The new LSU systems president, F. King Alexander, attended the Rice Research Station field day on June 26 and pledged his support for the LSU AgCenter.

“We’re here to support you in agricultural research,” Alexander said.

In his third day on the job, Alexander said he learned about the value of agriculture from his grandparents who farmed tobacco in Kentucky.

The importance of the land-grant system became evident when President Lincoln took time away from the Civil War to sign the University Land Grant College Act in 1862.

LSU AgCenter Chancellor Bill Richardson said it’s the first time an LSU systems president attended the Rice Research Station field day.

The field day provides farmers with the chance to learn about scientists’ research ranging from developing new rice varieties to fighting pests.

Much of the research at the station is made possible through farmers’ checkoff funding, which has totaled more than $30 million since the program began in 1971, Richardson said. Under the checkoff system, 5 cents from the sale of every 100 pounds of rice sold by farmers is dedicated to research projects.

“This has to be one of the largest success stories in the country,” Richardson said.

But Jackie Loewer, chairman of the Louisiana Rice Research Board, said the checkoff system is under attack by a lawsuit filed by a few farmers challenging the program, and the program could be jeopardized if the group’s litigation is successful. “That would be a tragedy.”

Loewer said the research board will be receiving $430,000 in funds as the result of the Colombian Free Trade Agreement, and they expect another $700,000 next year.

Michael Creed, of the Creed Rice Co., said rice buyers in Central and South America are concerned about the quality of American rice. “I wish all the rice sold by the U.S. came out of this research station because we wouldn’t have the complaints about quality problems.”

Mexico and other Latin American countries are growing more concerned about quality, Creed said. “We continue to have complaints from those destinations with regard to quality.”

On the other hand, Haiti has been buying rice from Vietnam, and the Haitians are not happy with the cooking qualities of Vietnamese rice, preferring American rice, he said.

Efforts have been underway for the past decade to sell rice to China, said Robert Cummings of the USA Rice Federation.

Representatives of the Kellogg Co. recognized successful participants in the Louisiana Master Rice Grower Program. Platinum level farmers are Dwayne Compton, Rene Daboval, Shannon Daboval, Eric Unkel and Mark Zaunbrecher. Gold level participants are Ray Faulk, Michael Talley, Dale Thibodeaux, Randy Thibodeaux, Ross Thibodeaux, Steven Thibodeaux, Tommy Webb and Craig Zaunbrecher.

The failure of Congress to pass a new farm bill only adds to uncertainty faced by farmers and lenders, said LSU AgCenter economist Mike Salassi.

Mike Strain, commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agricultural and Forestry, said Louisiana heavily depends on foreign workers for agriculture operations, and immigration reform should not curtail producer access to migrant labor.

During the field tour, LSU AgCenter hybrid breeder Jim Oard said the Kellogg Co. is interested in a hybrid line of rice being developed at the station. Oard also said three hybrid lines with the Clearfield trait are being tested.

The LSU AgCenter is part of a Southern consortium of universities working on hybrid rice, he said.

Greg Berger, a hybrid rice breeder from the University of Arkansas, said he is working with Oard in the consortium. “I think it’s going to aid both of us.”

LSU AgCenter rice breeder Steve Linscombe talked about his breeding program that includes a Clearfield medium-grain line that could replace the CL261 variety, with better resistance to the diseases blast and bacterial panicle blight.

The Clearfield medium-grain line is showing potential with better yields than Jupiter and Caffey, with a possible release next year, Linscombe said. Also a Clearfield Jazzman variety could be released in 2014.

LSU AgCenter weed specialist Eric Webster said he has looked at more complaints about herbicide drift this year than the last two years combined. The problem is increased as chemicals are applied by airplane early in the morning when atmospheric inversions can carry herbicides for considerable distances.

Webster said he would be inclined not to allow a chemical to be sprayed by airplane until a slight breeze has developed.

LSU AgCenter pathologist Don Groth said disease problems, especially blast, are not as bad this year as they were last year. “This year, I have almost no blast in these fields.”

Blast has a five-day window for spraying fungicides, when a field is between 50 and 70 percent heading, Groth said. For sheath blight, the timing is between the boot stage and early heading.

LSU AgCenter plant pathologist Jong Ham said several compounds are being studied for use against bacterial panicle blight.

LSU AgCenter agronomist Dustin Harrell said nitrogen fertilizer is best applied on dry ground. Nitrogen applied in standing water results in a weakened, yellowed crop.

LSU AgCenter entomologist Mike Stout said his research has included the interaction between fertilizer rates and possible effects on the rice water weevil.

University of Arkansas agronomist Jarrod Hardke said stink bugs are already being found near Arkansas rice fields. “We are seeing huge numbers on the edge of fields.”

After the field day, the Louisiana Rice Research Board met to consider several items. The board agreed to continue with its present slate of officers with Loewer as chairman, Clarence Berken as vice chairman and Richard Fontenot as secretary-treasurer.

The board also learned that a group of Colombians will tour the Louisiana rice industry Aug. 1-2, visiting fields being harvested, the Rice Research Station and export facilities at the Port of New Orleans.

The board will meet again on Oct. 29 to hear proposals for research projects.