For many Louisiana producers, yields were below last year’s. On the other hand, numerous Arkansas farmers had their worst season ever, with some harvesting extremely low yields coupled with very poor milling quality, especially on their later-planted rice, said Steve Linscombe, director of the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station.
Linscombe said the new LSU AgCenter medium-grain variety, Caffey, named after retired LSU AgCenter Chancellor H. Rouse Caffey, has a bold, uniform grain shape. A boxcar load of the new variety will have to be available for consideration by the Kellogg Co. “It will probably be by the end of the summer before we have enough of this rice to accomplish that,” he said.
He said Caffey has less lodging potential than Jupiter but more than Neptune.
Several experimental Clearfield lines that show good yield potential will be in advanced testing this year, Linscombe said.
The new Jazzman II variety shows promise for an increased aromatic quality and grain appearance, Xueyan Sha, LSU AgCenter rice breeder, said. Testing by the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed the new variety has three times the amount of the chemical that imparts aroma over the earlier Jazzman variety and triple the amount of some Thai jasmine. The grain color is more translucent than the original Jazzman, he said.
“It is a significant improvement,” he said.
Linscombe said Jazzman II will have to be stored separately from other rice, but it offers an opportunity to grow value-added rice. He expects the variety will be grown on 12,000 to 15,000 acres this year.
Hot weather probably weakened rice plants’ immune systems last year, allowing pathogens such as bacteria panicle blight to flourish, according to Johnny Saichuk, LSU AgCenter rice specialist.
He said planting early is one of the few steps that can be taken to avoid exposing plants to extreme heat at the critical window of pollination. “Right now there’s no real solution.”
Don Groth, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist, said a few varieties have some resistance to bacterial panicle blight. He cautioned farmers that draining a field can increase chances of a blast disease outbreak.
Eric Webster, LSU AgCenter weed scientist, said farmers should consider using propanil with Newpath herbicide. The combination could make a yield difference ranging from 1,300 to 2,650 pounds per acre.
He urged farmers to attack weeds early and not pinch pennies. “It’s real important to be aggressive.”
Dustin Harrell, LSU AgCenter agronomist, said fertilizer prices are high, with urea at $470 a ton, phosphate at $580 per ton and potash at $500 per ton. He said prices generally increase as the season progresses.
Using the urease inhibitor Agrotain will reduce nitrogen fertilizer loss, although it will increase costs, he said. It’s particularly beneficial for fields that require longer than 5 days to flood.
Harrell is studying zinc deficiency, and it appears that some varieties are more sensitive to an inadequate amount of the micronutrient in the soil. The variety CL151 will have more lodging problems if farmers use excessive nitrogen, he said. Nitrogen should be limited to between 90 and 130 pounds per acre with CL151.
Harrell also is studying seeding rates to determine a more optimum amount than the current recommendation of 60 to 90 pounds per acre. Harrell said a rice crop only needs 15 plants per square foot, and a seeding rate of 47 to 70 pounds per acre could be more cost effective.
Kurt Guidry, LSU AgCenter economist, said the U.S. rice market is benefitting from an increase in exports. “The real question is, can we continue this pace as we approach the end of our marketing year?”
The current price around $14 per hundredweight could increase further with a spillover from the rising prices in other commodity markets, he said.
It appears that the soybean market will remain strong because of China, Guidry said. “There doesn’t seem to be any indication they are going to stop buying soybeans from us any time soon.” Argentina and Brazil also sell large volumes of soybeans to China, and a shortfall from either of those two countries could boost prices even further.
Guidry warned that farmers face high input costs this year, with crude oil in the $85-$90 per barrel range, keeping farm diesel prices at $2.60-$2.70 a gallon.
“I don’t see fertilizer prices going down,” Guidry added.
It’s likely that soybean acreage will increase this year because of high prices, said LSU AgCenter soybean specialist Ron Levy.
Levy said comparisons of row spacing and twin rows show no significant difference, but planting early can be beneficial. “The highest yields were from the earliest planting.”
Jim Griffin, LSU AgCenter weed scientist, warned that glyphosate-resistant pigweed and Johnson grass are becoming more widespread in Louisiana. He said Johnson grass found near Erwinville had resistance to 10 times the normal amount of glyphosate herbicide.
Farmers also heard from Randy Jemison, Louisiana representative for the USA Rice Federation, on regulations being imposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Jemison said the EPA will begin enforcing regulations by Nov. 10 that require containment levees and a fuel spill contingency plan for farms with fuel storage tank capacity exceeding 1,320 gallons.
Jemison said the Natural Resources Conservation Service has a pilot program in eight states, including Louisiana, to help farmers with the new regulations. Farmers have until Jan. 28 to sign up for the program at their local NRCS office.
At the Vermilion Parish clinic, Stuart Gauthier, LSU AgCenter county agent, cautioned farmers against using irrigation water with moderate levels of salt.
“We don’t recommend using water with salt above 35 grains” or 600 parts per million, Gauthier said. Sampling of area canals showed surface water in many areas exceeded that amount.
Using water with high levels of salt for crawfish can jeopardize a subsequent rice crop, and he said many soils will hold salt and accumulate. A $6 test conducted by the LSU AgCenter will reveal the level of salt in the soil.
“We still have areas in the parish that still have salt left over from the last hurricane,” Gauthier said.
He said the LSU AgCenter does not recommend planting rice in soil with a salt level exceeding 750 ppm.
Also at the Vermilion Parish clinic, Eddie Gaspard, of Planters Rice Mill, said the bankruptcy of a Mexican rice company has affected the rough rice market, and American rice companies have indicated it will be a few months before they need more rice. He said China and India are starting to import rice, so that could help the market.
In Bunkie, held Jan,, 11 at the Masonic Lodge, Rob Ferguson of the Avoyelles extension office also helped to conduct the clinic.