LSU AgCenter Received Grant for Sustainable Rice Research

It was recently announced via this news release from the LSU AgCenter, that one of their scientists has been awarded a $10 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture in order to improve the sustainability and profitability of rice farming. This will be accomplished through the LSU AgCenter scientists’s innovations in research that advance crops that are reportedly climate-resistant. The Louisiana State University Agricultural Center School School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences received this $10 million grant as a part of a $70 million dollar investment from the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture in order to establish robust, resilient, and climate-smart food and agricultural systems. As of the writing of this article, it is the largest grant for rice research that the LSU AgCenter has ever received.

William F. Tate IV, LSU President, commented on Louisiana State University’s Agricultural Center’s awarded grant by saying, “agricultural innovation remains paramount to the future of Louisiana. Securing federal funding for projects like this empowers LSU’s Scholarship First Agenda and enables us to further leverage our agricultural expertise.”

The need for Louisiana rice farming to become more sustainable and profitable is apparent as the state’s rice production currently contributes $550 million to Louisiana’s economy, and this amount is regularly affected by extreme weather patterns resulting from climate change. These extreme weather patterns pose significant challenges to enhancing rice production productivity, so this project is extremely vital, as its outcomes aim to assist southern rice growers to “make the right decisions at the right time to reduce yield losses, land use, water and energy consumption.”

Prasanta Subudhi is the lead investigator of the project and a crop geneticist in the LSU School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences. Subudhi commented on how their project will affect the future of Louisiana rice production by saying, “we will equip the current and next generation of rice farmers, consultants and researchers with the necessary knowledge and skill set to embrace the new climate-smart agriculture technologies and production practices.”

Specifically, the project’s objectives are listed as aiming to “assess the socio-economic and environmental impacts of current crop management practices and identify barriers to adopting novel technologies and practices; develop novel genotypes with enhanced tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses; develop and optimize environmentally friendly crop management practices; and implement a robust extension program to disseminate the concepts and benefits of sustainable farming technology.”

Reportedly, the project will use all knowledge gained through rice research to increase both the speed and accuracy of the identification of rice genotypes that have desirable combinations of genes for improved adaptation to a changing climate. Matt Lee, the Interim Vice President of Agriculture and Dean of the College of Agriculture, said, “with this project, the AgCenter is showing its commitment to promoting and disseminating sustainable farming practices and technologies and to training of the next generation of researchers and extension workers.”

This grant comes after last year, when the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station in Crowley, Louisiana developed a new type of rice used to improve blood sugar levels. Additionally, a partnership with the Lafayette Parish Master Gardener Association, the Lafayette 4-H program, and the LSU AGCenter that incorporates gardens in schools saw students from five elementary schools — Alice Boucher, Charles Burke, Cathedral-Carmel, Green T. Lindon and Cpl. Michael Middlebrook — compete in the On Cuisine du Jardine, making complete nutritional meals using at least two ingredients grown in their school gardens. These two pieces of recent LSU AgCenter news coupled with this recent grant award, contribute to the Center’s impact on education, agriculture, and Louisiana as a whole.

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