⋅ BY DEREK ALBERT ⋅
It’s decision-making time for Louisiana rice producers, and researchers at the LSU AgCenter offer a bevy of tools to help them figure out what, when and where to plant.
AgCenter extension agents and faculty members hosted rice production meetings throughout the state’s southwest region including Welsh on Jan. 3, Vidrine on Jan. 4, Crowley on Jan. 5 and Abbeville on Jan. 10.
AgCenter rice specialist Ronnie Levy presented those in attendance with what he called a valuable tool for growers to use ahead of their spring plantings. The 2023 Rice Varieties & Management Tips publication offers a detailed amalgamation of rice production strategies from AgCenter rice researchers ranging from seeding dates and variety selection to pest management and projected crop production costs. Physical copies of the publication can be picked up at the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station or at your parish’s AgCenter Extension office. Levy said this guide is the best tool producers can use for variety selection — a vital decision for planning the year’s crop.
“That’s probably the earliest and most important decision you’ll make in rice production — what variety you’ll pick,” Levy said. “The herbicides, the management, the planting dates are all dictated by what varieties you pick.”
As Levy recapped the 2022 Louisiana rice production season, he outlined some of the concerns that producers are likely to face this year. Weed pressures in rice fields continue to mount, he said. Red rice and weedy rice will remain top concerns as fields are planted. Though there are herbicide-resistant varieties that can combat the propagation of such yield-robbing weeds, Levy cautions against allowing any weeds to “escape” creating outcrosses.
“I’d encourage you to use the new technology but try to make sure you limit the number of escapes that you have,” Levy stressed. “We don’t have any new technology coming in the next few years, so if you lose those technologies, you won’t have many more to fall back on.” Levy told growers he and parish extension agents across the state use the Remind mobile application, available for Android and iOS mobile devices, to communicate with growers throughout the growing season. Through that platform, growers can stay abreast of AgCenter events, product availability and other rice industry updates.
AgCenter rice economist Michael Deliberto highlighted several economic planning tools available to producers through the LSU AgCenter website’s Rice Budget page. These tools, provided in part through funds from the Louisiana Rice Research Board, include a 2023 Rice Farm Cash Flow Model that allows rice producers to enter projected acreage, yield, market price and production cost data to estimate net returns above variable production costs. Deliberto said producers can use the data calculated with thesetools to easily navigate the economic challenges posed by fluctuating costs of crop production inputs such as fuel and nitrogen fertilizer.
“These numbers are not static,” Deliberto said. “They move around. So that’s why we encourage producers, lenders and stakeholders to look at the spreadsheets that we have so you can customize your own input cost structure, calculate your own returns and costs of production.”
In planning this year’s crop, rice pathologist Felipe Dalla Lana said growers should be mindful of diseases that infected rice fields late in the 2022 growing season when near-daily rainfall helped them propagate.
Now is the best time for rice producers to consider insect management protocols said AgCenter entomologist Blake Wilson. In trials at the Rice Research Station this year, a series of insecticidal seed treatments have performed consistently well in controlling rice water weevil, he said.
“This is going to be the most important decision that you can make in terms of managing insects,” Wilson told producers.
When it comes to weed management for the 2023 growing season, weed specialist Connor Webster told growers only time will tell.