Crop consultant Earl Garber, of Basile, Louisiana, was honored with the Rice Industry Award at the USA Rice Outlook Conference Dec. 6.
Garber has farmed rice and sweet potatoes, worked for the Natural Resources Conservation Service and was a crop consultant for G&H Seed for 16 years.
“Working with the farmers is the easiest thing to do because I loved it,” Garber said. “I enjoy doing it on an everyday basis.”
Garber, a past president of the National Association of Conservation Districts, has received several state and national awards for his conservation work.
Also at the conference, high school student Caroline Benoit, of Belle Chasse, won a $4,000 scholarship for her video on the rice industry’s benefits. Benoit said she didn’t know anything about rice farming before making the video. “I just knew how to cook it,” she said.
USA Rice director Betsy Ward said Benoit’s video was chosen out of 86 entries.
Benoit said she will use the money for her college education aimed at the medical field.
Two Louisiana men, Justin Nix, of Maurice, and Michael Durand, of St. Martinville, were chosen for the 30th Rice Leadership Development class. Others in the class include Austin Littleton, of Missouri; Matthew Morris, of Arkansas; and Austin Davis, Bobby Golden, and Jason Bond, of Mississippi. Bond, an agronomist with Mississippi State University, previously was an agronomist with the LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station.
Also honored were Melvin Hula Jr., of Hazen, Arkansas, as Farmer of the Year, and Marvin Hare of Newport, Arkansas, with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
LSU AgCenter rice specialist Dustin Harrell estimated Louisiana’s 2018 average rice yield at 7,250 pounds per acre. “This would put us at the second highest-yielding crop in Louisiana,” he said.
The cold spring delayed crop growth, complicating weed control and causing injury to rice seedlings. “We just didn’t have the heat units to metabolize those herbicides,” Harrell said.
The first year of commercial production of Provisia rice exceeded expectations of only 35 to 38 barrels an acre. Yields actually averaged 40 to 43 barrels per acre, although Provisia’s ratoon performance was sub-par when compared against other varieties, he said.
The 2019 Louisiana rice acreage will equal or slightly exceed the 434,000 acres grown in 2018.
Don Groth, resident coordinator of the Rice Research Station, said breeding work at the station is progressing well, including the advanced genetic work by plant breeder Adam Famoso. “We’re eliminating a lot of lines early on with this testing,” Groth said.
Famoso has developed a new Provisia line that could be released in two years.
CL153 was the dominant variety last year. The Kellogg Company continues to assess the medium-grain variety CL272, Groth said.
The hybrid breeding program under AgCenter plant breeder Jim Oard continues to show promise with high-performing crosses, and one could become commercially available. “The big step right now is to find a partner for this program to produce seed for commercial production,” Groth said.
AgCenter agronomist Manoch Kongchum is studying the practice of alternate wetting and drying rice fields that is becoming more popular in north Louisiana, Groth said.
And research by AgCenter weed scientist Eric Webster includes work on new herbicides to figure out problems.
Entomology work under Blake Wilson continues at the station on insect control, particularly with seed treatments for rice water weevils.
Groth, a plant pathologist, said disease control continues. The molecular breeding program has made a significant difference in new lines. “I’m seeing a lot fewer susceptible lines showing up,” he said.
AgCenter researcher Ida Wenefrida has developed a high-protein rice being grown in Illinois under the name of Cahokia, and she has lines in development that have even higher protein levels.
Steve Linscombe, executive director of the Rice Foundation and retired director of the AgCenter Rice Research Station, talked at the conference about a report on the sustainability of U.S. rice farming.
Rice farming has made significant progress towards sustainability as an environmentally sound agricultural endeavor. “Nobody can hold a candle as far as what rice does,” Linscombe said.
Farmers have made large reductions in greenhouse gases from growing rice while also reducing energy demand, decreasing soil erosion and improving land use efficiency, in addition to creating wildlife habitat worth $3.4 billion, he said.
Rice farming in the U.S. has created 125,000 jobs with an annual crop worth $5.5 billion, he said. Each rice farm in a community generates $1 million annually in local spending, and rice mills generate an additional $9 billion in local economies.