3 goals outlined for 2013 in hybrid rice work

Frances Gould, Schultz, Bruce  |  9/30/2013 9:12:09 PM

Workers at the LSU AgCenter’s Rice Research Station collect rice plants that will be grown in greenhouses as possible candidates for hybrid lines. Development of hybrid rice is a labor-intensive undertaking that requires a large amount of hand work.

Photo By: LSU AgCenter

LSU AgCenter plant geneticist Dr. Jim Oard works with hybrid rice plants in the greenhouse at the Rice Research Station.

Photo By: LSU AgCenter

LSU AgCenter rice geneticist Dr. Jim Oard will be taking over as coordinator of the hybrid rice development project because of the departure of rice breeder Dr. Xueyan Sha.

Oard will work with visiting Chinese scientist Weiki Li.

"Sha and Li have done an excellent job, and my work is to continue what they started,"Oard said.

Oard has identified three goals for the coming year.

First, he wants to improve the characteristics of the baseline foundation stock used in making hybrid crosses. "This is the bedrock used to develop hybrids," he said.

Potential improvements include grain quality, early maturity and short stature.

Second, Oard said he wants extensive test-crossing of potential new hybrids. The more crosses, the better the chances of obtaining a successful match.

"That’s at the very core of the hybrid program," he said.

Finally, Oard said he wants to improve the method for producing hybrid seed economically. In China, hybrid seed pollination is accomplished with a large number of people working together. Here, however, Oard hopes to use hormones to cause male and female plants, planted alongside each other, to synchronize pollen production and flowering simultaneously.

Several measures are used to speed up hybrid development, Oard said. First, greenhouses are used in Louisiana to continue growing rice after cool weather arrives. The nursery in Puerto Rico also will be used to grow lines during the winter.

In addition, Oard is working with Dr. Gretchen Zaunbrecher, a geneticist, to identify genetic markers linked to desirable traits.

It’s still indefinite as to when a hybrid could be released from the Rice Research Station, however.

"We could see hybrid availability in perhaps three years at the earliest," said Dr. Steve Linscombe, LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station director.

Even once the decision is made to release a hybrid, seed availability would require several years before farmers could grow it, Linscombe said.

Linscombe said LAH10 was the highest-yielding line in the multilocation advanced testing in Louisiana, as well as in the Mississippi Uniform Regional Nursery.

"There’s no doubt this particular line continues to show promise," Linscombe said, adding that Kellogg Co. will be testing LAH10 for consideration in some of its products.

Linscombe said the line has a clear grain, with low chalk. "If nothing else, this dispels the notion that hybrids are inherently chalky," he said.

But Oard said LAH10 has a tendency to lodge when seeding rates and nitrogen amounts are used at rates similar to pure line varieties. So Oard will continue work next season with Dr. Dustin Harrell to see if the lodging can be reduced with a lowered seeding rate and a reduced amount of nitrogen.

Oard also said he will be working with the University of Arkansas breeders who are pursuing a hybrid project. He said lines and crosses will be exchanged under an agreement between the LSU AgCenter and the University of Arkansas.

"Combined, we will be better and stronger," Oard said.

Dr. Xueyan Sha, who left the LSU AgCenter to become a rice breeder in Arkansas, said LAH10 is based on two Chinese parents, resulting in a late maturity and tall height. He said efforts continue to develop a line adapted for Louisiana.

Six experimental hybrid lines were grown in Acadia, Jefferson Davis and St. Landry parishes, Sha said. Researchers in Arkansas and Mississippi also are working on hybrids, he said.

Sha said work in 2012 laid the foundation for considerably more crosses. "In two or three years from now, there will be a lot of new combinations," he said.

(This article was published in the 2013 Louisiana Rice Research Board Annual Report.)



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