Chairman's Report - 2005




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Rice Research Board Chairman, Mike Daddow



Welcome to the 40th annual report to the California Rice Growers. In the following pages you will read about grower-funded research into a wide range of rice production and management issues: varietal breeding, invertebrate pest control, weed management, alternative stand establishment, fertilizer guidelines, harvest conditions, and newer work on rice drying, salinity tolerance, rice straw uses in biofuels and as dairy rations, and other subjects.

California’s public rice breeding program involves researchers at the Rice Experiment Station and with the University of California. The program has released 42 improved public rice varieties since 1969. Experimental lines advancing through the breeding pipeline will help meet specific needs for evolving market and production conditions. Progress in each of the four project areas is detailed in the Rice Breeding Program section of this annual report.

Testing of promising experimental lines takes place at 16 farm locations, as well as at the Rice Experiment Station. Several advanced lines have produced high yields and showed other improvements. One with improved milling quality at low harvest moisture is under consideration for release as a new variety. A long-term stand establishment study continued for a fifth year. This work and results on statewide testing is described in the Variety Trials section.

Rice variety improvement combines molecular genetics with conventional plant breeding methods. Molecular markers are an important method of identifying sources of disease resistance, cold tolerance, and enhanced grain quality. Significant advances have been made in cold tolerance work. This research is reported in Molecular Marker-Assisted Rice Improvement.

Early-season water management strategies are changing to improve weed control, a shift with consequences for soil fertility and fertilizer use. Research examined improved timing of nitrogen and phosphorous applications. A significant finding from 2008 showed that starter nitrogen applications are unnecessary. Read about this important work in the section on Improving Fertilizer Guidelines.

Another soil-related study is examining methods for improving salt tolerance in rice with an innovative fungal technique. Results from the second year of this project suggest that this technique may prove useful in early rice establishment. Read about this work in Salt Tolerance and Yield Enhancement.

An important project has demonstrated the feasibility of drastically changing the way California rice is grown to control herbicide-resistant weeds and to reduce herbicide use. Grower field trials from last year validate the potential for alternating aerobic and anaerobic stand establishment and the value of implementing a stale seedbed. Read about this work in the Alternative Rice Establishment Practices section.

Weed control research continues to examine new and existing herbicides, as well as combinations and sequential applications. Testing on the three major systems of rice culture – continuous flood, pinpoint flood, and dry or drill-seeded – is seeking the best herbicide and management combinations for each of these systems. A comprehensive strategy relying on different herbicide combinations will protect against resistance. Read about these and other developments in Weed Control in Rice.

Research continued in 2008 on methods to control filamentous algae in California rice fields. Laboratory and field studies focused on the effects of water quality in rice fields and various algaecides on the growth of Nostoc, an especially problematic blue-green algae in some fields. Read about this research in the section Alternative Methods for Managing Algae.

Control of Rice Water Weevil (RWW) remains the primary insect pest of concern. However, research is intensifying on two early-season pests – seed midge and tadpole shrimp. Concern about exotic pests such as panicle mite and early-season pests like tadpole shrimp is increasing. Studies also continued on several promising insecticides and on the impacts of rice pesticides on non-target insects and mosquitoes. Read about this work in Protection of Rice from Invertebrate Pests.

Laboratory and field-testing pesticides important in rice culture determines whether a compound will dissipate in the atmosphere, dissolve in water, or degrade in the soil. Research in 2008 concentrated on the experimental pyrethroid etofenprox, clomazone (Cerano®), and clothianidin, a novel neonicotinoid insecticide. This work is reported in Environmental Fate of Rice Pesticides.

Another project is examining how crop management decisions and field moisture conditions affect rice milling quality and yield. This work confirms the ability to harvest the newer variety M-206 over a wide range of harvest moistures. This has significant implications for how rice is harvested and could lead to a reduction in drying costs. Read about this work in the section on Crop Management Effects on Milling Quality and Yield.

Improving head rice yield is an important goal in rice drying research. Infrared radiation has been shown to shorten drying times without compromising head rice yield and may be superior to conventional air drying. This technique allows for more uniform heating of kernels in the drying process and thus less fissuring. This work is reported in the section Infrared Drying of Rough Rice.

In recent years, new product research has focused on applications of ultrasonic technology. Broken rice and rice bran are an underutilized resource that could be tapped for production of high-value functional food ingredients and nutritional supplements. Ultrasonic technology has many advantages over conventional practices to extract proteins and could increase the functionality of the end product and reduce time needed for extraction. This work is reported in Rice Utilization and Product Development.

Research also continued on finding improved methods of turning rice straw into a successful livestock ration. Work in 2008 focused on improved rice straw utilization in dairy heifer rations and education of dairy farmers about this alternative feed supplement through on-farm demonstrations. Other parts of the study examined baling quality effects and optimizing harvest quality. Read about this work in Enhancement of Forage Quality of Rice Hay.

Second-year results from a project investigating the potential for rice straw to be used as a feedstock in an integrated biorefinery are encouraging. Economic analyses support the use of rice straw in combination with municipal solid waste. Use of broken rice kernels does not appear as promising. Read about this work in Biofuel Potential of Rice Straw.

Those are some of the major highlights of rice research from 2008. Our industry continues to thrive because of our collective commitment to invest in the future. Progress in agricultural research is incremental, but over the long term it has had a monumental impact on our success. Forty years ago, average statewide yields were 5,250 pounds/acre when the predominant varieties were Caloro, Colusa, and Calrose. In 2008 we averaged 8,320 pounds/acre with vastly improved varieties for different markets and growing areas.

You will soon have an opportunity to vote on whether to continue the marketing order that makes this research possible. I think the evidence speaks for itself. The California rice industry is a healthy, powerful, and cohesive bright spot in California agriculture because of your support of research. I hope you will join me in reaffirming our commitment to a bright future. Wishing you all the best for another productive year in rice country.


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