Louisiana Field Days and Meetings Convene Against Backdrop of Grower Concern

Man wearing knee-high boots, holding a mic and pointing, stands in flooded rice field, foreground shows the back of a man
Dr. Steve Linscombe points out U.S. rice industry's long running commitment to sustainability
Jun 27, 2019
KAPLAN & CROWLEY, LA – You’d need quite a chisel plow to cut the tension in the air in rice country these days, but despite the mood and uncertainty, for the past two days, growers flocked to field days here.  First at the HorizonAg Field Day on the farm of Christian Richard in Kaplan, and then for the 110th Annual Rice Field Day at the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station in Crowley.

On display at Richard’s was Clearfield and the Provisia Rice System that looks promising, particularly the improved yield potential for PVL02, the second Provisia variety released.

“Over multiple years of testing, PVL02 has shown a 10 percent yield advantage to PVL01, and is seven days earlier in maturity which is important in South Louisiana,” said Dr. Tim Walker, HorizonAg general manager.  “PVL02 results in higher head rice yields as well.”

Walker thanked the growers and consultants for attending the event and spoke passionately about the need for the U.S. rice industry to regain the trust of international customers.

“We as an industry gave them a reason to look elsewhere, and that’s on all of us,” he said.  “Now we need to get them back, and it’s never easy, but I know we have the quality to do it.”

A nice cloud cover settled over Crowley on Wednesday for the LSU Field Day, keeping temperatures in check as several hundred people cycled through the five stations positioned around the Rice Research Station.

Attendees heard first from LSU AgCenter Rice Breeder Dr. Adam Famoso about the Provisia varieties as well as Clearfield varieties 2097 and 2195 that he says hold promise in terms of yield and grain quality, one of which could see commercial release next year.  Dr. Brijesh Angira explained the DNA marker work he is pursuing in support of the varietal development program at the LSU AgCenter.

Dr. Eric Webster and Dr. Don Groth provided updates on rice weed control and disease research, including varietal resistance, cultural management, and chemical means of dealing with challenges.

LSU AgCenter entomologist Dr. Blake Wilson shared signs of rice water weevil infestations and a newer threat to Louisiana rice fields – apple snails – so named because they can get as large as apples.

“The snails can survive months in totally dry conditions and can actually clog up crawfish traps, rendering a pond unusable,” Wilson warned.  “Egg masses contain neurotoxins that can irritate the skin and eyes, so don’t touch them with your bare skin, and if you do come across them, you should knock them into the water carefully.”

And despite how big they get and Cajun ingenuity, Wilson advised against eating them.

“The females can contain parasites that can get into your brain and actually be fatal,” he said.

Dr. James Oard asked attendees to think about the pros and cons of growing hybrid rice, explaining that growers need to consider several factors before deciding one way or another on them.

“Hybrids typically have a higher yield and require less inputs, but the seed can cost three or four times more than conventional seed,” he said.  “Hybrids can have higher chalk, but work much better in row rice systems that are becoming very popular.  Every farmer is going to need to conduct the analysis and make their own decision on hybrids.”

LSU AgCenter Extension Specialist Dr. Dustin Harrell rounded out the tours by discussing some key takeaways from his agronomic research, including efficient use of fertilizer and, where appropriate, urease inhibitors to prevent ammonia volatilization that can cost growers 30 percent of their nitrogen budget.

“If you use best management practices, rice can be one of the most efficient users of nitrogen fertilizer, bar none,” he said.  “But without those practices, rice can easily be one of the least efficient users.”

Former AgCenter Director Dr. Steve Linscombe, now director of The Rice Foundation, shared the great results found in the U.S. Rice Industry Sustainability Report.  The comprehensive report, funded in part by a grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, looked at 36 years of data to demonstrate the outstanding commitment to long-term sustainability of the U.S. rice industry.  

Following the field tours, station visitors heard ag and policy updates from Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Dr. Mike Strain and USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward.  The AgCenter’s Vice President for Agriculture Dr. William Richardson and Associate Vice President Dr. Rogers Leonard also addressed the crowd, thanking attendees and sponsors.

Two special guests brought words of encouragement from Washington, DC.  Congressman Ralph Abraham spoke about his commitment to helping Louisiana’s farmers and rice industry specifically, including the invaluable work he’s done to encourage Iraq to purchase U.S. rice and his efforts to push Congressional adoption of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement that is intended to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.

USDA Farm Service Agency Administrator Richard Fordyce talked about the commitment of U.S. farmers and the hard work they do feeding America and the world.

Louisiana farmers Richard Fontenot, chair of the Louisiana Rice Research Board, and John Owen, chair of the Louisiana Rice Promotion Board, also spoke, thanking members who were rotating off the boards after many years of dedicated service and welcoming new members.

Later that day, the Louisiana Rice Promotion Board heard presentations from USA Rice’s Ward and Vice President International Sarah Moran and Vice President of Domestic Promotion Michael Klein, and approved the funding request for the USA Rice Council for the 2019-20 year.