Beneath an early morning sun, Steve Linscombe welcomed the first trailer-load of attendees to the annual field day at the Rice Research Station in Crowley, La.

“We have several things…that may become new varieties — perhaps as early as next year,” said the LSU AgCenter rice breeder and director of the station. “There's a new Clearfield line, CL 151. We've spoken about this one for the past year, or so…It will probably be between 161 and 131 in maturity.”

Pointing to Clearfield plots of 161, 131 and 151, Linscombe noted the difference in the varieties' heights.

“This is a difficult year to differentiate between plant heights in varieties because, in general, rice is a bit shorter (across all varieties). This isn't only occurring in our plots but throughout southwest Louisiana. There are a number of reasons for that…

“In general, 151 in a more normal environment would be about halfway between 161 and 131 in height. I think it will have good lodging resistance. Work in the past shows it has good yield potential.

“We're hopeful that if it's released it'll be a Clearfield line that has yield potential that comes close to our best conventional varieties like Cocodrie, Cheniere and Wells.”

At year's end CL 151 data will be studied and a decision on its release will be made.

Also among the bevy of plots was one containing Clearfield 171, a potential new variety developed in the Arkansas rice breeding program.

“It's a cross between CL 161 and Wells and has looked good in yield trials. This is the first year we've had it in our yield trials. To this point, agronomically, it looks very good.

“It will be a bit later than other Clearfield lines but I don't think the later maturity will be a big issue. We should have some yield data on this a bit later.”

Other long-grains Linscombe and colleagues are looking at include four RiceTec hybrids: XL-8, 730, 723 and 729.

There's also 2097. “It's looked very good agronomically and (yield-wise) appears it may be the next step up from Cocodrie and Cheniere. After this year, we'll look very hard at the data and try to make a decision on it.”

Presidio, a fairly new variety out of the Texas program in Beaumont, Texas, is also being studied. A long-grain with “pretty high yield potential,” Presidio probably doesn't yield quite as well as Cocodrie and Cheniere. But it has very, very good second crop potential. It's done especially well on the second crop in Texas.

Pace is a line from the rice program in Stoneville, Miss.

“It's another long-grain that's looked fairly good in our trials. It probably has better sheath blight resistance than the long-grains we're currently growing.”

Xueyan Sha, who works with specialty lines at the research center, discussed two promising lines. LA2125 is an aromatic, soft-cooking Jasmine-type line developed from LA2140. The new line has much improved milling and very good agronomic characteristics. LA2177 is a semi-dwarf Basmati-type aromatic with good yield potential, excellent grain and cooking quality, and good lodging resistance.

Brooks Blanche, also an LSU AgCenter rice breeder, said when working with new lines researchers look at high yield potential as the first priority.

“We also look closely at milling quality…and short stature. We like to keep plants short and early. Disease resistance and lodging are all things we select for in the breeding process. We also look at grain type — (we want) a large, bold grain similar to the Bengal type.”

As far as what's been done this year, “we made about 100 crosses in the greenhouse. We used old and new varieties. We used a lot of crosses with Jupiter, a newly-released medium grain from Sha's program. It has excellent yield potential, good milling quality, and a good disease package.”

For the next five years or so, those crosses will be evaluated in the field under as many conditions as possible. Along the way, the breeders will cull those that don't perform well. The promising crosses will be put into a yield trial.

“We have several yield trials — some at the station, some multi-state,” said Blanche. “This trial behind us is a state-wide yield trial. There are seven locations we've put all our experimental lines in. That will tell us quite a bit and is an important test. It tells us not only the mean yield but also how broadly adaptive it is.”