Missouri Rice Producers Soon to Benefit from Rice Breeding Research at Southeast Missouri State University

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. April 21, 2011 – Researchers at Southeast Missouri State University’s Rice Research Farm are close to releasing two new varieties of high yield rice to Missouri rice farmers.

The new rice types are designed to help Missouri farmers grow rice that has both high yield and high milling quality.

Dr. Donn Beighley, a professor in the School of Polytechnic Studies at Southeast, is a rice breeder and research fellow for the project, conducted at the Missouri Rice Research Farm near Glennonville, Mo.

Beighley is charged with assisting Missouri rice producers by developing higher yielding varieties of rice adapted to southeast Missouri growing conditions. Work at the farm is geared toward producing varieties acceptable for both domestic and international consumption, he said.

The two new varieties were tested at the Missouri Rice Farm. Part of the rice breeding effort utilizes an Experiment Station near Lajas, Puerto Rico. This farm is run on land and operated by the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaquez, says Beighley.

The project titled the “Rice Breeding Program” was started with the goal of advancing plant generations and seed increase for Missouri rice producers. Since that time, Southeast has worked closely with other project participants including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the University of Puerto Rico, the University of Arkansas, Mississippi State University, Louisiana State University, and Texas A&M University.

Although the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez is tasked with daily operation and care for the rice nurseries during the fall and winter, Beighley plays an active part in the planting and harvesting processes.

Helped by research technicians at the station, Beighley harvests rice at the Puerto Rico farm twice a year.

“We planted this particular cycle of rice in December,” Beighley said. “We either harvest individual panicles / heads out of a single row of rice or we cut the whole row of rice down and run it through a thresher that removes and separates the seed from the plant.”

Once the seeds are separated they are put in labeled bags, dried, and sent back to the Southeast – Malden, Mo. location, for future use.

“We have been doing this since 2000,” Beighley said. “Now we are finally close to releasing two new rice varieties to Missouri rice producers.”

These varieties will benefit Missouri rice producers, he says.

“They are designed for high yield and high milling quality with good agronomic traits. Rice producers are continually looking for higher yielding rice varieties with good milling quality that they can produce on their farms,” he said.

The development of new rice varieties is no easy task. The process takes eight to 12 growing seasons to ensure seed purity and productive yield of the new rice. After being field tested they must then be approved by the Missouri Rice Council.

“We are developing and evaluating rice varieties that are specifically adapted to the southeast Missouri rice production environment,” he said.

The Rice Breeding Program project has benefits for students at Southeast as well.

Last semester student Michael Kean was given the unique opportunity to travel to Puerto Rico to assist in the harvesting and repackaging for replanting process. Kean was also tasked with setting up the planting trays for the next generation of rice.

Beighley says, “The experience for Michael was invaluable and unique. He was able to travel to other parts of the U.S. and meet many people working with rice or in agricultural research.”

The rice research effort is important, Beighley said, considering rice is consumed by more people than any other grain crop in the world.  The future of rice breeding is bright as he and other researchers from around the world work together to develop higher yielding rice varieties to feed the world’s population as well as improve the income of the rice producer.