Puerto Rico winter nursery a valuable resource for La. rice breeding

Bruce Schultz, Gould, Frances I.  |  12/7/2018 5:52:39 PM

The winter nursery in Puerto Rico continues to help save time in the development of new rice options for farmers, researchers say.

In the spring of 2018, more than 400 experimental rows were selected and harvested in Puerto Rico and immediately planted into plots for yield testing at the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station near Crowley.

“We harvested that rice in Puerto Rico on a Wednesday, and it was all planted into plots on station in nine days,”

said Adam Famoso, LSU AgCenter rice breeder.

All those rows were from lines of rice developed the previous year.

“That is two years off the breeding process,” Famoso said.

The new Provisia line, PVL108, was grown in 100 rows in Puerto Rico. It produced 60 pounds of seed, which was brought back to the Rice Research Station for a seed increase.

In 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated the island. While the nursery at Lajas was relatively unharmed, the storm’s aftermath and cleanup delayed planting.

The nursery also is vital for expediting hybrid development. Female plants for the hybrid project require specific environmental conditions, such as warm winter temperatures and the short day lengths that occur in Puerto Rico.

The hybrid breeding program relies heavily on the Puerto Rico winter nursery to advance new crosses.

“The Puerto Rico nursery is a very valuable resource,” said Jim Oard, LSU AgCenter hybrid breeder. “It’s a crucial site for us for hybrid breeding of environmentally sensitive sterile lines.”

Male sterile lines are required to make hybrids. Certain lines will be pollen-sterile during the summer in Louisiana but produce fertile pollen when grown in the winter nursery in Puerto Rico.

Oard said the nursery allows for a seed increase and to advance generations quicker with extra growing seasons. He credited farm manager Anthony Rivera for the well-run facility.

Last year, he said, the usual planting in Puerto Rico in October had to be delayed until December because of Hurricane Maria.

“That did cause us to get less than optimum seed yields,” he said.

But the amount of seed was enough for selection and purification purposes, Oard said.

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