Steve Linscombe wears two hats. As a long-time rice researcher/breeder in south Louisiana, he must be up-to-speed on what is happening in the crop. As theLSU AgCenter Regional Director for the 14-parish Southwest Region, as well as Resident Coordinator for the Rice Research Station in Crowley, Linscombe must keep abreast of funding and legislative issues.

On Tuesday morning, Delta Farm Press spoke with Linscombe about the 2011 planting season, funding for research and a trio of new varieties that have been released. Among his comments:

How have the federal and state funding cuts affected the station?

“We’re being hit from two directions.

“Federal funding is important for land-grants through the Hatch Act and Smith-Lever. Right now, Smith-Lever is probably under more threat than Hatch. But with the ongoing budget situation in D.C., all of the programs are in some jeopardy.

“We’re very concerned with how federal funding will affect our research and Extension programs.

“Unfortunately, because of the financial situation the state of Louisiana is in, the LSU AgCenter has lost considerable funding in recent years. And it looks like there may be more cuts during the next state legislative session. It’s very difficult to deal with.

“Several weeks ago, it was announced that three of our experiment stations are closing: Calhoun, Rosepine and the Coastal station. That’s unprecedented and was the last thing you’d want to do. However, at some point in time, the continuous cuts mean we can’t have all the stations and programs.”   

For more, see House budget cuts: land-grants, Extension, research.

On the 2011 planting season…

“The planting season is going very well. We’ve had extremely mild temperatures since the end of February. There have been ideal planting and growing conditions. Most of the rice has germinated well, has taken off and is growing very well.  

“We planted a lot of rice early. There was more rice planted in early March – actually, the whole month of March – since I’ve been working with the crop. There’s a lot of rice that is flooded or will soon have the permanent flood applied. That’s pretty early for us.

“It is a bit dry and a lot of growers could use a shower. We’ve been missing rains, although some isolated areas have gotten some rain. But most are having to run the wells to flush and put on permanent floods.

“It’s been a windy April, so far. That has complicated some efforts to put out herbicides. All in all, though, it’s been a very good spring for planting rice.”

For more, see Rice Research Station's rice camera.

On Louisiana’s 2011 rice acreage…

“Just like all the rice states, Louisiana rice acreage will be down. We’ll see a 10 percent drop, maybe a bit higher.

“Most of the reduction will be in north Louisiana. There, growers have more opportunities to rotate acreage to corn, cotton and soybeans. The rice acreage in south Louisiana will probably be down only slightly from 2010.”

Varieties/sustainability

On recently-released varieties…

“We’ve released three varieties this year.”

  • Caffey

“This is a medium-grain we think will have a place. Right now, the predominant medium-grain is Jupiter and we also have considerable acreage in CL261 along with smaller acreage of Neptune. But Caffey should be a very good companion variety.

“Caffey has very high yield potential. It has consistently out-yielded Jupiter, which has good yield potential. Caffey has good grain quality, good milling quality, and a very large, bold grain. It’s the closest thing we’ve released to the CalRose type out of California. Medium-grain end-users typically prefer a bigger, bold grain and we think Caffey will fit that bill.

“Caffey has a pretty good disease package and fairly good second-crop, or ratoon, potential for us. That’s important down here in south Louisiana.

“This year, Caffey is only on limited acreage -- foundation seed was planted. But there’s enough planted that we’ll get a good handle on how it will perform agronomically.”

  • Jazzman II

“This is a follow-up to the Jazzman variety released a few years ago. Jazzman is an aromatic soft-cooking long-grain that has taken off and pleasantly exceeded my expectations. We’ll probably have between 10,00 and 12,000 acres of Jazzman. That, by far, will be the most acreage we’ve had in a specialty variety.

“Jazzman II is similar to Jazzman but it has much more aroma and a bit better grain quality. We think it will be another good specialty variety for us.”

  • CL152

“This is a new Clearfield long-grain release. It probably doesn’t quite have the yield potential of CL151 but it has much better lodging resistance and grain quality.

“In 2011, CL152 is being grown just as seed increase and, in small amounts, in demonstrations. That way people can have a look at it.”

On a sustainability project the Crowley station is working on…

“This is being done in conjunction with Kellogg’s. ‘Sustainability’ is a term that has become much more common to hear about in an agricultural context.

“Kellogg’s has become very interested in sustainability within their company, within their production processes, with their packaging, etc. They’re also interested in the raw materials and doing what they can to see those produced as sustainably as possible. We’ve worked very closely with them on this.

“We think we’re doing a very good job currently in producing rice in a sustainable manner. But there’s always room for improvement. This is an example of that.

“There is a pilot program to work with producers growing rice destined for Kellogg’s. In February, there was a meeting where those producers came for a day-long session looking at a number of sustainability aspects. They’re already doing well but we wanted our growers aware of some things that might be done a bit differently.

“There will be a follow-up field day at the station and on several commercial fields on June 21. Everyone is invited but it’ll focus on the producers growing rice for Kellogg’s.”

Note: the annual Rice Research Station field day will be held on June 30.

“The thing we continue to stress is: sustainability is great but profitability has to be the focus. Sustainable production must also be profitable or there won’t be any production, at all.”