|Chairman's Report - 97
Rice Research Board chairman, Robert Van Dyke
As the new chairman of the California Rice
Research Board, I am pleased to share with you this 29th annual report to the California
Rice Growers. Within these pages you will find informative summaries of how your ongoing
research investment is being spent. Cutting-edge science is being applied to help us solve
our most difficult production challenges and help us prepare for the increasingly
competitive global marketplace. Here are some of the highlights.
Favorable market conditions pushed rice acreage up slightly in 1997 to 513,000 acres, a 13,000-acre increase over the preceding season. Average statewide yields rebounded to 8,300 pounds per acre, up from 7,500 pounds per acre the previous year.
In the Rice Breeding Program section of this report you will learn about the work of scientists at the Rice Experiment Station near Biggs. This research site is the nerve center for the public rice varieties that have enabled our industry to maintain its vigor and resiliency. Significant progress is being made in virtually all classes of rice. Worthy of special mention are three experimental medium grains, one of which could eventually replace the industry mainstay, M-202. Plant breeders also report on efforts to track down sources of resistance to rice blast and stem rot; development of premium quality rice for Asian markets; a straw management study; and other areas.
In the Genetics section scientists report on how they are using sophisticated techniques in molecular biology to identify genes conferring disease resistance and other important agronomic traits. For instance, "significant progress" is reported on the genetics of stem rot.
Before any experimental line is released to growers, it must undergo rigorous scrutiny by RES and University of California scientists - both at the Experiment Station and at on-farm locations. In the Variety Trials section researchers report on promising new entries among very early, early and intermediate-late categories. This section also examines an ongoing straw management study, nitrogen management for Japanese varieties, and the relationship between potassium and stem rot.
Weed Control continues to be one of the most challenging areas of inquiry funded by the Rice Research Board. Encouraging developments are reported in the quest to find an environmentally suitable herbicide to control Londax®-resistant weeds. Researchers are optimistic about FMC's new product, carfentrazone, to be marketed as "Shark." In this section propanil is also revisited and research on transgenic rice is also reported.
Another area with promising developments in the realm of chemical control can be found in the section on Protection of Rice from Invertebrate Pests. A major focus of entomologists working to find effective alternatives for Rice Water Weevil control has been the evaluation of three insecticides working their way toward registration. Several formulations and application timings of Dimilin, Karate and Icon were examined. In other studies researchers examined straw management and a "perimeter strategy" to control RWW.
The discovery of rice blast in California two years ago has compelled plant pathologists to significantly expand the scope of their work. They report a number of their key findings in the section on Cause and Control of Rice Diseases. Other areas of inquiry in this section include the impact of different straw management practices on aggregate sheath spot and stem rot; an evaluation of fungicides for blast control; and a new method of predicting disease severity.
Knowledge of what happens to fungicides, herbicides and insecticides in soil and water is critical to decisions affecting their use. In the section Environmental Fate of Rice Pesticides toxicologists report favorably on their analysis of the new herbicide carfentrazone and the new insecticide Icon®. They have also identified several potential algicidal replacements for copper sulfate or "bluestone."
A related toxicological study has been examining the rice herbicide molinate (Ordram®). In the section Molinate: A metabolic explanation for species differences in susceptibility to male reproductive toxicity, scientists report on how this herbicide poses less of a threat to humans than some suspected because of different "metabolic pathways" in humans and lab rats.
As California rice growers implement alternative methods of disposing of rice straw, knowledge of how new practices such as incorporation and baling affect nutrient cycling is critical. In the section Reassessing Soil N and Fertilizer recommendations under alternative rice residue management practices scientists explain what they're learning about the behavior of soil nitrogen and what implications that may have for fertilizer recommendations.
While recent innovations in water management have done a good job of keeping pesticides from flowing into the Sacramento River, practices such as static flow and recirculating systems are increasing salinity problems in some areas. In the section Salinity Studies in Rice scientists make a good case for lowering threshold salinity guidelines.
Scientists at the USDA Western Regional Research Center in Albany conduct research leading to new products for domestic and foreign markets. In the section Rice Utilization and Product Development researchers report on an award-winning laboratory method to determine the molecular size and shape of cereal starches, such as those in rice. Their aim is to relate these structural characteristics to eating quality and texture. A nutritional study further supports the health benefits of rice bran on blood cholesterol.
Rice management took a big step into the Information Age last year when UC Davis agronomists created the UC Cooperative Extension Rice Project homepage on the World Wide Web. In the section World Wide Web Information for Rice Management, researchers report on this new website hosting an abundance of information on rice management in California - rice culture, varieties, diseases, weeds, insect pests, straw disposal, fertility and waterfowl, to name a few. Check out this wonderfully illustrated site at http://agronomy.ucdavis.edu/uccerice/index.htm. You can even e-mail all the UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors and other rice scientists from this website.
Finally, our program to preserve the air quality of the Sacramento Valley continues to do an excellent job. Nonetheless, in the section The 1997 Rice Straw Burning Program meteorologists report that the weather and the political climate were not particularly conducive toward open field burning last year, resulting in the fewest number of acres burned since the inception of the program in 1981.
That's a quick summary of what you will read about in the 29th annual report to the California Rice Growers. I trust you will enjoy reading about the progress we are making with new technology, a well-honed research agenda and the best minds in the business. With your continuing support of the California Rice Research Board and the scientific inquiry it funds, we can embrace the future of our industry with confidence and optimism.