They start the tours early at the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station’s annual field day. (You can see the shadows of tour participants from the early morning sun in the photo of Drs. Steve Linscombe and Adam Famoso that accompanies this article.)
That’s because by mid-day it gets rather warm in the rice fields at the station near Crowley in Southwest Louisiana. Temperatures have been known to climb above 100 degrees with the relative humidity not far behind.
Heat wasn’t a factor at least for the early portion of this year’s event, and whether it was the cool northerly breeze for the first hour or so or the “hot-off-the-press” information being provided by LSU AgCenter researchers, the field day drew more than 500 farmers and industry members to the station on Wednesday (June 29).
“This is probably the largest crowd we’ve had for a number of years,” said Dr. Linscombe, who is resident director at the station and rice breeder for the LSU AgCenter. “We had more people that went on the field tour this year than we’ve had in a long time.
“That’s encouraging because it tells us people have an appreciation for the research that’s being done here at the station. We think we had a very good program out on the field tour. You know here at the station we have several what I’ll call ‘veteran scientists’ that have been around a while. But we also have a good mix of new young scientists that have brought a breath of fresh air. They’re very dedicated and doing a good job for us.”
Linscombe also cited the speakers for the indoor program at the field day as another draw for the field day. They included representatives of the Louisiana Rice Research Board, the LSU AgCenter, the USA Rice Federation, the Louisiana Farm Bureau and Cornell University.
‘Always an inspiration’
The presentation by Dr. Susan McCouch, professor in the Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell, was especially meaningful to Linscombe.
“Dr. Susan McCouch is always an inspiration to me,” he said. “She traveled a long way to be with us, but she really does articulate what is coming down the road in the future efforts in rice variety development.”
Dr. McCouch, who published the first molecular map of the rice genome in 1988, said genomic research conducted during the past 25 years is just now having practical applications in plant breeding. The challenge now is to manage the huge amount of information being generated from the genetic work.
“There’s too much information for a single individual to make sense of it,” she said, adding researchers should consider the “Walmart approach” of using massive computer capacity to analyze and collect data. “I think the things that are coming will be exciting for all of you.”
She said she believes the Rice Research Station, which she called one of the “premier rice research facilities in the world,” will continue to play a major role in the future of rice production.
Dr. Linscombe said rice acres are up slightly in Southwest Louisiana, although rice prices are not where farmers would like them to be.
Price ‘bump’ needed
“The outlook is not real rosy on price,” he said. “We certainly could use a little bump in the price. The thing I tell our producers – and I’ve seen evidence of it several times in my career – it doesn’t take much for something to happen to cause rice prices to go up.
“You don’t wish misfortune on anybody anywhere, but we live in such a dynamic world price-driven situation with rice that things can change pretty dramatically.” (Long-grain rice prices currently are projected at $11 per hundredweight and medium-grain rice is projected at $11.30, making both eligible for Price Loss Coverage under the 2014 farm bill.
(Michael Deliberto, agricultural economist with the LSU AgCenter, said the 440,000 acres of rice in Louisiana shows a significant decrease of medium-grain acreage by 54 percent and a 36 percent increase in long-grain acreage. Nationwide, rice acreage is 3.1 million acres this year, with the smallest medium-grain crop since 1986.)
“Our rice producers are a dedicated group,” said Linscombe. “Our rice acreage through good years and bad has remained relatively stable in Louisiana. I can’t overstate how important our checkoff funds are for us here. Our Rice Research Board that administers those funds does a great job on a volunteer basis, and we’re extremely appreciative of the support we have from our Louisiana rice industry.”
During his stop, Dr. Linscombe discussed the herbicide-resistant Provisia project he’s been working on for less than four years. Provisia seed from two lines that were selected during the breeding process at the Rice Research Station could be available for commercial production by 2018. The technology will be a good complement for Clearfield rice to manage red rice and other wild, weedy rice, he said.
Tank mix partners
Dr. Eric Webster, a LSU AgCenter weed scientist, is working to see how the Provisia herbicide reacts when tank mixed with other herbicides. “Every herbicide you could spray on a rice crop, we have mixed it with Provisia,” he said.
Herbicides such as propanil, RiceBeaux, Grasp and Grasp Xtra, can become ineffective when they are mixed with Provisia.
Dr. Jim Oard, the LSU AgCenter hybrid rice breeder, said his hybrid rice program includes a Provisia line. “So far the material looks quite good,” he said
Another researcher, Dr. Dustin Harrell, AgCenter rice research agronomist and Extension rice specialist, is trying to determine the optimum amount of fertilizer and the seeding rate to use with the prospective Provisia lines.
For more information on the LSU AgCenter and its research efforts, visit www.LSUAgCenter.com.