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CL Medium Grain Variety Debuts
Seed production increase begins this season

By Carroll Smith
Editor
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In a hot medium grain rice market, it’s understandable that medium grain acreage has increased this year in the Southern rice-growing states. However, producers had to be careful not to plant a medium grain in fields with a history of red rice infestation because, up until now, a Clearfield medium grain variety was not available.

Even before the price differential factor arose between medium grain and long-grain rice, Dr. Steve Linscombe, LSU AgCenter rice breeder and director of the Southwest Region, says farmers were asking him when they were going to come out with a Clearfield medium grain variety.

“We’ve been working on a Clearfield medium grain for a number of years,” Linscombe says. “We felt like it would give producers another option to have a medium grain variety that contained the Clearfield technology.”

Now, that option is reality with the potential release of CLX065, which will be given an official commercial name in the near future.

According to Linscombe, the new Clearfield medium grain variety has good milling quality and a yield potential pretty close to that of Neptune, which is slightly below that of Jupiter. It also has a nice, clear grain, not much chalk.

“CLX065 has a bold grain that approaches the size of Neptune or Bengal and very high head rice milling yields,” he says. “Right now, we are rating it moderately susceptible to blast, sheath blight and straighthead.”

For farmers who are used to growing Clearfield and conventional long-grain varieties, they can expect similar agronomic characteristics to the long-grains. The nitrogen recommendations and seeding rate are going to be very similar to those of Cocodrie or CL151. As far as the growing season, CLX065 will be about three to four days later than, say, CL151.

So, geographically, where will this variety have the best fit? So far, it has only been tested in Louisiana and appears to be well adapted in both the southern and northern rice-growing areas of the state. Linscombe says based on past experience, he doesn’t have any reason to believe that it wouldn’t be well adapted throughout the South.

Seed production increase
To kick off the seed production increase, Jacko Garrett, who operates Garrett Farms in Danbury, Texas, has planted 207 acres of CLX065 at low seeding rates to produce a good multiplier.

“One of my main goals will be to try to determine the different stages of growth – when it gets to green ring, when it gets to panicle differentiation and how long after panicle differentiation it takes to head,” Garrett says. “However, what we learn from this first increase will be somewhat distorted because the variety is planted at very low seeding rates. The growth stages will be better defined when it’s planted at 60 pounds of seed per acre rather than five pounds to the acre.

“This variety is going to be a good thing for the South because growers now have a medium grain that has the Clearfield technology to help with red rice issues,” he adds.

If a rice farmer chooses to incorporate this new Clearfield medium grain variety into what has typically been a long-grain only operation, what advice does Garrett have to offer?

“The main thing is that if a farmer has his own home tanks and driers, he needs to be careful to keep CLX065 identity preserved so that the medium grain doesn’t get mixed in with the long-grain,” Garrett says. “Mixture of either medium grain in long-grain or long-grain in medium grain results in dockage when the grain is sold.”

Farmers also need to be aware that medium grain rice generally is grown under contract.

The importance of market acceptance
Another facet of bringing a new variety to market is mill acceptance, or “market acceptance.” According to Bobby Hanks with Louisiana Rice Mill Inc. in Crowley, La., market acceptance typically refers to the quality of the product.

“We tend not only to be the processor but also the marketers of the product,” Hanks says. “We have a pretty good idea whether our customers will accept it.

“A lot of medium grain rice is used for cereals, and the cereal companies are very particular about the quality of their product and how the rice actually cooks. They are very variety specific. This Clearfield medium grain has to go through a process of customer acceptance to make sure it is something they can use.

“Depending on which company you are dealing with, this could be a two- or three-step process,” Hanks adds. “First, they look at about a five-pound sample of the rice. If it looks OK, they take it to the next stage – a one-ton quantity to use in a pilot-cooking lab. If it passes that step, then they will try a rail car load to do a full plant trial to make sure it works.”

Hanks also points out that foreign countries, such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan also have levels of acceptance, and samples have to be submitted to them as well.

“I am anxiously awaiting this variety because I think it is going to do wonders for us,” he adds. “Red rice is a big problem with medium grain. If we can get a Clearfield medium grain comparable to a California Calrose variety, for which there is a large market, I think this would be good for Southern producers.”

Seed availability
Randy Ouzts, general manager of Horizon Ag, says prior to market acceptance, Horizon Ag is working on building commercial inventories with commercial seed production beginning in 2010.

“This is a new market for us,” Ouzts says. “There is no other Clearfield technology in medium grain rice. What we do know, and especially after this year, is that the red rice presence, especially in medium grain acres is definitely there.”

Ouzts says that in 2010 there probably will be enough seed for about 10,000 acres, mainly focused on the medium grain areas in Louisiana and Arkansas. He also does not anticipate any problem with market acceptance because this Clearfield variety essentially is a Bengal/CL161 cross.

“In 2011, we’ll have unlimited availability for CLX065.”

Contact Carroll Smith at (901) 767-4020 or csmith@onegrower.com.

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