Thursday, June 20, 2024

Select proper varieties and plant early

I can’t believe we are approaching another field season. I’m still working on reports from 2013 research! Anyway, the topic for this month is varietal selection, and I will try to address some important issues relating to this topic.

In 2013, the most popular variety in Texas was Presidio, which generally produces excellent ratoon crop yields. Approximately 67 percent of Texas main crop was ratooned last year. This percentage continues to increase yearly, so Texas farmers are placing more emphasis on ratoon crop production. This is why Presidio remains a good variety for Texas.

Hybrids are continuing to increase in percentage of rice acreage in Texas. Last year about 50 percent of Texas rice acreage was planted to hybrids. According to RiceTec, XL723, XL753, CLXL729 and CLXL745 have excellent ratoon potential. Also, CL152 has produced good ratoon yields with excellent milling quality.

As you can see, I am emphasizing ratoon production, but obviously you must first produce a good main crop, which means selecting the proper varieties for your operation and planting early. Note that I use the plural of variety because you do not want to plant your entire crop to a single variety, especially if you have not grown this variety before. In general, data continue to show early planted rice yields better, uses less water, reduces the likelihood of pest problems and gives you a better chance of producing a profitable ratoon crop than late-planted rice. However, if you plant early at a low seeding rate, I recommend treating your seed with an insecticidal/fungicidal treatment. Many seedling pests of rice are controlled with these seed treatments, and it makes sense to protect your early planted seed to help avoid stand problems.

For the remainder of this article, I want to discuss two new Texas varieties – Antonio and Colorado – from Dr. Rodante Tabien’s breeding program.

Antonio: Very early maturing, high yielding, conventional long grain derived from a cross between Cypress and Cocodrie. Has a main crop yield advantage of nine and five percent over Cocodrie and Presidio, respectively. Higher head rice yield than Cocodrie. Disease package similar to Cocodrie – has some resistance to narrow brown leaf spot. Across Texas in research plots, Antonio has averaged about 8,000 lb/acre on the main crop and 2,700 lb/acre on the ratoon crop. Antonio will be available as certified seed in 2014.

Colorado: Very early maturing, high yielding, conventional longgrain derived from a cross between Cocodrie and L202. Has a main crop yield advantage of seven and eight percent over Cocodrie and Presidio, respectively. Head rice yield similar to Presidio and higher than Antonio. Susceptible to sheath blight and bacterial panicle blight. Across Texas in research plots, Colorado averaged about 8,000 lb/acre on the main crop and about 2,600 lb/acre on the ratoon crop. Colorado will be available as certified seed in 2015.

Be careful and safe in your farming operations, and I wish you the best year ever in 2014!

Dr. Rodante Tabien also authored this column. Dr. Tabien is a plant breeder at Texas A&M University and can be reached via email at

Newer varieties

Varietal selection is one of the first and most important decisions a rice grower will make each year. This decision is based on market needs as well as varietal performance – including yield and grain quality. In California, most farmers grow medium grain varieties, which will be addressed here.

The commercially available medium rice varieties have all been selected to meet the standards for California medium grain rice. However, these varieties differ. First, in selecting a variety, the maturity class needs to be considered to choose one that fits into certain farming operations and climatic zones. Three categories are used: Very early (e.g. M-104, M-105), early (e.g. M-202, M-205, M-206, M-208) and late-maturing (e.g. M-401, M-402 – both premium medium grains). Very early varieties are commonly grown in cooler areas and for late plantings. Cool areas include the zone south of Hwy 20, east of Hwy 99. Late-maturing varieties fit early planting schedules and are not a good choice for cool areas.

Maturity of California rice varieties is classified as the average number of days from planting to 50 percent heading in the warmer areas of the state. The length of the vegetative stage (i.e. days from planting to panicle initiation) is similar among the California public varieties (50 to 55 days to green ring). Maturity classes differ in the time required from panicle initiation to heading. Crop development rate is largely dependent on temperature, so in warmer years rice matures faster and vice-versa.

The principle public varieties in the very early category are M-104 and M-105. M-105 is a new variety showing a lot of potential in terms of yield and quality. In terms of maturity and yields, it falls between M-104 and M-206. In 2012 (the first year that M-105 was grown on a commercial scale), M-105 frequently yielded over 9,000 lb/A dry with head/total values around 67 and 72 percent, respectively. Early varieties are grown on the largest amount of acreage. With the use of M-202 diminishing, the principle varieties are M-205 and M-206 (M-208 in blast prone areas). They are Calrose-type medium grains and are generally higher yielding than other varieties and are suited to a wide range of planting dates. They reach 50 percent heading in 86 to 92 days after planting, depending on planting date and temperature.

