Rice farmers can get up-to-date information in preparation for the 2008 crop at a series of four meetings being held across Southwest Louisiana, beginning Jan. 8 in Welsh, La., by the LSU AgCenter.

Farmers can find out about two new varieties being released in 2008 by the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station in Crowley. Approval has been given for the release of a medium-grain named Neptune and a long-grain called Catahoula.

Neptune has excellent yield potential, very good milling quality and a grain similar to Bengal, plus good blast resistance, according to Steve Linscombe, director of the Rice Research Station. Catahoula is very early-maturing with excellent yield potential and moderate resistance to sheath blight and good resistance to blast.

Linscombe said the new varieties will be made available for seed production with commercial availability in 2009.

“Planting season is just around the corner, and farmers will be making final decisions in the next few weeks,” Linscombe said. “Farmers seem optimistic as rice prices appear to be on an upward trend.”

The first meeting will be at the Welsh Community Center at 101 Palmer St.

All the sessions will start at 7:30 a.m. LSU AgCenter experts will discuss rice farming economics, pest control, fertilization and variety selections. After lunch, a soybean clinic will be held starting at 12:45 p.m.

The Jan. 9 session will be held in Ville Platte at the Ville Platte Civic Center at 704 N. Soileau St. Topics will include updated production practices for rice and soybeans.

The Jan. 10 meeting will be in Acadia Parish at the LSU AgCenter parish extension office in Crowley at 157 Cherokee Drive. LSU AgCenter speakers will talk about the latest varieties and rice pests, followed by an overview of soybean production.

The series ends on Jan. 11 in Kaplan at the American Legion Hall at 1504 American Legion Road. Topics to be discussed by LSU AgCenter experts include fertilizers, rice variety choices and rice pests that include diseases, insects and weeds.