Greetings from Louisiana rice country! This year, the blog will concentrate research conducted at the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station, in addition to showing the progress of a 6-acre field of rice planted March 19 to produce foundation seed. We encourage your comments and thoughts to help improve this online tool. If you would like a photograph of a particular piece of equipment or a better explanation of a process, let us know.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Harvest results tallied

The final numbers are in for the harvest of the blog field. The picture above shows the field after the rice was cut.

Larry White determined the overall yield was 46.26 barrels per acre at 18.5 percent moisture. That will be 42.8 barrels after the rice is dried in bins to 12 percent moisture.

In South Louisiana, rice is measured in barrels. A barrel is 162 pounds of rice.
North Louisiana farmers measure rice by the bushel. A total of 45 pounds is contained in 1 bushel, and that works out ot .277 of a barrel. One barrel contains 3.6 bushels.
But rice also is measured in hundredweights (100 pounds of rice = 1 hundredweight).

Meanwhile, several other fields at the station have been harvested while others are not mature enough for harvest. Some varieties mature earlier than others. Farmers generally prefer an earlier harvest to avoid the peak of hurricane season in late August and early September.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Rice harvest begins

Harvest of the rice blog field began at approximately 11:30 a.m. on Monday, August 06. This is 139 days since the field was seeded on March 20. The grain moisture of the first truckload of rice harvested was about 18%. This means that the grain at this stage contained approximately 18% water. Rice is typically harvested at between 17-21 % grain moisture. The grain is then artificially dried down to about 12% moisture. The reason rice is harvested at higher moisture then artificially dried (as opposed to letting the grain dry in the field prior to harvest) is to maintain the grain quality. If the grain dries much below 17% in the field, there is excessive breakage of the rice grains during the milling process. Even though the grain harvested from this field will be used for seed, maintenance of grain quality is still important.

Shortly after the harvest began, a bearing broke on the clean grain elevator on the harvest combine. The combine had to be brought into the Rice Research Station Maintenance Shop for repairs. The combine will be repaired and the harvest operation will resume as soon as possible. This is not a rare occurrence in any commercial rice farming operation. Harvest machines are very complex with a large number of moving parts and breakdowns necessitating repairs are commonplace during the harvest season.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Grain continues to mature

The aim of draining of the field is to get the water removed to allow the ground to dry so harvesting equipment can get to the crop. If farmers have to harvest in a muddy field, the ground gets rutted from the equipment sinking in the mud and that creates problems for a second crop of rice. It could cause more work for next year’s crop also, with additional field preparation.
Dr. Richard Dunand, LSU AgCenter plant physiologist, said the drained field also will allow the grain moisture to decrease, but the weather must cooperate with little to no rain. He estimates harvest is about 2 weeks away.

Dunand estimated that grain moisture is roughly 30 percent, about 10-12 percent more than farmers want for harvest. Since the rice from this field will be sold as seed, it may be allowed to dry to less than 18 percent grain moisture before harvest. He said rice grains lose about a half to 1 percent of their moisture per day under dry conditions. “As long as we have cloudy weather, that process will be slowed,” he said.
In the photo below, normal rice grains that are mature, as indicated by their golden color, are mixed on the same panicle with green hulls that indicate maturity is not complete for those grains.

In this picture, purple rice hulls indicate grains failed to develop, possibly because of interference with the pollination process. Dr. Johnny Saichuk, LSU AgCenter rice specialist, referred to this condition in his July 10 installment of Field Notes.

Some grains are blank because of damage from an insect called a stem borer. The picture below shows that the panicles never developed. On the right is the stem cut from the same stalk that shows where a stem borer insect invaded the plant.

Stink bugs will continue to feed on developing grain. Here a stink bug is poised to feed on a grain in the milk stage or dough stage, but the insect’s mouth part, called a proboscis, is not piercing the grain.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Larry White

This is the man behind the blog field, Larry White, manager of the seed program at the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station.
Farming came naturally for White.
“I grew up on a farm next to my grandfather’s house,” he said.
White graduated from LSU in 1978 with a degree in agriculture business. For a couple of years, he farmed with his grandfather, Elzy Faulk, and uncle Johnny Faulk near Crowley.
Then a job as research associate opened at the Rice Station to work with Dr. Earl Sonnier. After Sonnier retired, White transferred to his current job.
“I do everything from planting it, harvesting it, drying it, cleaning it and selling it,” White said.
In December, White starts selling foundation seed to seed growers.
Dr. Steve Linscombe, director of the Rice Research Station, said White’s work is valuable to rice growers.
"Larry’s hard work, perseverance and dedication have made the Rice Research Station's Foundation Seed Program an outstanding asset to the rice industry,” Linscombe said. “He is dedicated to achieving the highest level of quality and purity for all seed produced from his efforts. He is also always willing to lend a helping hand to all other research projects on the station."