Many of these newer varieties (M105, M205, M206) can be safely harvested at lower grain moisture content than the last generation of varieties (e.g. M-202). This ensures higher grain quality and increased flexibility at harvest.

What to plant in 2014?

It’s now been a little over 15 years since I first stepped into a rice field as a graduate student at Mississippi State University. Since that time, I have had many opportunities and held numerous responsibilities. I am indebted to so many in this industry who have given me the chance to learn and participate in so many facets of the production and marketing of this life-giving commodity we know as rice.

This year is certainly more exciting than the last few in the Magnolia state. The production of rice is being discussed again after the difficult winter months of 2010-2012. It is possible that our state may produce 200,000+ acres again. With the optimism, I am getting more calls and questions about what to plant. This in itself is a dynamic that has changed greatly just in the last 10 years.

In 2013 where there were only 122,000 acres in our state, 15 cultivars (hybrids and pure lines) were planted. No one cultivar accounted for more than 20 percent of the acreage. In many situations, options are good to have; but for the current rice environment in the Americas, does it give us a competitive advantage? Please hold this thought, and I will return to it near the end of the article.

When asked to assist in variety selection decisions, the first question I ask is if the Clearfield system is needed for red rice control. If the answer is yes, I ask of the experience with what has been available over the past few years from RiceTec hybrids and Horizon Ag pure lines. From my communication with their personnel, the bulk of available seed will be the same as in previous years, which are CLXL745, CL151, CL111 and CL152. Based on discussions with growers and consultants, CLXL745 has performed much more consistently in the northern counties of Mississippi compared to the central and southern counties. According to the MSU-Extension Service Rice Enterprise Budgets for 2014 generated by Dr. Larry Falconer, net returns for Clearfield hybrids would equal net returns for Clearfield pure lines with the hybrids averaging 16 bushels per acre more than the pure lines. If you have historically high pure line yields, 16 bushels becomes a lot more challenging to overcome as compared to areas that have produced marginal yields with pure lines. The Clearfield pure lines are good options for much of Mississippi, though they are not without their own faults as well.

Of the three, CL151 has been the most stable in achieving high yields. CL111 has the same potential as CL151; however, it tends to be slightly more variable. Both of these Clearfield pure lines have the propensity to lodge, with CL151 being slightly more susceptible than CL111. CL151 also has grain appearance issues similar to CLXL745. CL152 solves the lodging issue of CL151 and CL111; however, it typically yields less. CL152 does provide substantial improvement of grain appearance compared to all other Clearfield hybrids and pure lines.

If you don’t need the Clearfield technology to control red rice, my suggestion is to look at conventional options. Rex, a relatively new pure line cultivar from Mississippi, has performed exceptionally well at the farm level. Approximately 15 percent of the acreage was planted to this cultivar in 2013. Its straighthead tolerance is similar to Cheniere; therefore, it also fits on fields that have recently been landformed. Mermentau, a new semi-dwarf pure line out of Louisiana has performed well in our trials for two years and certainly merits a look for those who are interested. From an overall grain quality standpoint, Cheniere is the standard. If we were in an identity preserved environment, it would demand a premium relative to much of the other options we have available.

XL753 will be the most widely available hybrid in Mississippi in 2014. It has exceptional yield potential, even surpassing that of CLXL745, but also will take us further into the declining grain appearance issue that has been raised by many of our export markets. It had the highest concentration of chalky kernels in 2012 and 2013 On-Farm Variety Trials ( /crops3.html#rice). On a positive note, in 2013, planting date greatly impacted chalk for XL753. When planted in June, the percent of chalky grains was greatly reduced relative to earlier plantings.

Time of planting is also critical. Pure lines (Clearfield or conventional) perform best when planted during the optimum planting window. For Mississippi, this is from March 20 to April 20. Managing the thin stands for hybrid rice during the early vegetative period can be difficult and planting them in the cooler soil and air conditions only adds to the difficulty. Hybrids offer the biggest advantage over pure lines when produced under stressful environments. Therefore, for growers who mix pure lines and hybrids, I recommend starting with pure lines and finishing with hybrids. Harvest capacity has to be considered as well. It is best to harvest CL151 and CL111 at 18 to 20 percent moisture because lodging tends to increase as grain moisture decreases. CL152 will stay in the field without serious lodging issues. It is also best to harvest Clearfield hybrids at high moisture to minimize lodging and preserve milling potential. The perfect balance is seldom achieved; however, it is my goal to provide a holistic view so that more educated decisions can be made.

