Chairman's Report, 2014


Rice Research Board Chairman

Seth Fiack

Welcome to the 46th annual report to the California Rice Growers. In the following pages we report on grower-funded research from 2014 that is essential to the California rice industry. We track progress on many fronts, such as rice variety breeding, weed and disease management, fertilizer guidelines, invertebrate pest control, and water use efficiency. We also learn about more recent research examining infrared technology in rice drying, and value-added products such as rice straw-based nanomaterials with potential commercial applications. These and other reports from the fields, laboratories, and greenhouses chart progress on many issues of concern to rice growers.

California’s public rice breeding program is conducted and managed by scientists at the Rice Experiment Station (RES). The program has made 45,184 crosses and released 47 improved public rice varieties since its inception in 1969. A new early-maturing Calrose medium grain line with superior grain quality has been released as M-209. Progress is reported in all five major project areas in the Rice Breeding Program section of this annual report.

Testing of promising experimental lines took place at 16 farm locations and at RES in 2014. Top-yielding advanced lines are reported for each of the three maturity classes, along with yields of standard varieties. Results of this statewide testing are described in the Rice Variety Trials section.

Molecular markers are an important tool for identifying desirable traits in rice. Work continues with next-generation sequencing techniques that accelerate genetic research for variety development. Progress on mapping populations of rice continues through generation advance and the development of mutant populations. This work is reported in Molecular Marker-Assisted Rice Improvement.

Fertilizer research in 2014 focused on three areas—potassium status of rice soils, management practices for growing rice under alternating wet/dry conditions, and quantifying rice yield variability in the Sacramento Valley. Potassium fertilizer should be considered with soil potassium levels below 120 ppm. Research also evaluated water management practices to assess their influence on nitrogen response and greenhouse gas emissions. The third area of study in this project examined historical data to develop a better understanding of variability in rice yields. Preliminary indications are that temperature during flowering may affect yields across sites. These studies are reported in Improving Fertilizer Guidelines for California’s Changing Rice Climate.

Weed control research examines new and existing herbicides, as well as combinations and sequential applications. Some research focused on predicting the germination and emergence of late watergrass and smallflower umbrella sedge based on air temperature and soil moisture. This information will help in the development of a model to predict weed emergence. Studies continued on weed emergence in three alternative irrigation systems to determine the best herbicide and management combinations for each system. Research on propanil resistance in smallflower umbrella sedge and ricefield bulrush also continued. Updates are provided on two invasive weeds—ricefield flatsedge and white-edge flatsedge. Read about this work in Weed Control in Rice.

The spring 2014 flight of Rice Water Weevil (RWW) was low to moderate and 90% finished by the end of April. Research into control of this pest focuses on insecticidal controls. Ten different active ingredients were studied in ring plots at RES. Work also continued on the susceptibility of different rice varieties to RWW, control of tadpole shrimp, and the impact of rice pesticides on nontarget insects. Updates are also provided on red-shouldered stink bug and another pest of concern, brown marmorated stink bug. Read about this work in Protection of Rice from Invertebrate Pests.

Research on how pesticides important to rice culture degrade in the environment continued on the neonicotinoid insecticide clothianidin, the herbicide imazosulfuron, and the herbicide benzobicyclon. Laboratory studies indicate that clothianidin will dissipate primarily through photodegradation when applied to a flooded field, imazosulfuron degrades relatively rapidly under simulated California growing conditions, and benzobicyclon degrades rapidly into a byproduct under aqueous conditions. Read about this research in Environmental Fate of Rice Pesticides.

A project to assess the extent of mercury in California rice systems continued for a second year. One study showed that loads of methyl mercury from rice drainages is small compared to loads in the Sacramento and Feather rivers. Another study near Richvale showed how a field can be a sink for methyl mercury and that variability exists in different areas of the Sacramento Valley. Read about this work in Mercury in California Rice Systems.

Another project is seeking opportunities to conserve water in California rice systems. Research in 2014 focused on a crop-development model for moderately photoperiod sensitive varieties such as M-202 and M-206. Water restrictions last year also provided an opportunity to evaluate no-spill water management for salinity buildup and yield. The data suggest that a field receiving clean water with low salinity will not experience compromised yields. Read more in Identifying Opportunities for Improving Water Use Efficiency in California Rice Systems.

Infrared drying holds promise to improve rice drying efficiency and milling quality, to disinfest and disinfect rough rice, and to stabilize rice bran without affecting rice bran oil quality. Researchers in 2014 designed and tested an infrared rotary-drum dryer for rough rice. This work is reported in Development of an Infrared Rotary-Drum Dryer for Rough Rice.

An ongoing project continues its successful research to transform rice straw components such as cellulose, silica, and lignin into the raw material for value-added industrial products. Researchers studied rice straw cellulose nanofibril aerogels and found them to be superabsorbent of both water and oils. Another area of study examined nanocellulose surface areas and their ability to filter microscopic organisms. This work is reported in Novel Nanomaterials and Performance Industrial Products.

Researchers at California State University, Chico, developed a composite board made from rice straw, walnut shells, and a biodegradable plastic. While this research demonstrated the technical feasibility of using a compression mold process to manufacture construction panels, the high cost of the biodegradable plastic may prove limiting. Read about this work in Rice Straw Based Construction Panels.

And research continued on the use of rice straw as a livestock feed or dairy ration. Work in 2014 focused on developing the best way to preserve rice straw at high moisture, thus preserving greater nutrient values. Read about this work in Demonstration of Rice Strawlage Production.

That’s a quick summary of what you will read about in this year’s annual report. I am pleased to serve as chairman of the California Rice Research Board. The board is committed to continuing the long tradition of investing wisely in the scientific foundation that helps drive the success of the California rice industry. Wishing you the best for a good year in rice country.