Monday, July 16, 2007

Drain the field for harvest

Water started flowing through the field Monday morning as the gates were opened to release water in preparation for harvest in about 2 weeks. Below, water from the field enters a drainage ditch at the Rice Research Station.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Rice crop maturing

The blog field continues to mature as grain filling is underway. Harvest is only 3 weeks away.

Much of the crop is in the milk stage, as shown in the picture to the left. A milk-like liquid is in the hulls. This is a prime growth stage for stink bugs to use their piercing mouth parts to penetrate the hull and feed on the developing kernels. In this field, an application of Mustang Max has been made to control the insects.

Within a few days, the starchy liquid becomes solidified, reaching the dough stage when the grain is soft and pasty, as shown in this picture.

Here are two panicles. The one on the left is still in the milk stage. The panicle on the right has started to droop from the weight of the solidifying grain that has entered the dough stage.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


Pollination is underway in the blog field.

After heading, pollination begins near the top end of the panicle and progresses downward. Pollination of all of the florets on an individual panicle requires about 3 days. During this time the florets are susceptible to rough weather like we've been having lately. (It rained more than an inch at the station yesterday in just a few minutes.) Strong winds and heavy rain usually associated with thunderstorms at this time can cause inadequate pollination. The resulting florets will be empty, producing no grain. If this condition is significant, grain yield can be reduced.

In this photo, pollination has occurred, and the rice hull is closing and the anthers remain exposed.
Florets open to allow pollination generally between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. This can vary depending on environmental conditions mostly associated with temperature and humidity. Under cloudy, cool, calm or humid conditions, the time for pollination may shift later by as much as an hour or so.

After pollination, grain filling begins. So, when pollination is noted it is time to think about checking for stink bugs and considering the insecticide programs that are available for stinkbug control.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Field Day

The Rice Research Station is the place to be June 28 for the annual Field Day.
In the above picture, LSU AgCenter county agents and Rice Research Station scientists ride by the blog field during preparations for the Field Day.
The day starts at 7:30 a.m. with field tours continuing until 9:30 a.m.
A poster session highlighting research and agricultural products will be held from 7:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. Dr. Johnny Saichuk, LSU AgCenter rice specialist, will be available to provide answers to questions about their crop. Farmers who have questions related to diseases, insects or weeds should bring samples.
The program starts at 10:45 a.m. with a review of Louisiana Rice Research Board activities by LRRB vice chairman Jackie Loewer. He will be followed by Johnny Broussard, USA Rice Federation legislative affairs director, who will give an update on the latest developments in congress related to the farm bill and how it could affect rice farmers.
Dr. Mike Salassi, LSU AgCenter economist, will discuss rice economics, and the program will end with remarks from Dr. Bill Richardson, LSU AgCenter chancellor.

Panicles are emerging

As you can see from the above photo, the blog field shows a wide variety of maturity. Some plants are fully headed, while the panicles on other plants are just starting to emerge from the boot, the sheath of the flag leaf, the tallest and last leaf to form on a plant. Still others are in the boot split phase, which means the panicle’s growth has caused the boot to split apart, and a few plants are starting to pollinate. It appears the field is reaching 50 percent heading which is a good time to decide about a fungicide application for sheath blight and rotten neck blast.
Four stages of maturity area shown, with boot splitting on the left and a fully headed plant at far right.

Dr. Richard Dunand, LSU AgCenter plant physiologist at the Rice Research Station, estimates the field is 5 weeks from harvest.

Dunand said the rice plants that experience less fertilizer enters the heading stage earlier. That often happens on the edges of a field, which happened at the blog field, where pilots have to negotiate around power lines or where the field elevation is higher, causing a shallower flood that makes for less efficient nitrogen availability. The edges of drill-seeded fields are sometime ‘dressed up’ with an extra drill pass or two around the perimeter of the field. When this occurs as it has in the blog field, stand (plant population) is high. The stand may have a higher plant population on the edges of a field, and with a dense plant population, competition between plants can lead to slightly earlier maturity. Dunand said he suspects each of the situations above contributed to why the borders of this field are showing earlier maturity.

