LSU AgCenter experts offer tips on upcoming season

• By Bruce Schultz •

Rice farmers preparing for the 2020 crop heard recently from LSU AgCenter experts about what they should be considering before they get into the fields.

The meetings were held in Welsh, Vidrine and Crowley, and more are scheduled.

Don Groth, resident coordinator of the LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station, said the medium-grain variety Titan has been accepted by the Kellogg Co. for its products. Groth said acreage of that variety probably will increase.

He said he also expects to see an acreage increase for furrow-irrigated rice, also called row rice, because the practice can now be covered by crop insurance. The practice uses poly tubing to irrigate fields before they dry.

“Sometimes it saves you water, sometimes it doesn’t,” Groth said.

2019: year of disease

Wet weather last year encouraged disease development. “It was a bad disease year, but we’ve had worse,” he said.

Smut disease in south Louisiana was particularly bad, and Groth anticipates it will be a problem again this year.

Fungicide timing is critical to get the most effective disease control. To deal with sheath blight or Cercospora, he said, applications should be made between boot and heading stages. Blast requires applications at heading,

Kernel smut requires applications when the developing panicle is 2 to 4 inches long.

New varieties

AgCenter rice breeder Adam Famoso said a new Clearfield variety, CLL17, was approved recently by a variety committee. He said it has a 7% yield advantage on average over CL153, and its height, maturity and milling characteristics are similar to CL153. It will be available for commercial production in 2021.

adam famosa
LSU AgCenter rice breeder Adam Famosa discusses the varieties he has in the pipeline at the LSU Rice Field Day — photo by Vicky Boyd

The new Provisia variety, PVL02, has shown an 11% yield increase over PVL01 in five years of testing, and it has a better ratoon potential. Clearfield varieties still out-yield Provisia. “We hope over time to close that gap,” Famoso said.

More Provisia lines are currently being grown at the winter nursery in Puerto Rico, and at least one could be ready for release in 2022.

A conventional line, LA2140, could be released later this year and be available for commercial production by 2022. It is currently undergoing a seed increase in Puerto Rico and will be available for foundation seed production in Louisiana for the 2020 growing season.

A decision was made to wait at least a year to purify that line.

“There are a few promising lines in the pipeline for conventional varieties,” Famoso said.

Jim Oard, LSU AgCenter hybrid breeder, continues to work on hybrid rice. Negotiations continue for possible partners with the LSU AgCenter for commercial hybrid production of the hybrid line LAH169. “It’s something we certainly cannot do alone. The cost and associated risk of hybrid seed production is substantial. Logistically, it’s a pretty big task,” Famoso said.

Breeding efforts include developing new varieties with the characteristics of rice preferred by Latin American buyers. Since 2007, U.S. rice exports to Latin American countries have fallen by 40%, Famoso said.

Central American buyers want a low-chalk, non-sticky rice. If a suitable variety were available, there would be opportunities for a significant amount of contract acres to be grown in Louisiana. The AgCenter breeding program has started making crosses to develop rice that would meet their requirements.

“We feel like it’s a very good opportunity for the rice industry in Louisiana,” Famoso said.

Weed management

AgCenter weed scientist Eric Webster said his work with Loyant has shown different weeds require different concentrations of the herbicide, ranging from 6 ounces for joint vetch to 10 to 14 ounces for bull tongue. Grasses require 16 ounces with moisture.

Webster said he will do more work this year with Loyant applied to urea fertilizer. The combination was applied in the water for testing last year, but he will experiment with applications on dry soil this year.

Don’t bug me

AgCenter entomologist Blake Wilson said the new seed treatment Fortenza is effective on rice water weevils, but it lacks activity against stem borers.

No benefit has been found using Dermacor seed treatment with other insect control products for weevil control, but a greater spectrum of pests is controlled with combinations of insecticides, Wilson said.

channeled apple snails in a crawfish trap
Larger snails are big enough to block entry holes in crawfish traps as demonstrated in this photo — photo by Dustin Harrell, LSU AgCenter

Apple snails continue to be a concern. “This is probably the new pest that I get more calls on than anything,” he said.

Wilson warned that the pink egg masses left by the snails contain a skin irritant.

The snails may be a threat to water-seeded rice, but the biggest threat is with crawfish because the snails can clog traps.

“Once you get them, they’re not easy to get rid of. And they’re likely to be there forever,” he said.

Copper sulfate kills the snails, but it is lethal on crawfish. Crop oil can be used to kill egg masses, Wilson said.

AgCenter soybean specialist Boyd Padgett said flooding of soybeans has been a problem for the past two years, but young beans can tolerate flooding for as long as 96 hours.

Markets on the upswing

AgCenter economist Mike Deliberto said rice yields and acreage were down last year, and that helped offset a large carryover. Ending stocks are now down by 25%, and the price for long-grain rice has increased from $17.50 per barrel in 2018 and 2019 to the current $19.12 per barrel. A barrel is 162 pounds.

Sales have increased to Mexico and Haiti, and Iraq has become a major buyer, he said.

U.S. soybean acreage is projected to increase to about 84 million acres nationwide in 2020, and that could suppress prices if a trade agreement is not reached, Deliberto said. In addition, Brazil has a record crop and is aggressively selling old crop inventories to take advantage of the recent increase in soybean prices.

Sales of U.S. rice increased recently, and a new trade agreement could result in more sales that would boost prices. U.S. rice is poised to regain market share on increased price competitiveness in key Western Hemisphere markets, he said.

A Hong Kong forecaster has predicted that a U.S.-China trade agreement could result in a record amount of U.S. soybeans sold to China. But details of the agreement are uncertain regarding the time frame and volume commitment by the Chinese, Deliberto said.

The AgCenter has released a set of soybean enterprise budgets for 2020. These documents are used as a farm planning tool for the upcoming crop. Assuming a $9 soybean price and production costs of $350 per acre, a crop in Louisiana has to yield 37 bushels an acre to cover operating costs.

AgCenter economist Lawson Connor said a disease that has killed large numbers of hogs in China doesn’t appear to have had much effect on China’s soybean purchases.

Prices are near $9.70 a bushel for soybeans to be harvested this year.

Crawfish research

AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant aquaculture agent Mark Shirley said a grant from Louisiana Sea Grant will fund a study of the white spot virus in crawfish. He asked farmers to call him if they find dead crawfish in their ponds.

crawfish trapsShirley and AgCenter crawfish researcher John Sonnier are working on a demonstration project that will compare the crawfish yields from two fields — one where a second rice crop was harvested and another that was left unharvested.

“By the end of May, we’ll have the numbers to compare,” Shirley said.

Another study is being conducted by AgCenter climatologist Vince Brown to determine how weather affects the catch rate.

Bruce Schultz is assistant communications specialist at the LSU AgCenter. He may be reached at

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