I referenced earlier in the article a discussion about the many varietal and hybrid options in the southern USA today. From an agronomic standpoint, this is excellent! The risks of disease or other stresses are lessened due to the genetic variation. To the investment sector, we have finally become diversified, and our risks have been hedged. The same concept holds true in an agronomy textbook, so hats off to the breeding community (public and private). However, the reality is there is much discord among the end users. If this weren’t the case, a USA Rice Federation Marketing and Competitiveness Task Force would not have been established, nor would various exchanges have occurred between FECCAROZ and the US Rice Producer’s Association regarding “poor quality” USA rice.

Having been part of the task force and also traveling to Mexico City with the International Rice Leadership Development Program has opened my “personal” eyes to the problem as well. Unfortunately, we currently do not have the “Gold Standard” long-grain rice. If we do, it is mixed and mingled with many subpar rice cultivars, which only contributes to the overall problem. We must remember that a considerable amount of our production is exported. If we want to remain competitive, we have to be able to provide something our buyers want. We also have to be able to do it in a manner that is sustainably profitable, meaning providing profit over many years to come.

Our industry has shifted towards the production of higher yields at the sake of “USA” quality for a number of years now, so transitioning back to higher quality rice will not come immediately and without some cost to all who are involved. In a perfect world, we would have genetically diverse cultivars that produce exceptional yields and have impeccable grain quality traits. In the meantime, it seems the time is right to do all that we can to put very high-quality rice in markets that demand it and lower quality rice in markets that don’t.

The more cultivars that are out there, the more difficult it is to identity preserve. When choosing cultivars for 2014, look beyond yield and milling. Look for all possible options to facilitate this. Cooperation is key. As one who works very closely with the public breeding community, I can say that our efforts have been re-doubled to ensure we do our part in turning the quality issue back into the “good graces” of all of our end-users.

Start strong to finish strong

The odds of success at the end of the season are usually set when the seed hits the ground in the spring. Easily, the most important decision a grower will make is what seed is hitting the ground. Long-grain, medium grain or special-purpose, it is important to weigh the risks and benefits before making this decision. 2012 and 2013 gave us two extremes for evaluating rice cultivars. Hopefully, we get something in between the two in 2014.

For the 90 percent of Arkansas rice planted to long-grain cultivars, there are a number of options. RiceTec’s XL753 has been the highest yielding cultivar in the Arkansas Rice Performance Trials over the past three seasons. This cultivar has excellent yield potential, average milling quality and early maturity, combined with improved lodging compared to other hybrids. While extremely high yields can’t always be expected, growers should evaluate the performance of XL753 on their farm.

XL723 has also performed extremely well in recent years and should be considered due to its lower price point and ability to compete with XL753 under certain conditions.

Of the conventional varieties, Roy J, Taggart, Francis and Mermentau have been the top performers recently. Roy J was the most widely planted conventional variety in Arkansas in 2013 and lived up to expectations with the only common complaint being its late maturity. It has impressive stalk strength that fortunately wasn’t needed due to favorable fall conditions, but it may be a blessing in years that are less kind.

Mermentau is a new long-grain planted to only a small acreage in 2013, but most growers were pleased with its performance and earlier maturity. It is susceptible to sheath blight and very susceptible to straighthead but is a good option with increased availability in 2014. All of these varieties are blast susceptible to varying degrees. Be careful about planting them in blast-prone situations.

For Clearfield long-grain cultivars, CLXL729 and CLXL745 hybrids have performed very well. CLXL745 was once again the most widely planted cultivar in Arkansas in 2013, and, while it performed well, sheath blight seemed more aggressive on it under conditions ideal for disease development. CL151 continues to display the greatest yield potential for Clearfield varieties, but has some lodging and grain quality concerns. CL152 gives up some yield potential with less chalk and lodging, but there was also something it didn’t like about the environment in 2013. Research from previous years suggested better performance, but it did not hold up under later planted conditions last year.

For the 10 percent of Arkansas acreage planted to medium-grain varieties, choices are limited with Jupiter currently the best option. Caffey is a new medium grain that yields very similar to Jupiter but still needs market approval before it’s widely accepted.

Whatever you choose to grow, it’s best to hedge your bets. Plant multiple cultivars to spread risk based on disease packages. Also, keep harvest in mind when you plant. Selecting cultivars with different maturities can help spread harvest enough to get the crop out of the field on time and at the right harvest moisture to ensure the best yield and quality.

Don’t wear out Clearfield technology where you don’t need it “just because it’s easy.” You’ll regret it when it stops working for you. Finally, put the right cultivar in the right field – don’t set it up for failure to start the season. If a field has a history of a problem, don’t put a cultivar there that you know won’t respond well.

For detailed information on University of Arkansas testing of rice cultivars, please visit

Match marketplace to variety decisions

Whatever you did last year, do not do this year. This is one of my most common answers when asked about the upcoming rice crop because I have learned, often the hard way, that weather can change everything. This is not to be taken literally. All of our accumulated experiences, including “what happened last year,” add to our knowledge base and help us make decisions.

