Christian Richard, a sixth-generation farmer from Vermilion Parish, was honored Dec. 11 as the 2017 Rice Farmer of the Year at the USA Rice Outlook Conference.
In addition, former LSU AgCenter rice breeder Xueyan Sha was honored with the Rice Industry Award, and LSU AgCenter rice breeder Adam Famoso was one of seven individuals selected for the 2018 Rice Leadership Development Class.
Richard, who farms rice, crawfish and soybeans in Vermilion Parish, said he feels honored to be involved with the rice industry.
“I owe every one of you in this room a great deal of gratitude for helping me become more involved, more educated and simply, a better rice farmer,” Richard said. “This industry is like one big family. And while sometimes we disagree, we are all fighting for a better, stronger rice industry.”
Richard credited his parents and recognized his wife, Julie, for her support. “You deserve to be up here as much if not more than me,” he said.
Sha said he came to the U.S. from China 23 years ago, and he thanked farmers for supporting his work. “You made it possible for me to make a living doing what I like to do,” he said.
He recognized Steve Linscombe, former director of the LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station, as his mentor and role model.
Sha worked at the LSU AgCenter from 2000 to 2012, where he developed 20 long-grain, medium-grain and aromatic rice varieties, including the aromatic Jazzman and medium-grain Jupiter.
Chuck Wilson, of Arkansas, retired director of the Rice Foundation and the Rice Leadership Development Program, was recognized with the Rice Lifetime Achievement Award.
After Wilson retired, Linscombe was hired as his successor, following Linscombe’s retirement in October as director of the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station.
Wilson said USA Rice represents the industry well in Washington. “You have a great organization that’s working on your behalf,” he said.
The leadership program was established to create a base of leaders from different states to work together for the rice industry, he said.
Also, high school student Olivia Davis, of Shreveport, won second place in the National Rice Month Scholarship Contest. She will receive a $3,000 scholarship for her video, “Celebrate Rice!!!” Her video can be viewed below.
Representatives from each rice growing state gave a review of the previous growing season, the outlook for 2018 and an overview of each state’s research efforts.
AgCenter rice extension specialist Dustin Harrell said he expects Louisiana’s 2018 rice acreage will increase slightly to 415,000, compared with the 2017 planted acreage of 400,000.
Harrell said 61 percent of the 2017 crop was planted in Clearfield rice varieties, compared with 76 percent three years ago.
Farmers are planting less Clearfield rice, probably because of the increased occurrence of Newpath-resistant weeds and red rice, which has resulted in more water-seeding by growers in recent years.
Certified rice seed in 2017 had low germination, which led to increased seeding rates. But that resulted in thicker stands, which may have had a role in the increase in disease pressure.
A $25 dollar rebate per gallon will be offered this year by the maker of the AV-1011 bird repellent used on seed rice, Harrell said.
The 2017 crop was planted early and was growing well until much of the crop was damaged by heavy rainfall flooding from Tropical Storm Cindy.
The stressed rice had difficulty recovering, and it affected yields that decreased by 1.5 percent from 2016. “For 2018, we just hope for a normal year,” Harrell said.
Don Groth, who replaced Linscombe as resident coordinator of the LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station, gave an overview of the research projects underway at the station. They include variety and hybrid development, insect control, herbicide work, genetic marker mapping, salt-tolerant rice, disease resistance and fungicide use, and agronomic studies.
The research will be the focus of the station’s annual field day on June 27, 2018.