Farmers at a July 13 LSU AgCenter rice and soybean field day heard that a new rice mill being built near Mer Rouge could be open for business by early 2012.

Meryl Kennedy, of Kennedy Rice Dryers, said the mill will have the capacity for handling 120 million pounds of rice per year, and it could operate around the clock, seven days a week. Work on the foundation is almost ready to start and the project could be finished by Dec. 31. “We really need for this building to be completed by then.”

With that timetable, the mill would be operational by the first quarter of 2012 and start buying rice in February or March. Kennedy said the mill will buy farm-stored rice and rice from commercial dryers.

“This is a great big deal for rice production in north Louisiana,” said farmer John Owen of Richland Parish, chairman of the Northeast Louisiana Rice Growers Association.

The mill could buy as much as 40 percent of the rice grown in north Louisiana and southeast Arkansas.

Also at the field day, LSU AgCenter entomologist Natalie Hummel said the EPA granted provisional approval for the pesticide Dinotefuran, developed by Mitsui Chemicals, for stink bug control on rice.

“It’s probably going to be used most in this part of the state,” Hummel said.

The EPA granted approval last year for Texas rice growers. The chemical has a longer residual effect than pyrethroids. Data on its effectiveness will be needed to get Section 18 approval for next year.

Barnyardgrass and sprangletop are the two biggest weed problems for rice in north Louisiana, said Bill Williams, LSU AgCenter weed scientist. He warned farmers that the herbicide Clincher cannot be mixed with other chemicals.

The Valent chemical League has shown effectiveness against sesbania, Texasweed and dayflower with long residual capability, Williams said. It costs approximately $16 an acre at the 4-ounce rate.

Weather is the main culprit in numerous cases of partially filled panicles, said Johnny Saichuk, LSU AgCenter rice specialist. No diseases or insect problems can be found, but the heat could be interfering with the growth process.

Saichuk has seen some sheath blight disease even after applications of fungicide, and blast and bacterial panicle blight are becoming problems in some fields. “There’s more blast than I’ve seen in quite a few years.”

The treatment period for using a fungicide against blast is only a few days long, Saichuk said. It’s obvious to him that farmers have improved their weed control. “This is the cleanest crop I’ve seen in years. Overall, I think the crop looks pretty decent.”

Farmers in south Louisiana are draining fields this week, and the harvest should be well underway next week.

Steve Linscombe, LSU AgCenter rice breeder, talked about potential varieties under development. He said a conventional long-grain variety is being tested that could be superior to three well-known LSU AgCenter varieties – Cocodrie, Cheniere and Catahoula. He also said work on a Clearfield line could lead to a variety that has increased yield potential.

Farmers are growing more than 10,000 acres of the aromatic Jazzman variety, also developed by the LSU AgCenter, to compete with imported Thai jasmine, Linscombe said.

Farmers who need more than three days to flood fields after applying the first dose of fertilizer should use a urease inhibitor to prevent nitrogen from being volatilized, said Dustin Harrell, LSU AgCenter agronomist.

The second application of fertilizer can be applied in a flood because rice plants will have developed large masses of roots that can absorb two-thirds of the nitrogen in three days. Harrell also said the AgCenter fertilizer recommendation for the variety CL151 has been reduced to a maximum of 130 pounds per acre to reduce problems with plants falling over.

Drought has hurt the soybean crop, said Ron Levy, LSU AgCenter soybean specialist. Levy doesn’t expect any records to be set with this fall’s harvest. “There is some potential for at least a decent crop.”