⋅ BY DEBORAH WILLENBORG ⋅
Despite triple digit temperatures at points, well-hydrated rice farmers, researchers, wildlife specialists, and USA Rice staff gathered June 28 in Crowley and Kaplan, Louisiana, to hear firsthand from scientists about the important work being done in rice.
First, on Tuesday, more than 100 gathered at the Kaplan farm of Julie and Christian Richard for the annual Horizon Ag Field Day where General Manager Dr. Tim Walker and his team discussed advances, including the newest Provisia® variety, PVL03, that performed strongly in 2022 and can be used as a weed system rotation option to preserve the viability of both the Clearfield and Provisia technologies; and the new CLL18 that will have a limited launch in 2023.
“I’m very pleased so many farmers were able to join us today,” said Walker. “Not only are we working to maximize rice farmers’ ROI, but we’re standing by, and with, them to address any concerns they may have – like some of the outcrossing we saw last year. We’ll fix it together.”
The next day saw a few hundred farmers join the 114th Annual Louisiana State University (LSU) AgCenter Rice Field Day in Crowley for poster sessions and field tours.
Highlights included Dr. Adam Famoso’s update on the 2023 breeding program that planted more than 10,000 yield plots, 60,000 panicle rows, and more than 800 new breeding crosses. The rice pathology team discussed their work, including investigating reports of Cercospora symptoms that can lead to significant yield loss, while entomologist Dr. Blake Wilson shared information on the rice water weevil, stem boring moths, and the invasive apple snails that continue to plague the area.
Other presentations covered seeding rate, nitrogen use, and weed management, among other programs.
Attendees moved inside to hear from Dr. Kurt Guidry, resident coordinator of the research station, Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Dr. Mike Strain who said the station was a “driving force here and around the world,” Louisiana Farm Bureau President Jim Harper, and Dr. Mike Salassi, assistant vice president and director of the LA Ag Experiment Station who explained in a nutshell why the work carried on at the station is so important. “Input costs go up and markets go up and down and the only real weapon for farmers is higher yielding rice,” he said.
Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives, Clay Schexnayder, also spoke, reiterating his commitment to Louisiana agriculture and rice specifically. John Dennison, the new chair of the Louisiana Rice Research Board also spoke, thanking those in attendance and the dedicated researchers on hand. Dr. Matt Lee, vice president for agriculture and dean of the College of Agriculture, decked out in the colors of the new national champion LSU Men’s Baseball team, took the podium to assure everyone that he understands the importance of the research station as a world class scientific facility and that he is committed to keeping LSU out in front.
USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward, who had been recognized by several speakers for her contributions to the industry, spoke about the successes USA Rice had achieved for the industry with the help and guidance of many Louisiana volunteer leaders. From the development of Colombia as a top market that directly supports rice research to Iraq’s commitment to purchase 200,000 metric tons of rice annually – much of it from Louisiana; and from the conservation and sustainability grants that directed more than $190 million to rice farmers and their practices to the transition from direct payments to the Price Loss Coverage program in the 2014 Farm Bill.
Peter Bachmann, USA Rice vice president of policy & government affairs, also provided updates on the 2023 Farm Bill, farmer ad hoc assistance, and the Climate-Smart Commodity program that USA Rice is a central partner on.
Later that afternoon, the Louisiana Rice Promotion Board and the Louisiana Rice Research Board both met. Ward gave updates to both boards and took questions from board members on multiple topics.
USA Rice Vice President of International Sarah Moran and Vice President of Communications & Domestic Promotion Michael Klein presented results of the current year’s promotion campaigns to the Promotion Board and formally requested the Board’s support for the USA Rice Council for the coming year. The request was approved unanimously.