A recent decline in rice prices probably will not continue, and the market is likely to resume its upward trend, an LSU AgCenter AgCenter economist said at the Evangeline Parish Rice Field Tour.

Gene Johnson said current speculators, turned off by the downturn in the stock market, bought into commodities to make quick profits, and that caused prices to decline somewhat.

“I think if you sit and wait, it’s going to come back up.” And the good prices appear to have staying power, Johnson said.

“Our market should continue to be positive with strong prices for the next 18 to 24 months,” Johnson said.

Some rice-exporting countries, such as Thailand and Vietnam, have restricted exports, and Johnson said some countries have avoided buying rice at the higher prices. “A lot of different countries are needing rice,” he said.

But while prices are at their highest level, so are the expenses of fuel and fertilizer. Saving money on nitrogen may require spending money for Agrotain, according to Dustin Harrell, an agronomist from the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station. He said use of the chemical limits nitrogen from being lost before plants can absorb the nutrient, if the flood will be delayed after nitrogen application onto a dry soil.

Agrotain sells for $47.50 a gallon, he said, and that amount will treat 1 ton of urea. Harrell said the cost of urea has jumped from $525 per ton in January to $590, and the cost of triple phosphate has increased from $525 in January to $1,025 a ton.

Harrell said farmers are recommended to apply two-thirds of their nitrogen at preflood, and the remaining one-third at panicle differentiation to get the best benefit. Fields should be flooded as quickly as possible after the nitrogen has been applied.

He said applying fertilizer in a flooded field when rice plants are small will result in considerable loss of nitrogen. A moist field will result in less nitrogen loss, but a dry field presents the best condition.

Johnny Saichuk, LSU AgCenter rice specialist, agreed with Harrell’s advice not to fertilize a flooded field when rice plants are small. “It doesn’t work well,” Saichuk said. “Drain the field, then apply nitrogen.”

Saichuk said applying fertilizer when plants are small will result in little uptake, and the material is changed chemically, thus more subject to loss. Mid-season applications, however, are efficient because plants are larger with more root mass to absorb nitrogen quickly, he said.

Saichuk said the 2008 crop is not growing quickly, and he attributed that to the cool weather. “This is just a slow-moving crop,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture projected Louisiana would have 40,000 fewer acres this year than last year’s total of 380,000, but Saichuk said indications are the crop will exceed 400,000 acres.

Additional researchers addressed the group:

• Natalie Hummel, LSU AgCenter entomologist, said a potential pest, the channel apple snail, has shown up in the Houma, La., area. She said it is a pest of rice grown in Asia and Brazil.

• Eric Webster, LSU AgCenter weed scientist, said herbicide applications may be more likely to drift to nearby fields when applied with little or no wind. A calm morning creates temperature inversions, and the chemical will hang in the air for several minutes and get moved with the slightest breeze. However, a wind of 2 to 5 mph usually lessens occurrence of drift from temperature inversions.

• Brooks Blanche, Sha Xueyan and Steve Linscombe discussed developments in their breeding programs. The field tour was held at the farm of Kody and Larry Bieber where the breeders and Harrell have research plots.

• Don Groth, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist, said the Rice Research Station has doubled the number of experimental lines being screened for disease resistance.