Chairman’s Report-2004



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Rice Research Board Chairman, Eric Larrabee



This is the 36th annual report to California rice growers, updating you on projects funded by the California Rice Research Board.  In the pages that follow you will find summaries of the work of scientists on breeding new rice varieties, pest management strategies, soil fertility, cultural practices, post harvest developments and other areas.

California’s public rice breeding program has now developed 38 improved varieties since the program began in 1969 in four major project areas.  This work has led to the development of recent varietal improvements such as M-207, a new blast-resistant Calrose medium grain released in 2005.  Plant breeders at the Rice Experiment Station in Biggs also are making improvements in other grain classes.  Read about them in the Rice Breeding Program section of this report.

On-farm variety trials provide a kind of litmus test for promising experimental lines before being officially released as new varieties.  These tests are conducted at 16 farm locations and the Rice Experiment Station.  Stands in these trials, as well as in the approximately 600,000 acres of rice grown in California last year, produced exceptionally well in 2004.  Read about these tests and related work on nitrogen management, disease management and stand establishment in the section Variety Trials.

Molecular markers are the DNA fingerprints that help geneticists track desirable resistance, cold tolerance and grain quality traits.  Work continues to tap into stem rot resistance from a wild species, Oryza rufipogon.  A laboratory was set up at the Rice Experiment Station last year to extract DNA from plant material on site, a first step in transferring this technology to the RES breeding program.  This work is reported in Molecular Marker-Assisted Rice Improvement.

Nitrogen rate fertility trials were expanded to 26 growers and 71 field sites throughout the Sacramento Valley in 2004.  This project, Soil Fertility and Fertilizer Use, is necessary following legislated reductions in rice straw burning.  A related study on liming concluded this practice has no appreciable effect on straw, grain yields or head rice production with standard fertilizer and
herbicide applications.

Research into weed control continues on several fronts, including new and existing compounds, combinations and sequential applications.  Concern over herbicide resistance is generating a great deal of interest in alternative crop establishment methods.  Lab work is focused on understanding the biological basis for herbicide resistance.  This research is reported in Weed Control in Rice.  In a related study scientists are looking into the nature of algae, a long-running problem for growers that can impair stand establishment.  Read about it in Composition of Filamentous Algae Present in California Rice Fields.

While Rice Water Weevil continues to be the main focus of work on insect pests, armyworms have become a pest of increasing concern the last five years and as such are garnering more attention and research by UC entomologists.  In addition to reports on conventional insecticides, studies on a new pro-duct derived from the neem tree show considerable promise.  In large field plots another study is examining the impact of a number of different insecticides on non-target organisms.  Read about this work in Protection of Rice from Invertebrate Pests.

A Fresno State study is looking at ways to control tadpole shrimp.  An organic compound derived from plant and animal sources shows promise.  Researchers are fine-tuning a pellet formulation to deliver the compound, Methyl farnesoate, in an effective manner.  This work is reported in Control of Tadpole Shrimp.

A new post-flood herbicide—penoxsulam (Granite) — was the focus of a study by environmental toxicologists.  This ALS inhibitor is very effective at low doses and is thus comparatively safe for birds, fish, amphibians and invertebrates.  Another study examined the herbicide clomazone in relation to watergrass.  A third area of research continued work on Delayed Phytotoxicity Syndrome and the potential for phosphate to alleviate the problem. Read about this work in Environmental Fate of Rice Pesticides.

Commercial rice mills have updated milling technology and equipment.  California rice sample milling standards and procedures have not kept pace with these changes, effectively costing growers money.  Scientists working on this project are recommending the use of heat exchangers and adaptation of Southern milling procedures to improve accuracy.  Read about it in Improvement of Rice Sample Milling.

Research reported in the Rice Utilization and Product Development section focused on non-chemical alternatives for controlling the Angoumois grain moth, a pest that exists naturally in rice.  Two different thermal treatment methods — infrared and radio frequency — were examined at USDA facilities in Albany and UC Davis.

Finding alternative uses for rice straw is the impetus for Defining Forage Variability in Rice Straw.  Processed or “macerated” rice improves its digestibility for livestock, so a field macerator was investigated in 2004.  Researchers are fine-tuning an equation to help livestock producers analyze feed ration components.

Even though more than 600,000 acres of rice was grown in California in 2004, a mere 28,404 acres was burned last year, a decline of about 5,500 acres from 2003. Regulators adopted new air quality standards last year — particulate matter measured in microns rather than the coefficient of haze used in the past.  Nonetheless, the fall burn program managed by Weathernews Americas continues to do an exemplary job of minimizing smoke from rice fields drifting into urban areas.  Very few complaints were recorded in 2004.  For a full report, read 2004 Sacramento Valley Fall Burn Program.

Finally, the Rice Research Board maintains its sound financial footing as reported in the Independent Auditor’s Report.  I am pleased to serve as Board chairman and appreciate the support of fellow growers who understand the value of our ongoing investment in research that enables the rice industry to make the improvements and adjustments necessary to keep our industry a strong and vital component of California agriculture.  Best wishes for a safe and productive 2005 season.


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