Chairman’s Report-2005




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Rice Research Board Chairman, Eric Larrabee



 Welcome to the 37th annual report to the California Rice Growers. In the pages that follow you will find summaries of the grower-funded research that keeps our industry strong and on the leading edge of production challenges, marketing opportunities and technological breakthroughs. Progress is reported in many key areas—new rice varieties, ever-evolving weed and pest control strategies, soil fertility and management and post-harvest refinements.

 California’s public rice breeding program, which involves researchers at the Rice Experiment Station, as well as from UC Cooperative Extension, have now developed 42 improved public varieties since the program began in 1969. A second blast-resistant line was released in 2006—M-208 is an early Calrose with improved whole head rice and is adapted to the majority of the M-202 growing areas. Other promising experimental lines are in the pipeline. Enhanced cooking quality is the aim of research on Calhikari-201 to improve market acceptance in Japan. Calamylow-201 is a newly released variety with unique amylose characteristics that has been introduced for a specialty market.

DNA marker technology is now in use at the Rice Experiment Station (RES) and is helping in long-grain breeding efforts. A new conventional long grain for 2006 is L-206, described as a solid performer with less sticky grain texture. Calmati-202, a Basmati aromatic long grain with improved rice kernels, was also released this year. Overall appearance is especially important to consumers of this rice; however, it is not suitable for cold locations and must be harvested at proper moisture levels. The rice pathology project continues its search for new sources of resistance to blast, stem rot and other fungal diseases, as well as in efforts to control the seed-borne fungus Bakanae. This work is reported in the Rice Breeding Program section of this annual report.

Before any new variety is released to growers, it must be evaluated under real-world conditions. Testing takes place at 16 farm locations, as well as at the Rice Experiment Station. As was the case in 2003, the 2005 season got off to a late start because of an exceptionally wet spring. This led to a reduction in statewide plantings of 511,000 acres and decreased yields averaging 7,300 pounds/acre statewide. Nonetheless, several advanced lines produced high yields and showed other improvements. A long-term stand establishment study showed that nitrogen losses could be high when water is removed. This work is described in the Variety Trials section.

Rice variety improvement is charting new territory combining techniques in molecular biology with knowledge of conventional plant breeding methods. Using molecular markers to unravel the genetic code of rice, scientists are seeking fast-track procedures to tap disease resistance from wild sources, to improve cold tolerance from an indica variety and to enhance grain quality from a waxy line. Read about it in the Molecular Marker-Assisted Rice Improvement section.

A three-year, aqua-ammonia nitrogen fertility experiment involving 20 growers concluded last year. It showed that in straw-incorporated fields, nitrogen fertility rates could be reduced by 25 pounds per acre. These results are consistent with previous research. The lack of guidelines for the use of starter fertilizer prompted a related study, which compared different rates under different management regimes. Significant differences in plant growth (biomass) and nitrogen accumulation were noticeable by mid-tillering and panicle initiation. Read about this work in Soil Fertility and Fertilizer Use.

A large interdisciplinary team of scientists is working on our biggest production problem—weed control. Herbicide efficacy studies examined different formulations, combinations and application methods of newer compounds such as Cerano,® Granite,® Shark,® Clincher® and Prowl,® as well as numbered experimentals and older compounds like SuperWham® and Regiment.® Pinpoint flood and the Leathers’ methods of exposing weeds to herbicides were studied in 2005. Both are proving to be promising strategies. Alternative crop establishment methods intended to disrupt weed propagation are part of this work. Read about these developments in Weed Control in Rice.

It looks like black goo, but scientists know it as Nostoc, a blue-green algae that needs an effective control. USDA’s invasive weeds research unit at UC Davis investigated four copper-containing products, a chloride-based product and another containing hydrogen peroxide. Also, copper levels continue to accumulate in grower fields but not to a point where rice yields may be affected. Read about this research in the section Evaluation of Alternative Methods for Managing Algae.

For many years, Rice Water Weevil was really the only persistent, major insect pest the rice industry has had to deal with, but that has begun to change with armyworms becoming a bigger problem. In some areas a mid-season insecticide treatment is necessary. Scientists have been studying the biology of the two armyworm species present in California rice fields. Pheromone traps proved an effective monitoring tool in studies last year. Read about this work and testing on insecticides for weevil control in Protection of Rice from Invertebrate Pests.

Another pest getting greater attention is tadpole shrimp, a small crustacean that can uproot rice plants just as they’re getting started. Researchers at Fresno State have been experimenting with an alternative to copper sulfate (bluestone). This compound—methyl farnesoate—disrupts the shrimp’s ability to reproduce. Read about progress on this project in Control of Tadpole Shrimp.

Of course, any compound introduced into the environment must first undergo rigorous laboratory and field testing to ensure that it will dissipate in the atmosphere, dissolve in water or degrade in the soil into harmless byproducts. The results of research on two newer compounds—Granite® and Cerano®—are reported in Environmental Fate of Rice Pesticides.

Virtually every phase of the rice production process has come under scrutiny by board-funded research. One project has been examining how microclimatic environmental factors such as relative humidity affect rice moisture and ultimately head rice yield. In short, harvest at moisture levels greater than 21 percent and learn how autumn winds can ensure maximum head rice yield. Read more in Crop Management and Environmental Effects on Rice Milling Quality and Yield.

Another project is examining ways to ensure that the samples commercial mills use to estimate head rice yield and quality are consistent and accurate. This research has generated suggested new procedures that will save growers money. Read about it in Improvement of Rice Sample Milling.

Lesser grain borers and Angoumois grain moths are two post-harvest pests of concern that USDA’s Agricultural Research Service has been working on. The application of two thermal techniques—infrared and radio frequency—was fine-tuned last year. Furthermore, it was also determined that the infrared method can be used to help dry rice while ridding it of bugs. Read about this work in Rice Utilization and Product Development.

Our researchers have also been hard at work literally trying to make hay out of a waste product—rice straw. Mechanically processing rice straw may make it more palatable to cows, so a UC scientist in Southern California has been working with feedlot cattle to determine the best way to use it as a feed supplement. This work is reported in Rice Straw as a Partial Substitute for Alfalfa Hay.

In related work, a UC farm advisor in Northern California continues research with an in-field macerator. He believes that with high forage prices, the demand for rice hay is there. For instance, some Central Valley dairies are using rice hay to provide bulk and rumen stimulation in their herds. Read about it in Defining Forage Variability in Rice Straw.

In an ongoing effort to better understand and utilize rice grain components, UC Davis food scientists have discovered a method for isolating protein that has potential marketability as a healthy food ingredient. It has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol in much the same way extensively studied soy protein has. Read about this work in Isolation and Utilization of Rice Starch and Protein.

One final note, the air quality monitoring work previously supported by the Rice Research Board, is now being handled by the Rice Commission. Therefore, it will no longer be reported in this annual report. That’s it growers. A productive year in research laboratories, greenhouses and experimental fields—an investment in our future. I hope that 2006 is a productive year for you as well. Best regards.

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