As combines ease into harvest, it hasn’t been an easy cropping season for Mid-South rice producers or researchers.

“We’ve had a lot of hot weather – that’s really been the problem,” says Karen Moldenhauer, a University of Arkansas rice breeder. “Temperatures have been above 75 degrees at night. During the daytime, it’s been in the 90s and 100s. Anytime temperatures get above 95 degrees, sterility begins to kick in which causes blanks every now and then. This year, though, there have been so many hot days and nights that sterility has really been a problem.

“Even early on, we had hot weather during June when some of the crop was in panicle differentiation. Then, there was hot weather again during the boot stage when microsporogenesis was occurring (a pollen mother cell undergoes meiosis and gives rise to four haploid microspores).”

Panicle blight has been scattered throughout much of the rice crop. In some cases, “it’s hard to tell whether it’s panicle blight or heat, sterility and blanking up and down on the panicle. It’s hard to call between the two in some instances.”

Early reported yields “have been inconsistent. I haven’t cut any rice on the (Stuttgart) station yet, but what we hear are yields which are all over the place -- from very low (something we haven’t seen in a long time) to 200 bushels, or a bit above. You don’t really hear any ‘bragging’ yields this year. It seems we’re about 20 bushel off recent years’ yields.  

“Because of the environment, the inconsistency of yields may not be surprising – the early rice is in the same situation. Some of the early rice did well because it missed the heat and other early fields yielded poorly. Early on, growers had some trouble getting water across the fields because it was so hot and dry.”

As the later rice is harvested, Moldenhauer suspects milling quality will drop.

For more on Moldenhauer's work, see http://deltafarmpress.com/lajas-station-puerto-rico-key-site-rice-breeding

Pipeline

Moldenhauer has several conventional rice varieties in the pipeline.

Next year, “I’ll probably put the best line into panicle rows to start a seed increase and get more data on it. But it’s looked very good, this year, even in the heat. It also looked very good in cooler weather. So, I think it’ll be a real keeper. There is not a lot of panicle blight in this line. This line will probably be the same height as Francis and a bit earlier in maturity.”

Also in the mix is a promising IMI line.

“The interesting Clearfield line was only in two tests last year. This year, we put it in the ARPT (Arkansas Rice Performance Trials)and some of the early data shows it might be a keeper, too. We need more data to make a decision.”

New releases

As for new rice varieties, Moldenhauer believes producers should take a hard look at Taggart.

“It’s a really good variety. Taggart has always had high yields but there were some concerns that it is a bit later in maturity. Actually, the same concern exists for the Roy J release. Taggart reaches 50 percent heading in 96 days compared to Wells in 92 days. So, Taggart is four days later – about the same as Drew and three days later than Lagrue.”

Taggart is about the height of Drew, a bit taller than Wells and Francis. It also has a larger kernel size.

“Because of the larger kernel some thought ‘Taggart was just for parboil.’ That isn’t true because it has good milling. But with the longer kernel it is great for parboil. The European and Middle Eastern markets want that big Lebonnet-sized kernel and Taggart provides that.”

Plant pathologists say Taggart also has better tolerance to a lot of Mid-South rice diseases.

One other point of interest is how Taggart has done in ratoon systems. In 2007 Texas ratoon crop research, “it has 17,000 pounds of yield (a 12,000-pound main crop and a 5,000-pound ratoon crop). The other varieties did not compare to those numbers.”

Consider, in the same test, Francis as a ratoon crop produced about 13,000 pounds and Cocodrie was at 11,000 pounds.  

Another variety, Roy J, has very high yields and stiff straw. That’s a major advantage, says Moldenhauer. “It stands up very well with very good yield potential. We harvested the foundation seed field. People walk through there (rouging off-types and pulling weeds) all the time and, despite all the traffic, it dried at 210 bushels per acre.”

Roy J is about the same height as Taggart and Wells.

Templeton is the variety to consider if fields are prone to rice blast.

“If you have blast issues, Templeton is a good variety. It may not have the spectacular yield you can get out of Roy J or Taggart but it is much higher yielding than any other conventional variety that is available with blast resistance.

“We looked closely at Templeton after we released Banks, which was resistant to most common blast races. However, Banks wasn’t resistant to the IE-1k race, which had never been a problem. Banks had a problem with the race IE-1k especially on sandy soils that couldn’t hold water. That knocked Banks back so we were looking for another blast-resistant variety.”

It turned out Templeton rates MR-R (moderately resistant to resistant) to IE-1k and resistant to the other common races in Arkansas. It also has good yield potential, good milling and is about the same height as Wells with a similar maturity to Lagrue and Taggart.  

For comparison, in 2009, Templeton, Taggart, Lagrue and Drew all headed in 97 days. Wells headed in 95 days.

“There isn’t a lot of difference in maturity there.”

What about availability?

“Roy J should be available as registered seed, in 2011. Taggart and Templeton should be available as certified seed.”  

Clearfield

Moldenhauer and colleagues are also happy with the release of two Clearfield varieties: CL142AR and CL181AR.

“CL142 is very similar to Wells and has a similar disease package. It has pretty much the same fertility requirements.

“CL181 is a semi-dwarf and may not have quite the yield potential as CL142. However, it can do very well. We’ve had plots of it where it yielded well above 200 – around 220 bushels. We’ll find out how best to manage it in the future.”