Chairman's Report-98


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Rice Research Board Chairman, Robert Van Dyke


VanDyke1.jpg (253882 bytes)Welcome to the 30th annual report to the California Rice Growers. In the following pages you will learn how one of the most effective research programs in agriculture helps keep the California rice industry the world leader. As chairman of the California Rice Research Board, I am delighted to draw your attention to several positive developments in the industry—four new varieties, new chemicals for rice water weevil control, progress in tracking stem rot, and the fertilization benefits of rice straw incorporation.

The past year had its share of challenge, as well. El Niño delayed planting and was, in large part, responsible for a decline in statewide yields. The blast infestation continues as a worrisome uncertainty. Resistance to herbicides by some weeds is an increasing concern, and salinity problems will require modified management. Illuminating our way through this uncharted territory is a legion of scientists at the Rice Experiment Station, with the University of California and in the U. S. Department of Agriculture. This annual report explores their work into the most crucial issues facing the industry. Here are some of the highlights.

El Niño took its toll on rice production in 1998. Late spring rain pushed planting dates well into the growing season, while hot summer temperatures slowed rice development. These factors, coupled with a larger acreage of low-yielding Japanese varieties, caused this year's statewide acreage yields to plummet to 6,840 pounds/acre, down from 8,300 pounds/acre in 1997. Total acreage remained robust, however, at 478,000 acres.

Major developments in personnel, new varieties, research activities and groundbreaking for new facilities made 1998 a "landmark year" for the Rice Breeding Program. This report will inform you of the four new varieties released for 1999- L-205, Calmafi-201, Calhikari-201 and M-402. These new varieties represent an investment of about 40 man-years from the scientists at the Rice Experiment Station. Plant breeders also dew their work on, and concerns about, the development of transgenic rice. Updates on work in all classes of rice are summarized, including efforts to identify sources of resistance to rice diseases and an ongoing straw management study.

Before any experimental fine is groomed into a new variety, it must undergo rigorous evaluation in trials at diverse locations throughout the rice growing regions of the state. Researchers report on promising new entries among very early, early, and intermediate to late categories in the Variety Trials segment of this report. This section also reports on the rice straw management study, efforts to fine-tune nitrogen management strategies for premium-quality, Japanese rice varieties, and the development of a color chart for visually estimating leaf tissue nitrogen.

The keys to the successful future of California rice production are locked in the genetic makeup code of current varieties and other "germplasm" sources. The Genetics section reports how scientists working in a USDA-funded laboratory at UC Davis are tracking the source of stem rot resistance in a wad species of rice with sophisticated DNA fingerprinting techniques. They are also using a new, advanced backcrossing procedure in pursuit of the tools to enable hybrid rice production.

Observations by plant pathologists on how alternative rice residue management practices affect rice diseases is covered in Cause and Control of Rice Diseases. Concern about rice blast in California prompted the Rice Research Board to support a separately funded project to study this serious fungal disease in 1998. Pathologists summarize what they are learning about the "unpredictable and temperamental" nature of this disease and efforts to control it in Investigations on Rice Blast Disease in California. Another separately funded project on the blast front has pathologists attempting to lay the groundwork to breed blast resistance into California rice varieties through the use of Marker-Assisted Breeding of Blast Resistant California Rice Varieties. Scientists examined the current level of blast resistance in M-202 and began work to develop crosses that contain resistance genes.

With the pending loss of Furadan® to control the rice water weevil, entomologists focused their attention on three new chemicals in the registration pipeline-Dimilin®, Warrior® and Icon®. Read about the status of these new products, as well as new biological control products covered in Protection of Rice from Invertebrate Pests.

VanDyke2.jpg (179739 bytes)The Weed Control segment covers evaluation of new and existing herbicides, development of transgenic rice and management for herbicide resistance. The herbicide to be marketed as Shark® continues to show promise in control of most broadleaf and sedge weeds, with "excellent" control of ricefield bulrush. Other herbicides under study include Clincher, a Japanese herbicide, and Regiment, expected to be registered for watergrass and barnyardgrass next year. With concern rising about herbicide resistance, weed scientists are now conducting important experiments to identify methods of improving the ability of rice to compete against weeds without returning to tall, lodging-prone cultivars.

Toxicologists report in Environinental Fate of Rice Pesticides that the persistence of a byproduct of Shark® may be cause for concern. Interaction with rice straw and other naturally occurring compounds may help with the breakdown of this byproduct. Research on Icon® showed that a breakdown product persisted no longer than many common pesticides. Work is also continuing to identify a copper alternative for control of algae and tadpole shrimp.

Molinate: A metabolic explanation for species differences in susceptibility to male reproductive toxicity, gives toxicologists' reports on a study that takes a hard look at the rice herbicide molinate (Ordram®) The news from this study continues to be encouraging. The research confirms that humans are less susceptible to molinate than previously feared.

This year UC scientists wrapped up a three-year study on Salinity Studies in Rice in the Sacramento Valley. They make a strong case for lowering the thresholds used to predict damage. Concern about increasing salinity prompted a related study into the basic biology of salt-stressed rice. In Enhancement of Osmotic (Salinity) Stress Tolerance in Rice researchers describe their efforts to understand the genetic mechanisms involved in salinity tolerance in hopes that the level of tolerance could be increased in future California rice varieties.

Another project examined sod nitrogen availability and fertilizer recommendations at two ongoing rice straw residue management trials. The scientists' explanation of how residue incorporation will enable growers to readjust fertilizer nitrogen applications may be found in Reassessing Soil N Availability and Fertilizer Recommendations under Alternative Rice Residue Management Practices.

Finding new uses for rice straw was the impetus of another study reported in New Concepts of Rice Residue for use as Cattle Feed. Several methods of improving the forage quality of rice straw for cattle were investigated. Among other findings, it appears that the time of baling rice straw has an impact on the protein content and digestibility of straw for feed. Another part of the study found that cattle preferred rice straw fermented into silage and haylage over corn silage.

At the USDA Western Regional Research Center in Albany scientists are researching new products for domestic and foreign markets. Rice Utilization and Product Development, explains researchers' evaluation of the textural properties of California rice and the cooking properties of rice flour. Another study is looking at the antioxidant and cancer- fighting properties of rice bran.

Keeping tabs on research developments, management recommendations, news and related industry developments has been made much easier with the growth of the UC Cooperative Extension Rice Web Site (http:// index.htm). See A World Wide Web Site on California Rice Production to learn about the new resources available to you with a few computer keystrokes.

The effectiveness of our efforts to preserve the air quality of the Sacramento Valley are explained in The 1998 Rice Straw Burning Program. Last fall's burn was steady and methodical with very little downtime due to poor air circulation. The El Niño-delayed growing season helped to keep burned acreage to comparatively low levels. Complaints to the Air Resources Board were almost nonexistent. An important graph also illustrates how weak the connection is between agricultural burning and poor air quality days.

We enter a new century with more than our fair share of production and marketing challenges. However, I am confident that our ongoing support of research into those problems will help keep our industry strong and vital for many years to come--just as it has for 30 years. I trust you will enjoy reading about our cutting-edge developments in this, the 30th annual report to the California Rice Growers.

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