Below is a photo of plants taken from the field that shows the varying growth stages. The plant on the left has the panicle splitting the boot, while the plant second from the left shows the panicle emerging from the boot. Far right is a fully headed panicle with florets starting to appear on the top of the plant for pollination.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Panicles continue growth

The rice crop in the blog field is growing well, and it is approaching the stage that signals the window for spraying a preventive application of fungicide to protect the field against cercospora.
Last year, the fungal disease wreaked havoc on rice across Southwest Louisiana in the weeks just before harvest, so farmers are on guard against it this year.
Dr. Richard Dunand, LSU AgCenter plant physiologist at the Rice Research Station, dissected several plants in the field Wednesday and found the developing panicles ranging from 2 to 4 inches. Dunand said the consensus is that fungicides intended to fight cercospora should be applied when the average panicle reaches 4 inches. He said that means several plants should be examined to get a good overall survey of a field because plants mature at a different rate, perhaps by as much as a week to 10 days depending on the field.
Larry White, manager of the seed program at the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station, said Dr. Don Groth, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist at the Rice Research Station, will make a recommendation on what day to apply a fungicide and which chemical to use. But the application by airplane could occur within the week.
Below is a panicle that has grown to 2.5 inches long (almost 6.5 centimeters). The individual florets are developing which will become the reproductive parts of the plant, with each floret, after pollination, becoming a grain of rice.

Meanwhile, Larry is pumping water on the rice field, since it hasn’t rained at the station since Saturday night’s 1-inch downpour.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Panicle differentiation

Rice plants in the blog field have started to reach panicle differentiation, according to Dr. Richard Dunand, LSU AgCenter plant physiologist.

This morning, Dr. Dunand dissected a plant and found that the panicle is just beginning to be visible at about an 1/8 of an inch, as shown in the picture below. The panicle is the small brushy structure on the end of the dissected stem.

It is from the panicle that small flowers, called florets, will develop and eventually become grains of rice as the reproductive phase of growth progresses.

More rain appears possible today. The last moisture recorded at the Rice Research Station was on Tuesday, with 1.07 inches.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Conditions ripe for disease

The wet, humid weather of the past few days in Southwest Louisiana have enhanced conditions for disease on rice. (The rain gauge Friday morning showed .08 inches of rain in the past 24 hours, and rain is possible today. The previous day’s total was 1.9 inches.)
“This is going to bring it on,” said Dr. Don Groth, LSU AgCenter pathologist at the Rice Research Station. “This is perfect weather for disease.”
He said the blog field showed some potential signs of narrow brown spot caused by the cercospera disease. Up to five fields in the area are showing signs of Cercospora, but lab tests are needed to confirm its presence, he said.
The photo at right shows the narrow lesions that Groth, pictured above, suspects are caused by Cercospora.
This isn’t the only disease to worry about, however.
“Everything that keeps that canopy wet is perfect for sheath blight,” Groth said.
The window for spraying fungicides is quickly approaching. He recommends waiting until rice is between the mid-boot stage to 50-75 percent heading before making an application. Even though some signs of disease are showing up, he said, it’s best to wait for that time frame to get optimum effectiveness. For the blog field, Groth estimates the best time to spray will be in late June.
The blog field’s low seeding rate (42 pounds per acre) means the canopy isn’t thick yet, so that will slow down disease development, Groth said. But it will be treated with fungicides anyway because the field is being grown for seed rice.
He said Quadris is usually in the fungicide regimen, but this year Quilt or Stratego will be used because both chemicals contain propiconazole which is effective on Cercospora.
“The fungicides are already ordered and the plane will be here at the appropriate time,” he said.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Rain, more possible today.

The Rice Station recorded 1.9 inches of rain in the past 24 hours, and more is expected today. The picture above was taken Wednesday afternoon between storms. More rain is predicted for today. Rice farmers who haven't flooded their fields yet, the rain will save on the costs of pumping, but for farmers whose fields were flooded, the rain is of little consequence.
For farmers in Southwest Louisiana who planted soybeans in rotation with their rice, heavy rainfall now is not welcome.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Rice crop in transition

The rice crop in the blog field has entered a critical stage, according to Dr. Richard Dunand, LSU AgCenter plant physiologist at the Rice Research Station.
After dissecting a plant, in the photo at left, he concluded that the crop has probably grown beyond the vegetative stage and entered the early phase of the reproductive stage. Dunand said the plants within the next week should reach panicle differentiation when the developing panicle, where the rice kernels will develop, can be found inside the plant with the unaided eye.
The initial stage of the reproductive phase is green ring, distinguished by a distinct green ring around the first white node of the plant just above the root structure, but Dunand concluded that the crop has moved beyond that stage.
Determining the reproductive stage is important for three reasons.
First, Dunand explained, it’s around this point that nitrogen fertilizer has its last chance to be effective. (The field received a top-dressing of fertilizer, as detailed in the previous entry.)\
Second, by this time, fields that were drained to control rice water weevils, and to reduce straighthead, a condition that results in panicles developing with little or no grain, should be reflooded.
And third, as the reproductive stage progresses, the window starts closing on the opportunity to spray 2,4-D herbicide.
As a plant enters the reproductive stage, it tends to curtail tillering, Dunand said.
And a field that has been seeded at a low rate as this one has at 42 pounds an acre, tends to compensate for the low plant population by remaining in the vegetative stage longer and tillering more than a field planted at a higher seeding rate.
Shown to the right is a dissected plant. The tip of the knife is pointing at the area where the panicle will develop.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Aerial application of urea fertilizer (125 pounds per acre of 45 percent nitrogen) came a little earlier than expected today. It was supposed to be made at 10 a.m., but it was moved up an hour earlier. In the top photo, pilot Dennis Vega loads the fertilizer into his airplane at a nearby airstrip before making several passes over the field.
Larry White, manager of the seed program at the Rice Station, is hoping it will rain today to help flood the field and to allow the fertilizer to permeate the soil so it can be absorbed by the plants. Rain is predicted, and any moisture would mean less water that would have to be pumped to flood the field, but as of noon today, only .02 inches of rain had fallen in the past 24 hours.

