Red rice remains a major problem in the Mid-South, so it's welcome news that a full complement of Clearfield varieties will soon be available.

“Clearfield is a vital tool to keep red rice in check,” says Chuck Wilson, Arkansas Extension rice specialist. “It can only be a good thing that all the Clearfield varieties are coming back.”

In summer 2006, the very popular Clearfield 131 — along with another popular variety, Cheniere — was waylaid by the presence of a genetically modified LibertyLink trait. Although affecting only the tiniest fraction of the variety's genetic makeup, the varieties were pushed aside as the rice industry tried to placate foreign markets and flush the GM trait from the system (for current Arkansas regulations, see www.deltafarmpress.com/rice/071120-seed-regulations/index.html).

While it may not be termed a re-launch, GM-clear Clearfield 131 is set for commercial return in 2009. Personnel at several mills say if testing proves the GM problems are past, they'll accept the variety without hesitation.

Steve Linscombe says that's a hurdle the long-grain has already crossed. “We went back to our head-row seed production,” says the rice breeder and LSU AgCenter's regional director for southwestern Louisiana. “That seed was intensively screened.

“In fact, we had about 250 pounds of CL131 head-row seed we were going to use in planting our increase field in 2007. We extensively tested almost 8 pounds of that total.”

Linscombe and colleagues, who originally developed the Clearfield technology, used a bit over 200 pounds of the seed to plant a 20-acre increase field. It was planted at very low seeding rate, around 10 pounds per acre.

“Larry White, who's in charge of our foundation seed production, did an outstanding job working that field. In fact, that CL131 field cut over 50 barrels for us. That's amazing with only a 10-pound seeding rate.

“Again, that seed was extensively tested prior to seeding. Samples were also pulled as we were harvesting in mid-August.”

Memphis-based Horizon Ag — the company responsible for marketing Clearfield varieties — took the seed harvested by Linscombe to a Brownsville, Texas, grower.

“We've begun a seed increase in that area, where rice has never been grown,” says Randy Ouzts, Horizon Ag general manager. “The first successful harvest has been made of parent seed stocks. We've elected to continue the ratoon crop in the Rio Grande Valley to bring additional seed stocks to market.”

The commercial commitment to Clearfield varieties by Horizon Ag “has never been stronger. We're very excited about 2008 but even more excited about 2009.”

CL151

With CL151, Linscombe “had a very similar program to the CL131. We grew 32 acres of CL151 at a very low seeding rate. Actually the CL151 and CL131 fields were planted across the turn-row from each other. Horizon Ag has that seed and is in the process of blowing it up as quickly as is feasible.”

Asked if a set amount of acreage is being targeted with the CL131 and CL151 seed increase, Ouzts says he wants to have “substantial certified seed supplies of both varieties in 2009. Due to market demand, there will be more stocks of CL151 than CL131 and we hope to see at least 600,000 acres of seed available between the two in 2009.

“Currently, we have four varieties being marketed to seed processors — CL161, CL171, CL131, and CL151,” says Ouzts. “We have the broadest portfolio of varieties coming into the market. CL151 will raise the bar by allowing producers to choose a consistently high-yielding Clearfield variety with excellent tolerance to imi herbicides as compared to the current Clearfield hybrids. And CL151 is comparable in yield and quality to nearly every standard variety out there, which moves us to the next level that growers have asked for.”

Testing done in Arkansas on CL151 prior to 2007 showed it did very well. “It had a lot better yield potential than CL131 and CL161,” says Wilson. “Actually, the yield potential for CL151 was comparable to Wells and Cocodrie although it seemed to have some susceptibility to blast and straighthead. I hope to test more of it this growing season.”

Horizon Ag is also in the process of bringing the first Clearfield medium-grain variety to market. That will be launched in 2009, pending LSU's approval for release.

The medium-grain essentially “splits the difference between Jupiter and Bengal, we're told,” says Ouzts. “From a yield perspective, we're told it should be very competitive with those varieties and the addition of the Clearfield trait should add better potential as has happened with our Clearfield long-grain varieties. From a grain-size perspective, it's between the two and should fit nicely in the downstream market for medium-grain rice.”

Lately, the demand for medium-grain rice seems to be getting stronger and filling that need with a Clearfield variety “is a neat wrinkle of our business going forward.”

CL171-AR

Clearfield 171-AR was developed in Arkansas and is expected to do very well in the state. However, the variety has looked good in Louisiana as well, says Linscombe. “From what we've seen experimentally and on a few commercial acres, in Louisiana CL171-AR appears to be close to CL161.”

Wilson says CL171-AR seems to do better when planted early. “Initially, I thought the sheath blight tolerance would be a bit better than CL151. However, as Rick Cartwright (Arkansas Extension plant pathologist) and I have tested it, it appears that isn't the case and they're about level.”

With soybean seed extremely tight, Ouzts hopes a large CL171-AR seed supply may play a role in Mid-South crop selections.

“There's some indication that farmers unable to get their favorite soybean varieties may move some acres back to rice. To be honest, though, the seed supply numbers are shifting every day.

“My seedsmen friends are also in the soybean business. They tell us they're getting almost daily calls saying, ‘You've lost some more of your allocation.’ This is a problem because as many of the soybean varieties are (scrutinized) for certification, the inventory keeps being reduced. We're told there should be enough soybean seed in the South to plant a large crop. However, the big shift in acres that might have happened is being seed-limited. Of course, the situation continues to be very dynamic and, at this time, no one knows the final answers.”