A team of LSU AgCenter scientists that released 17 major rice varieties in 14 years received the Distinguished Rice Research and Education Team Award at the meeting of the Rice Technical Working Group in Houston, Texas.

The Rice Technical Working Group meeting, held every other year, is a gathering of rice experts from around the world who share presentations on their research. The 2004 session was held in New Orleans, La.

The LSU AgCenter team that received the award includes Steve Linscombe, senior breeder and regional director; Xueyan Sha, rice breeder; Pat Bollich, agronomist; Richard Dunand, physiologist; Don Groth, pathologist; and Larry White, director of the Foundation Seed Program.

David Boethel, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor for research, said the award signifies the quality of work performed by the group and its ability to work cooperatively as a team.

“The LSU AgCenter is extremely proud of our rice research and education team,” Boethel said. “In 2003, they were honored by our organization with the Tipton Team Research Award, but it is gratifying that rice researchers and educators throughout the world have recognized their expertise and dedication to the industry.

“They truly embrace the team concept, not only in variety development but also in the fields of pest management, cultural practices and outreach.”

Ernest Girouard, rice farmer and chairman of the Louisiana Rice Research Board, said the award demonstrates the respect LSU AgCenter researchers have earned from their colleagues.

“The varieties are not only being used in Louisiana, but they are probably the foremost varieties in the South,” Girouard said. “The LSU (AgCenter) team has taken a lead in that effort, but it's not just something that's happened in the past few years.”

The LSU AgCenter's rice variety development team has released such long-grain varieties as Cypress, Jodon, Cocodrie, CL121, CL141, CL161, Cheniere, CL131 and Trenasse. It also is responsible for medium-grains, including Bengal, Lafitte, Earl and Jupiter. Completing the list of varieties it has developed are the short-grain Pirogue; aromatics Dellrose and Dellmati; and the first crawfish forage variety, Ecrevisse.

Varieties released by this team have been grown on an average of more than 60 percent of the rice acreage in the southern United States for the past five years. In Louisiana, more than 90 percent of the rice acreage has been planted with varieties developed by the LSU AgCenter during that time.

The varieties developed by the LSU AgCenter team helped raise Louisiana's rice yield 22 percent in the past seven years — from 5,080 pounds per acre in 1999 to an estimated record 6,200 pounds per acre in 2005. That represents an increase of 4.9 million hundredweight of rice each year worth a conservative $35 million per year just to Louisiana rice farmers.

In addition to yield improvements, varieties released by this group have led to substantial improvements in milling quality and stability.

Cypress has redefined the standard for grain quality. This variety consistently displays high whole-grain milling yields, low chalk content and excellent retention of whole-grain milling yields at sub-optimum harvest moisture.

The newer long-grain releases from this team also have demonstrated consistently high whole-grain yields as well as milling stability at low grain harvest moisture.

The team also has produced more than 35 journal articles, 115 abstracts and proceedings and 50 popular press articles that have contributed to the scientific community at large.

Garry McCauley, Texas A&M rice researcher and chairman of the Rice Technical Working Group, said the choice of the LSU AgCenter team for the award was not difficult.

“To dominate varieties and to dominate varieties in multiple states is unbelievable,” McCauley said, noting that Texas rice acreage has declined, but yields have not fallen off proportionately.

“In large part, that was because of Cocodrie and other varieties coming out of the LSU AgCenter,” he said, adding that he anticipates more varieties from the Louisiana group.

“Somebody's got to do it, because we've got to have something more for rice farmers to survive,” McCauley said.

Jacko Garrett, a seed rice producer in Texas, wrote a letter recommending the team for the award.

“I think they've got the premier rice foundation seed program in the United States,” Garrett said, adding that the group also conducts practical research needed by farmers.

“They have a good group of people at the station,” he said. “I've worked with them for several years, and I've always been impressed with their teamwork.”

The LSU AgCenter rice varietal development team has been supported by checkoff funds from Louisiana rice growers, state funds, the Rice Foundation (a national rice research board), private industry and other granting agencies. And its grants have totaled more than $5.8 million during the past five years.

The varietal development team keeps a close working relationship with the Louisiana Rice Research Board, which administers the research funds from the 5 cent per hundredweight of rice paid by farmers. The program also is supported by seed sales through the foundation seed program, and its scientists maintain a close relationship with the Louisiana Seed Rice Growers Association.

The team also has had cooperative interactions with other universities and commercial rice development programs — in addition to working with millers, processors, brewers and consumer groups to ensure that potential releases meet quality requirements.

Groth said the Rice Technical Working Group gathering was dominated by new developments in identifying genes that express specific traits. More than 375 people attended, he said.

“We had a lot of LSU AgCenter faculty members make presentations and display posters,” Groth said. “All were very well received.”

Groth said a presentation by agronomist Jason Bond describing the ongoing research on salt contamination of rice fields in Vermilion Parish drew a lot of attention.

Bruce Schultz writes for the LSU AgCenter. He can be contacted at bschultz@agcenter.lsu.edu