Scientist works on salt-tolerant rice

Frances Gould  |  5/31/2016 3:06:46 PM

Prasanta Subudhi, LSU AgCenter plant geneticist, has been working to develop salt-tolerant rice for Louisiana growers. Crosses have been made using salt-tolerant varieties from India, South Korea, Egypt and Bangladesh with Jupiter, Bengal, CL151, Cheniere and Mermentau.

This year, Subudhi grew 2,000 advanced breeding lines from multiple cross combinations at the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station. These lines are being tested in the greenhouse after exposing two-week old seedlings to salt stress. Since it was difficult to handle so many lines in hydroponic screening, Subudhi is planting them in 4-inch pots in greenhouses and exposing them to saltwater with a concentration of 10,440 parts per million.

Because of limited greenhouse space, Subudhi is only able to grow 300-400 lines at a time without any replication. “We only have to grow them to the seedling stage to see how they respond to salt,” he said.

“The tolerant lines identified in the initial set of experiments will be further tested for confirmation,” Subudhi said. “The lines which showed improved salt tolerance in later experiments will be planted at the Rice Research Station for desirable agronomic attributes like yield and disease resistance.”

Rice farmers in north and south Louisiana have problems with high salinity levels in irrigation water. In south Louisiana, when rainfall is below average, saltwater can move up from the Gulf of Mexico into irrigation canals.

Also, storm surges from hurricanes have flooded fields with saltwater that made the land unsuitable for rice for several years. In some areas of north Louisiana, high levels of salt are found in well water.

Prasanta Subudhi works on developing rice varieties more tolerant to the salt that is creeping into Louisiana soils.

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