Different wings were also flying over the field earlier. At right is a heron in midflight over a levee. (Click on the picture to get a bigger image and you can see a killdeer on the levee.) Thousands of insects similar to mayflies were also buzzing in the air over the field.

Monday, May 21, 2007


All the water is off the field, and as you can see in the photos, the ground is starting to crack open. More water will be pumped onto the field this week, and another application of fertilizer is expected to be made Wednesday around 10 a.m. Set your clock to remind you to use our webcam to watch the airplane drop nitrogen on the field.
(Note: The top photograph, taken at a low angle between rows of drill-seeded rice, shows the tower at the Rice Station dryer complex. It was from the top of this tower that the two pictures of the airplane applying fertilizer were taken on April 19.)

Friday, May 18, 2007


MAY 16
The field was drained and the soil will be allowed to dry to the point of cracking to allow aeration of the root zone. This is a cultural practice to control the physiological disorder called straighthead. This disorder is often of a greater potential in fields that have not been planted to rice for several years. Since this field has been out of production for 9 years, this draining and drying is being done as a precaution.


You will be able to watch rice grow with a webcam installed at the rice station. It is aimed at the field being followed in this web log.

You can view the field with real-time still pictures by going to the website,

To the right , Davis Dautreuil, LSU AgCenter regional technical support specialist, installs the camera.

Nitrogen fertilizer was applied by air to the field at the rate of 200 pounds per acre, then the permanent flood was applied. You can see the white granules of fertilizer in the picture below. Larry White said the flood will be maintained until the decision is made to drain the field to prevent straighthead.

Three herbicides were sprayed at once in an aerial application. The herbicides, Prowl, Permit and Arrosolo, were recommended by LSU AgCenter weed specialist Dr. Eric Webster. Larry White said the same combination used on fields at the station last year worked well. Webster recommended Prowl for its residual action on grasses and small-seed broadleaf weeds, Arrosolo for grasses such as barnyard grass and broadleaf weeds, and Permit for nut sedge.

Fertilizer was applied by airplane today at the rate of 250 pounds per acre. The fertilizer was 8-24-24 made up of 8 pounds of nitrogen, 24 pounds of phosphorous (P205) and 24 pounds of potassium (K20) in each 100 pounds.

Preparing an airplane for the planting season often requires making sure the equipment is properly adjusted. The LSU AgCenter has a program to test airplanes before they take to the fields to make sure material is being distributed across a field in an even pattern. Pictured below is the test procedure being used for an airplane at the LeGros Airport near Estherwood on March 30.

Rice plants on the field appear to be recovering from the cold. Here, a plant has a healthy, green leaf that will replace the previous growth damaged by cold weather during the Easter weekend.

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen sleet in South Louisiana. But who would have expected frozen precipitation in April? But that’s exactly what happened April 7. Fortunately, the temperatures didn’t get low enough to result in frost.
As expected after passage of a strong cold front, the south wind that came by April 13 was intense. Larry White, manager of the seed program at the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station, said the cold and wind combined had a definite impact on the young rice plants.
Here’s a rice plant from the field being monitored in this blog.

Dr. Johnny Saichuk, LSU AgCenter rice specialist, said young rice plants can be protected from a frost or freeze with an insulating layer of water.
Saichuk additionally shared his thoughts on the impacts of the cold in his weekly field notes:

Will the yellowed plants affect the harvest with lower yields? “That’s a long time from now,” Larry White said.
He said the DD50 computer program for projecting a rice crop’s timetable indicates that this field should be harvested by July 23, about a week sooner than most harvests at the station. But the earlier planting moved the harvest back.

To direct water into each section of the field, plastic sheeting – called curtains – are used to prevent the moving water from eroding the levees. Here, a station crew installs a curtain. The top photo shows a series of curtains.

Dr. Johnny Saichuk, LSU AgCenter rice specialist, has installed a flow meter at the field to monitor how much water is used. Shown here is the monitor gauge that indicates the flow of water in gallons per minute. The gauge shows a flow between 500 and 600 gpm.