Rice farmers should be vigilant for disease, specifically leaf blast that is worse than in previous years. The warning was provided by LSU AgCenter experts during field days in Evangeline and Jefferson Davis parishes.

Farmers at the Southwest Field Day in Jefferson Davis Parish on May 30 also got a look at the new grain loading facility near Lacassine.

While there was optimism that the facility could open markets for farmers, the immediate concern was on the progress of the current crop.

“There’s more leaf blast than I’ve ever seen,” said Steve Linscombe, director of the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station.

Blast prefers dry soil, said LSU AgCenter plant pathologist Don Groth.

“Flood early and flood fast,” Groth said at the May 31 field day near Mamou. “Blast is 10 times worse under upland conditions.”

Farmers should consider a fungicide that treats the disease and remember that damage from blast can be more severe than sheath blight, which might cut yields by 15 to 20 percent, Groth said. “Blast could potentially leave 15 to 20 percent of your yield.”

Fungicides would include Quilt XL and Quadris, Stratego and Gem, Groth said, and they should be used at a high rate. “You need to get more product out there to get more coverage.”

The severe blast outbreak may have been the result of rice that continued to grow through the mild winter or was grown in fields used to harvest crawfish, said LSU AgCenter rice specialist Johnny Saichuk. “That gives a base for these organisms to start earlier than they ordinarily would.”

Rice prices are likely to continue a slight increase for the rest of the year, said LSU AgCenter economist Mike Salassi. U.S. farmers reduced rice acreage by 130,000 this year, and that will help maintain Louisiana long-grain prices around $23 a barrel, or $14-14.50 per hundredweight, and medium-grain rice at $28 a barrel or $17 a hundredweight.

Soybean prices are likely to peak at $14 a bushel and lower to $13 by the end of the year.

“This might be a year to hold rice and sell it later, and sell beans now,” Salassi said.

Several new herbicides are now on the market, said LSU AgCenter weed scientist Eric Webster. Webster is testing a Japanese product not yet approved for U.S. farmers that works well on aquatic weeds. “It’s the best duck salad product I’ve ever seen.”

Dustin Harrell, LSU AgCenter agronomist, said three products are now available for farmers to reduce volatilization of nitrogen fertilizer. At one time, the product Agrotain was the only one available but Helena Chemical Co. has a similar product, called CoRon, and Gavilon has a new product.

Xueyan Sha, LSU AgCenter rice breeder, said work continues on a Clearfield line of Jazzman and on hybrid rice at the station.

A hybrid medium-grain rice could be released by the LSU AgCenter within 2-4 years, Linscombe said. But milling quality is a priority. “We are putting a lot of time and effort into quality.”

At the field day in Jefferson Davis Parish, farmers learned that Allen Hogan, LSU AgCenter county agent in Jefferson Davis Parish and assigned to soybeans, will be retiring at the end of May. He is being replaced by a new agent, Frances Bellard. They also learned that Natalie Hummel, LSU AgCenter entomologist, will be leaving to take a job in North Carolina.

Farmers toured the site of the new rail car loading facility at Lacassine. The project could be completed by this summer and be ready to ship rice to Mexico in September, according to Chris Krielow, board chairman of the South Louisiana Rail Facility LLC, made up of 156 rice growers, landowners and agricultural companies who invested $5,000 each. A total of $400,000 in federal grants was obtained by the Jefferson Davis Police Jury, and the state provided $1.8 million in capital outlay funds.

The facility is owned by the Police Jury, and it will be run by the SLRF. Chuck Ardoin has been hired as manager.

Krielow said the facility won’t be limited to rice shipments. “You’ve got other commodities, particularly soybeans, also going to Mexico.”