New Abilities for the Industry
The Rice Research Board is able to do many things with the assessments you contribute; however, there are some areas of research that are financially out of reach. One of these areas is genetics. Genetics generally involves “basic” research that has a high risk of failure and is expensive. However, there are significant benefits to be gained in this type of work and we are privileged to have Tom Tai working for us in this area.
Tom comes to California from the Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center in Stuttgart, Arkansas under the direction of J. Neil Rutger. He is a USDA scientist based at UCD and has taken over the responsibilities of Dave MacKill who moved on to IRRI. This is important because the USDA provides the majority of Tom's support. Project support contributed by the RRB is a minor component by comparison.
In talking with Tom, it is clear that his emphasis will be on practical ways to help the breeding process. He is already working closely with the Rice Experiment Station and gaining an understanding of the tools that will be useful to them. Developing and applying molecular markers for stem rot and cold tolerance are where he feels his contributions will be most effective.
If he can identify appropriate markers, the breeding process would be improved as follows. Using current methods hundreds of crosses would be made by the breeders. Once the rice has a few leaves, a small portion of the leaf can be sampled and analyzed. Tom's lab is gearing up for high volume analysis so that hundreds of samples may be examined quickly. The sample is analyzed with the molecular markers and plants having the desired trait are identified. This information is passed back to the breeders so that only plants with the desired traits are advanced. This saves time since selections can be made prior to challenging a mature plant with a disease or environmental condition. Being able to select plants this way means more crosses can be examined and less time and resources will be spent on undesirable materials.
Stem rot resistance has already been transferred to CA long grain lines, but has stubbornly resisted moving into the medium and short grain varieties. Molecular markers may help this process. Cold tolerance at the seedling and boot stages may be controlled by different genes. Tom hopes to identify the genes controlling the cold induced response using a climate controlled greenhouse at UCD. This may help us understand why some varieties are more cold tolerant than others and develop greater resistance to blanking.
Finally, Tom will be doing some “basic” rice research in several areas. Why do rice plants accumulate silicon and what are the consequences of low silica varieties? What makes rice adapted to aquatic environments and can these traits be used to develop varieties that are more competitive against weeds?
The RRB Board of Directors work diligently each year to determine the value and importance of the projects selected for funding. Projects are selected, rejected and modified during the process. All the Board members participate in one of three Research Committees so that they can give their full attention to a small number of projects. Every Board participant, both members and alternates, have an equal voice in determining the selected projects in their Committee. During the current season the following projects are in progress:
The RRB Directors elected to set the assessment rate at five cents per hundredweight of paddy rice for the 2002-03 season. This assessment is taken out of the grower's payment from the handler or mill. An interesting historical note is that the assessment rate started at two cents in 1969. Growers voted to increase the maximum assessment in 1980 and increased it to five cents in 1981. The rate has remained between 4.5 and 5 cents from 1981 till now.
New RES Breeder
The California Cooperative Rice Research Foundation (CCRRF) is pleased to announce the hiring Dr. B. Todd Campbell as a new rice breeder at the California Rice Experiment Station, located near Biggs, CA. He will be assuming project leader responsibility for the premium quality and short grain areas of the rice breeding program from Dr. Kent McKenzie who is the station director. He joins the 15 member staff at the 90 year-old research facility.
Dr. Campbell received his B.S. in Biochemistry with a minor in genetics from North Carolina State University in 1996, a M.S. in Agronomy, specializing in plant breeding and genetics in 1999, and a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2002. His thesis involved the inheritance of transgenes in wheat. His dissertation, field and genetic analysis of agronomic traits in bread wheat using recombinant inbred chromosome lines. Todd has developed expertise in molecular marker techniques through his graduate studies and will help bring these new tools to the rice breeding program. These laboratory skills are complemented by his field experience where he served as the graduate student leader of the winter barley breeding program at the University of Nebraska.
Todd and his wife Whitney have settled in Chico, California. Whitney is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a B.S. in Dietetics.