Interest is keen in new rice varieties being released for seed production this year by the LSU AgCenter's Rice Research Station. “It looks like we'll sell out of the new varieties,” said Larry White, director of the station's Foundation Seed Program.

Orders for the new long-grain variety Trenasse have exceeded the supply of 1,000 hundredweight, White said. “I am sold out of the Trenasse. I probably could have sold 300 or 400 more hundredweight. I've got orders for a bunch from out of state.”

White said orders for Jupiter, a new medium-grain variety, are not as strong, but that's probably because the medium-grain market is overshadowed by long-grain rice in Louisiana.

Trenasse, French for a pathway through the marsh, was previously designated as 2008. It matures five days earlier than Cocodrie, and its yield is similar to Cocodrie — another extremely popular LSU AgCenter variety.

Steve Linscombe, rice breeder and regional director for the LSU AgCenter in southwestern Louisiana, said the earlier maturity gives farmers the option of having fields that mature at different times, instead of all being ready to harvest at once.

Linscombe also said the interval between planting and maturity cannot be reduced much more through breeding without the potential for adverse effects.

“Plants have to have a certain amount of vegetative growth,” he said.

Shortening maturity results in a small decrease of a plant's reproductive phase, Linscombe said, but most of the time, reduction involves the vegetative phase.

If a plant with an unusually short maturity encounters a difficulty, such as herbicide injury or severe damage from insect pressure, it will not have enough time to recover, he explained.

Jupiter originates from the medium-grain line originally assigned a number of 2183.

“It's got excellent yield potential compared to Bengal,” LSU AgCenter rice breeder Xueyan Sha said.

In three years of testing, it averaged 7,528 pounds per acre, exceeding Bengal, another LSU AgCenter variety, by 700 pounds and Earl by 550 pounds, and milling is comparable to Bengal. It could help Louisiana regain medium-grain acreage lost in the past decade, Sha said.

In addition, Jupiter has a much improved disease package compared to Bengal, with superior resistance to blast and straighthead. Tests also showed Jupiter is not as susceptible to rotten neck blast and has the same leaf blast susceptibility as Bengal, Sha said. It also has better tolerance to panicle blight than Bengal.

Even before its release, Sha had begun working to improve Jupiter. He is collaborating with Herry Utomo, another LSU AgCenter rice researcher, to find the blast resistance gene in long-grain varieties for transfer to Jupiter. Sha said he also wants to increase the yield potential and grain size.

Problems with lodging also are lower for Jupiter, because it is slightly shorter than Bengal and appears to have better straw strength, Sha said.

The two major buyers of medium-grain rice, Kellogg's and Riviana, have evaluated the new medium-grain variety and have expressed interest in it.

Another new variety out for 2005 is CL131, an additional choice for use with the Clearfield system. The seed rice will be available from Horizon Ag.

It is shorter and has better straw strength than CL161, giving it more lodging resistance, Linscombe said. It has a slight yield advantage over CL161 and matures three to four days earlier, but it is susceptible to sheath blight, Linscombe said.

“I think it's going to be a good companion variety to 161,” Linscombe said, adding, however, “I don't think it will or should replace 161. It's good to have diversity in the Clearfield lineup.”

Development of CL131 from a cross took only four years, the quickest development time for an LSU AgCenter rice variety, Linscombe said. He credited the station's nursery program at LaJas, Puerto Rico, for the rapid turnaround.

“Because of its tropical location, the Puerto Rico nursery allows us to grow rice in the winter,” Linscombe said. “It expedites getting varieties out in a timely manner.”

Bruce Schultz writes for the LSU AgCenter: bschultz@agcenter.lsu.edu.