Fighting Hunger and Disease, One Strain of Rice at a Time

April 29, 2024

Supporting Louisiana’s Rice Farmers

The LSU AgCenter is Louisiana rice farmers’ MVP, or most valued partner, in research and crop variety development. From creating a new market for jasmine rice, to producing varieties of rice that are better for diabetics and more sustainable and resilient to changes in the environment, LSU has been critical to the Louisiana rice industry for more than 100 years. The research also has world-wide impact since one-fifth of the global population’s calories comes from rice.

More than 60 percent of the rice Louisiana farmers plant was developed by the LSU AgCenter, with a direct economic impact of $580 million. New varieties are being created all the time, drawing large federal grants to Louisiana while supporting the state’s farmers and agricultural industry.

Last year, an LSU-led team won a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop climate-resilient rice that requires less land, less water and less energy to grow. Other AgCenter researchers have created a high-protein, low-glycemic rice variety called Frontière that now is being studied and used internationally, while helping Eunice area farmer Michael Frugé build a small business and brand, Parish Rice, together with his father.

“Having to watch your blood sugar is the number-one reason people shy away from rice, but we’re rice people, with our gumbo and our étouffée and all of those things,” Frugé said. “As a farmer, growing rice that allows people to eat their favorite meals makes me smile, and every variety of rice we grow comes from LSU’s rice research station in Crowley—every single one.”

The LSU AgCenter is now planning a research collaboration with LSU’s Pennington Biomedical to study Frontière’s health effects, which could allow doctors and dietitians to recommend it, “almost as medicine.”

Eunice area farmer Michael Frugé with LSU AgCenter researchers Ida Wenefrida and Herry Utomo

Eunice area farmer Michael Frugé with LSU AgCenter researchers Ida Wenefrida and Herry Utomo, who developed the Frontière rice variety Frugé grows and sells as Parish Rice.

– Photo courtesy of Parish Rice

“The value of LSU’s rice breeding program? Invaluable. You can’t put a price tag on it. Between 60 and 70 percent of the rice we mill are LSU varieties. Without LSU’s breeding program, our industry as a whole would wither and die—it would be hard to survive without LSU.”

Bobby Hanks, CEO of Supreme Rice in Crowley, the state’s largest rice mill