During the first week of July, south Louisiana remained in a rainy weather pattern. The many visitors attending the recent field day at the Rice Research Station in Crowley, La., saw the results.

“For the past week, we've had rain every day,” Steve Linscombe, the LSU AgCenter's regional director for southwestern Louisiana. “A lot of the rice is heading right now and I'm a bit nervous that we'll have some sterility associated with the rainfall. In many cases, wind also comes in with the thundershowers.”

The pattern has Linscombe a bit on edge about potential disease.

“Cercospora is at the forefront because it was a big issue here in 2006. So far, there hasn't been any more than normal. But this is the stage when it started blowing up last year. We're not out of the woods yet.”

The vast majority of southwest Louisiana rice has been treated with a propiconazole-containing fungicide. “And that was a preventive treatment because of the cercospora problems last season.”

Some of the state's earlier rice has already been drained. Sample cuttings from some fields could be taken late the week of July 9.

“We didn't have the Easter freeze down here. However, temperatues got down into the mid-30s and that set the crop back. It took longer than I expected for the crop to recover.

“Since then, we've had decent growing conditions. Currently, we've got a good crop — maybe a little above average.”

Those at the field day were shown two experimental lines being increased in station fields.

Experimental 2082 is a conventional long-grain phenotypically similar to Cocodrie and/or Cheniere. It has about the same plant height and same maturity as Cheniere.

2082 has consistently outyielded both Cocodrie and Cheniere, “although not by thousands of pounds. Usually, 2082 wins the yield by 300 to 500 pounds.”

The new line has a “very good blast disease package and is resistant to the predominant races in Louisiana. It is susceptible to sheath blight, but is in line with Cheniere's vulnerability. That means it isn't nearly as susceptible as a variety like Cypress.”

2082 also has good milling quality, grain appearance and uniformity. “We have a 20-acre increase on the line, from seed brought back from (the breeding operation in) Puerto Rico. It was planted at a very low seeding rate — about 10 pounds. It produced a very good stand.”

The second line is experimental 2028, a medium-grain rice developed by Rice Research Station breeder Xueyan Sha.

“It's a good milling, semi-dwarf with early maturity,” says Linscombe. “It has very good yield potential, comparable to Jupiter (the last medium-grain released by LSU). It also has a good disease package with good resistance to blast.”

One of the main selling points of the line is its superior grain. “Most medium-grain end-users tend to prefer a bigger, bolder grain. Jupiter isn't bad in that regard, but 2028 has an advantage. We have a 5-acre increase on 2028.”

As with all rice varieties released by LSU, a committee will review data packages to assess readiness for market. “If the data continue to look good, a determination will be made whether or not to release foundation seed available in 2008.”

Meanwhile, there remains great interest in new Clearfield varieties. While Linscombe and colleagues don't have increases on new Clearfield lines this summer, they “do have a number of lines that look very, very promising.

“We'll likely make a decision on a Clearfield medium-grain after we gather all of this season's data. There are some very intriguing Clearfield medium grains in the pipeline. In fact, I'd like to think at least one will be taken down to Puerto Rico for an increase over the winter.

“Of course, we're still dealing with the adventitious presence of LibertyLink in several varieties. We're still trying to increase the Clearfield 131 and 151 to get them back to where they need to be.”

Mike Salassi, LSU AgCenter economist, also spoke at the recent field day in Crowley. “The first acreage report from the USDA since March plantings has come out. In Louisiana, the March planting intentions report showed 360,000 acres of rice — up about 10,000 from 2006. There were 2.64 million total U.S. rice acres in the report.”

The supply and use estimates through June were “based on the March planting data as well as a trend estimate of yield. In the new numbers, everything points to relatively high prices.”

Total supply for the 2007-08 marketing year in June was at 246.4 million hundredweight. “That's down about 11 million hundredweight from last year. The USDA had domestic use up more than 2 million hundredweight from the previous year. Exports are at 96 million, up about 3 million hundredweight.”

USDA expects 2007-08 marketing year ending stocks to be 25.7 million hundredweight, down 38 percent from 2006.

“Basically, those numbers mean we've got slightly lower supply, higher demand and lower ending stocks. Those factors will help keep the price high (the November contract is at $10.90).”

Since the acreage report came out June 29, “the price has dropped 20 cents, or so, per hundredweight But the price remains pretty high compared to the 10-year to 15-year average market price in the $7.50 to $8 range.”

On the marketing side, Salassi's advice to growers “is that anytime there are market prices above the long-run average — particularly in the current situation with substantially above — take advantage. The problem is that even with these higher prices, some growers still are not able to cash flow. That's because diesel and fertilizer are so much more expensive. The higher production costs have basically offset the impact of higher prices.”

Salassi reminded growers that the CBOT will soon merge with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. “Once done, we've been told, commodities traded on the CBOT will migrate to the CME beginning early next year. (Officials) promise it will be seamless and they've been preparing for the transfer for some time.”