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Rice field day features irrigation, research innovations

1.45 million tons of rice are imported into the U.S. Researchers discuss the importance of developing robust Texas rice varieties to spur economic prosperity among state and national growers.

Blair Fannin

August 17, 2023

10 Slides

Texas rice growers along the Gulf Coast saw the latest in research and management practices at the 75th annual Beaumont Rice Field Day held at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Beaumont.

Themed “Innovations in Texas Rice Irrigation,” the annual event gives the region’s rice growers a firsthand look at innovations to consider for their operations.

“One of our main focuses at the Texas A&M AgriLife center at Beaumont is rice cropping systems. We are attempting to solve the challenges of rice production in ways that counter the increasing imports from other countries,” said Ted Wilson, center director and holder of the Jack B. Wendt Endowed Chair in Rice Research, Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Soil and Crop Sciences.

Consumer rice

Stanley Omar Samonte, Texas A&M AgriLife Research specialty rice breeder, Beaumont, and associate professor, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, discussed recent research involving jasmine and basmati rice.

Samonte said more than 1.45 million tons of rice are imported into the U.S. Developing robust rice varieties for Texas is important to spur economic prosperity among state and national growers.

“We are breeding for high amylose rice from selected parents with good traits,” Samonte said. “We are also breeding for semi-dwarf, early maturing, high-yielding, cold-tolerant Texas adaptable varieties. Before planting, we looked at 11,000 panicles and only those that passed panicle and grain quality screening were planted.”

The first yield trials evaluating the high amylose rice lines are being conducted this year, he said, while the yield trials for jasmine and basmati rice will be conducted in 2024.

“This is all in response to the research needs of Texas rice growers,” said Shyamal Talukder, AgriLife Research, Department of Soil and Crop Science who specializes in inbred rice breeding and genetics. “We are also utilizing UAV technology for phenotyping, gene selection and other trait evaluation.”

RU2003220 is a new conventional long grain rice line that will be released as a variety in 2024, Talukder said.

“We are looking to increase the efficiency and speed in which the Texas inbred rice breeding program can release high-yielding and high-quality conventional rice varieties,” Talukder said. “Generating a high number of inbred lines and selecting suitable plant types from these are key to developing successful varieties.”

In all, the breeding programs currently utilize 37 acres of field experiments and have expanded in scope almost five times compared to 2021.

Rice pathology, diseases

Last year few diseases were found in much of Texas rice due to drought, said Xin-Gen “Shane” Zhou, AgriLife Research plant pathologist, Beaumont, Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology.

“This year, we are also facing a drought problem,” he said. “In the last 30 days, there has been minimal disease damage observed,” he said.

However, kernel smut is a major threat to Texas rice with limited fungicide control during the main and ratoon growing seasons.

“It has become a major concern for Texas,” Zhou said. “2021 was one of the worst years due to the historically wet weather conditions, and we currently don’t have varieties that have acceptable levels of resistance to kernel smut.”

Zhou said field evaluation studies have been conducted on Amistar Top fungicide and it has “been found to be very effective.”

“The mid-boot stage is the best time to apply the fungicide for the control of kernel smut,” he said. “Applying after heading is ineffective.”

Zhou also noted the development of propiconazole fungicide resistance in the kernel smut populations, limiting the efficacy of propiconazole fungicide treatments.

The field day also featured updates during the general session from G. Cliff Lamb, , AgriLife Research director.

Lamb told attendees the agency has identified its strategic priorities: Leading-edge research and innovations; sustainable production systems; economic strength and healthy living.

“Our food system right now is global, and we have to understand local, regional, state and national systems,” Lamb said. “The Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Beaumont is a leader in organic rice production systems and all aspects of rice production and management.

 “We are proud of the researchers here and the work they do to help meet the challenges of rice growers. Sustainability is a key challenge and environmentally you can’t have a viable production system if it is not economically sustainable or socially sustainable.”

Attendees also heard from Joe Massey, research agronomist with U.S. Department of AgricultureAgricultural Research Service, Jonesboro, Ark., who discussed irrigation conservation practices in the mid-south region. Ryan Frey, a farmer and irrigation specialist with Smart Acre Solutions LLC, Vidalia, Louisiana, discussed ways to maximize water management through farm design.

BU Growers was the field day signature sponsor, providing the barbecue meal for nearly 200 in attendance. Wilson also gave special thanks to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas Rice Improvement Association, Texas Rice Research Foundation and the Texas Rice Producers Board.

Source: Texas A&M AgriLife, AgriLife Today

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