. “That’s when a lot of our export customers began to get very, very vocal about this issue.”

As a result, the USA Rice Federation formed a rice quality task force and “a lot of time and effort and energy was spent in research and demonstration and validation type things to try to address the issue,” Dr. Walker said.

Task Force members delivered a summary report at the USA Rice Outlook Conference in San Diego that year that said many of the varieties farmers were growing back then were, in fact, lower quality.

Incentives weren’t there

“We had varieties that were of very high quality, some of them on par with the foreign competition, especially like Uruguay and Thailand that had some good quality rice,” Dr. Walker said. “But the incentive was not there because the varieties we had that had that type of quality were lower-yielding varieties.

“Time has passed, and we’re finally at a point now in 2017, and we’ve talked about this day for a long time that the message was clear that we needed high-yielding, high-quality varieties. The two varieties we’re releasing in 2017 are a result of all of those conversations and all of the effort, all the consternation, all the frustration in the industry.”

Dr. Walker said a “substantial amount” of seed of both varieties will be available in this first year of their launch. “Not only that but these varieties have been tested both domestically and internationally, and their yield performance is excellent; they bring excellent quality grain; both have industry standard blast tolerance inherently in their DNA so that’s certainly an economic advantage to the farmer.”

CL153 was developed at the LSU AgCenter, and CL 172 was developed at the University of Arkansas. CL 153 is expected to move into an area where producers have been growing CL 151, another LSU AgCenter variety.

Blast disease issue

“The Louisiana farmers loved CL 151’s yield attributes, but it was very susceptible to blast,” said Dr. Walker. “In 2015, a number of growers had moved to CL 151, and, when we got into the window where you should have been treating for blast, it was raining every day. We have good fungicides for blast, but it would rain within minutes or hours of the application, and those sprays were not cheap.”

Dr. Walker said he believes CL 153 will be used on a broader scale “because it gives us the opportunity to plant it in those blast-prone areas and provide growers with the higher yields they need.”

CL 151 has been widely planted in the upper Mid-South, he noted. “It yields well; it gives you the ability to sleep at night, not worrying about blast. On the other hand, CL 153 has better quality; it’s a longer grain; it’s more translucent; and it certainly has the potential to be a package-quality rice.”

CL 172, which is also a southern long-grain rice, is proving to be a winner among some U.S. long-grain rice export customers.

“We have found out through our work with some export countries, namely Nicaragua, that they prefer the CL 172’s cooking,” he said. “In addition to a very translucent grain, a long grain and the way it cooks for the Nicaraguans, there was actually a premium paid for identity-preserved CL 172 this year.”

Regaining that market

Nicaragua has purchased as much as 100,000 metric tons of U.S. rice, but sales had dwindled to as low as 1,000 metric tons. “It appears we’re going to be able to ship them 6,000 tons this year, and we believe this market has the potential to grow exponentially,” Dr. Walker said. “It could definitely benefit our farmers, especially if they are willing to continue to incentivize that high quality rice.”

Besides yield potential equivalent to CL 151 and blast resistance, CL 153 has exceptional seedling vigor and lodging resistance, he noted. CL 172 also has yield potential between CL 111 and CL 151 and has lodging resistance.

“Both CL 153 and CL 172 have also shown excellent second crop or rattoon crop potential in south Louisiana,” Dr. Walker said. “CL 111 has been the preferred Clearfield variety in south Louisiana for a number of factors, but one of those is that it has had excellent rattoon crop potential. All of our testing shows we’re not giving up any second crop potential with 153 or 172.”

Horizon Ag is also introducing CL 272, a new medium-grain variety in 2017. “CL 272 has performed as well as Jupiter with a better blast package,” said Dr. Walker. “The preliminary testing with Kellogg’s has been good. It has very good milling and cooking quality.”

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