Louisiana & Texas Release Long-Grain Varieties

University breeders introduce four new conventional lines

By Carroll Smith

The names of three of the four new conventional varieties coming out of the rice breeding programs at LSU AgCenter and Texas A&M are tied to rivers that are familiar irrigation sources for area rice producers – Mermentau, Colorado and Antonio. The fourth variety, an aromatic called Della-2 is named for its predecessor Della.

One of the two new varieties announced by Dr. Steve Linscombe, LSU AgCenter rice breeder and director of the Rice Research Station in Crowley, is Mermentau – a conventional, semi-dwarf long-grain named after the river basin that runs through the heart of southwest Louisiana rice country. Its physical characteristics are similar to those of Cocodrie, Cheniere and Catahoula. This variety is about the same height (37-39 inches) and maturity as Cheniere.

“Based on a typical planting date in March, Mermentau will mature in about 120-125 days,” Linscombe says. “It has a slight yield advantage over these other conventional varieties and excellent grain appearance – uniform without a lot of chalk. With increased emphasis on the quality of long-grains, we thought this variety would be a positive for the industry.”

Linscombe also notes that Mermentau has been in multi-state, multi-location testing for four years and has been consistent in yield and milling yield. It is susceptible to sheath blight, so a fungicide should probably be applied in south Louisiana, but, like Cheniere, this new variety has pretty good field resistance to blast.

Long-Grain Aromatic Variety

The other line being released by the LSU AgCenter is Della-2, a conventional long-grain aromatic. This variety is the result of the work of LSU AgCenter rice breeder Dr. Xueyan Sha, who also developed Jazzman and Jazzman II.

Della-2 can be differentiated from the Jasmine types because a Della-type variety has the same cooking characteristics as a conventional long-grain as far as amylose and gelatinization temperature. A jasmine type has a lower amylose and gelatinization temperature than a typical long-grain, which means it cooks a little softer.

“From a quality and aromatic standpoint, Della, which was released in the 1970s, is excellent, but it is a low-yielding, very tall variety that is susceptible to lodging,” Linscombe says. “Della-2 is a semi-dwarf with very good yield potential and won’t lodge nearly as quickly as the original Della.”

Della-2 is about 38 inches in height and 120 days to maturity. It’s similar in appearance to the conventional long-grain varieties, such as Cheniere and Mermentau, but it does have the aromatic characteristic. Della-2 also has very, very good grain quality. Another positive of this new variety, Linscombe says, is that farmers can apply enough nitrogen to Della-2 to help reach its yield potential.

Lone Star State Releases In Texas, the new conventional varieties being released are Colorado and Antonio – short, compact semi-dwarfs. According to Dr. Ted Wilson, director of the Agrilife Research and Extension Center in Beaumont and co-developer of Colorado, these varieties were developed solely by Texas A&M. In the past, the university worked with USDA to develop rice varieties, but USDA had decided to no longer focus on rice breeding.

The lead breeder for Antonio and Colorado is Dr. Dante Tabien, who notes that the new varieties were named for the Lower Colorado River and the San Antonio River.

Both varieties have similar cooking qualities as other long-grain lines, and the grain type is much like that of Presidio – a translucent, pretty grain. The maturity of the two new releases is typical of a semi-dwarf, long-grain variety. Colorado and Antonio have very good disease packages. They are moderately resistant to panicle blight and have low level resistance to neck blast, leaf smut, narrow brown leaf spot and brown spot, but not straighthead.

“We carry out trials every year that we call the Uniform Rice Regional Nursery where we test varieties across Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Missouri,” Wilson says. “We have checks, or standards, so we can compare new material with old material to ensure that we are developing something better.

“In Texas, Colorado, which averaged a 74 percent total milling yield, was No. 1,” he adds. “The next best was Presidio at 72.3 percent. For the total milling yield, Antonio was in the middle of the pack at just over 70 percent, which is still respectable.”

For whole grain yield, Presidio was No. 1 at 65 percent, edging out Colorado at 64 percent. After taking an average across all of the states, Colorado was No. 1, and Antonio was No. 2.

Yield And Economic Analysis

In state trials, Colorado proved to be a healthy yielder, averaging 8,850 pounds per acre for main crop and 3,044 pounds for ratoon crop for a total of 11,894. Antonio averaged 8,759 pounds per acre for main crop and 3,155 pounds per acre on ratoon crop for a total of 11,914.

“Even though Colorado had the highest yield in the state for main crop, Antonio, because it is a better ratooner, came in first for main plus ratoon yield,” Wilson says. “Colorado is a better main crop producer and has a slightly higher milling yield.”

In an economic analysis of all of the varieties tested in Texas (main plus ratoon) using a $13.50/cwt price, Colorado, because it has a higher milling yield, had a gross income per acre of $1,658. Antonio came in at $1,618. “Colorado was the highest valued of all the varieties tested in Texas, while Presidio came in second and Antonio came in third,” Wilson says.

As far as seed availability, 2012 will be a seed increase year for Colorado and Antonio, with commercial production anticipated for 2013. The primary source of funding for the rice breeding programs in Louisiana and Texas comes from rice growers through the check-off funds, administered by the Louisiana Rice Research Board and the Texas Rice Research Foundation, respectively. Wilson says other sources of funds for their program come from the state of Texas through Texas A&M, along with federal grants.

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

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