Our annual publication, Rice Varieties and Management Tips, is now available on the web at: In it, we discuss our current recommended varieties.

The recommended non-Clearfield, pure line, long-grain varieties that made the list this year are: Catahoula, Cheniere, Cocodrie and Mermentau. Catahoula has performed well in our verification program. This year it yielded over 8,700 pounds per acre on the first crop and 3,400 pounds per acre on the second. It also has excellent grain quality. Cheniere and Cocodrie have been around long enough that most are familiar with them. We did not get as good a look at Mermentau in our verification field as I would have liked, but it is a variety I would not hesitate to plant. It yields comparable to Cheniere and Cocodrie and has excellent grain quality.

CL111, CL151 and CL152 are the recommended Clearfield, pure line, long-grain varieties. Of the three, I like CL152 best because of its consistent yield potential (though not as high as CL151) and excellent grain quality. CL151 is the highest yielding pure line variety from Louisiana. Its shortcomings are grain quality and susceptibility to blast. In 2012, it took such a hard hit from blast that the acreage devoted to it decreased dramatically in 2013. However, blast was not important in 2013, and some growers have said they will take a chance on it in 2014 because of its yield potential. CL111 has performed well in both 2012 and 2013 and matures a little earlier, making it a good one to consider.

The LSU AgCenter and RiceTec signed an agreement last year that allowed us to test hybrids on the Rice Research Station for the first time in several years. After we have been able to evaluate them for three years, we will be able to provide recommendations. In our publication, we list three Clearfield hybrids and five non-Clearfield hybrids. The yield potential of the hybrids is outstanding. We had two in our verification program this year, and one produced over 10,000 pounds per acre dry in a single cutting, which is the highest yield we have had in the program on a single harvest. Grain quality continues to be a thorn in the side of the hybrids.

Even though medium grain acreage has declined sharply in Louisiana, the breeders at the Rice Research Station still have a very active medium grain breeding program. The varieties Caffey, Jupiter and Neptune are the recommended non-Clearfield medium grains.

CL261, despite it susceptibility to blast, remains the only Clearfield hybrid on the recommended list. By the time this is published, we may have another Clearfield hybrid. If the experimental line LA 1202065 is approved, it will be marketed as CL271 and will only be available for seed production in 2014.

I have mentioned grain quality several times. I did not use the term “milling quality” deliberately because there is more to grain quality than just milling. Chalkiness, cooking quality, consistency from grain to grain and other factors must be considered when an overall assessment of grain quality is made. The most obvious example of this is the evaluation of medium grain varieties by Kellogg’s. In recent years, their approval has had a great deal of influence on the medium grain varieties we have planted.

In the past, we concentrated on yield, disease resistance, lodging resistance and milling as primary consideration when selecting a variety. The marketplace has changed that somewhat, and maintaining a consistent supply of high-quality grain is becoming more important. Choosing the best variety for your farm now requires that you consider all of these factors. If you need help in making these decisions, do not hesitate to contact your local county agent.

Diverse choices

Have you heard that farmers are independent thinkers? Our rice variety data gathering summary taken recently by Dr. Beighley and me certainly reflects the different thinking of Missouri farmers about choosing varieties to plant on their farms. They have good reasons for needing diverse varieties that fit their specific conditions and situations. Some want short, some tall, some early and some later. Some want disease resistance and some want the Clearfield weed trait. Some want less expensive seed so they can plant thicker.

We found that their selections were divided between 10 varieties, and the top three were planted on about 50 percent of the 160,000 acres in Missouri. Since southeast Missouri is the beginning of Mississippi Delta, our soils vary like those below us from coarse sand to Sharkey clay. About 50 percent of our soils are clay based with a thin layer of silt. Many Missouri producers think hybrid rice varieties are a good fit for these soils where they often see a yield increase over conventional varieties, and they like the disease package they get with the hybrids.

Others prefer varieties that tend to grade better, which gives them a premium price. Many Missouri farmers are concentrating on quality and plant five percent medium grain with the remaining 95 percent being long-grain. The remaining 50 percent of our soils are heavy clay or loamy, and growers see little chance for getting a yield increase with hybrids, so they plant conventional varieties.

Southeast Missouri is blessed with a very ample supply of fresh, clean, easy-to-get, cheap water that recharges very quickly. Ninetynine percent of Missouri rice is flood irrigated, with one percent pivot or furrow. Ninety percent of our water is pumped from wells and 10 percent from streams. Ninety-five percent of our rice is drill or broadcast seeded and five percent water-seeded. Farmers need to choose varieties that best fit their specific situation.

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