The Value of International Cooperation

Hybrid Seed Production in China

This is being written at 37,000 feet eastbound over the Russian Federation. Dr. Jim Oard and I are returning from a six-day visit to the People’s Republic of China. This is my ninth visit to China over the previous 25 years. During this trip, we visited several Chinese rice research centers. Our primary aim for this trip was to visit with our collaborators at the Tianjin Academy of Agricultural Sciences. Tianjin Province is just south of Beijing. Tianjin is the capital city of the province and is the third largest city in China behind Shanghai and Beijing. As a result of this visit, we are hopeful that we will establish a formal cooperative agreement to conduct collaborative research between the Tianjin Academy and the LSU AgCenter.

This cooperative agreement will ultimately be of great benefit to the rice producers of Louisiana. It will allow for the free flow of germplasm, personnel and information between our two research centers. An example of the value of this research exchange is the ongoing agreement we have with the Guangxi Academy of Agricultural Sciences, which was formalized in 2009. This agreement allowed us to bring in our first male sterile breeding lines from which we initiated our current rice hybrid research program. To create rice hybrids, one must possess male sterile lines that do not have the capability to self-pollinate. These male sterile lines can thus be planted next to restorer or pollinator lines, which will pollinate the male steriles to produce the F1 hybrid seed used to plant hybrid production rice fields. Because we did not have these types of lines in our germplasm collections, we traveled to China in 2008 to establish ties with the Guangxi Academy and acquire such lines, which are the backbone of our hybrid breeding research efforts today. Professor Weike Li from the Guangxi Academy works at the Rice Research Station and is a valuable asset in our rice hybrid breeding efforts.

Overall, international collaborative research is extremely important to what we do at the Rice Research Station. In my tenure as a rice breeder, we have imported germplasm from Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, and South and Central America. In turn, we have provided our improved germplasm to rice breeders from all of these regions as well.

Some may question the wisdom of providing our improved genetic resources to breeders from areas of the world that might be perceived as competitors in the rice growing business. I can state without reservation that in the end we get more than we give. We have brought in numerous lines that have genes for resistance to many disease and insect pests that cause significant problems in Louisiana rice production. Several of our recently released varieties have imported germplasm in their pedigrees. An example is CL152, which has Tacauri as a parental line. This was a variety I brought in from Uruguay many years ago that has been used extensively in our breeding efforts.

In addition to the Tianjin Academy, we visited the province of Nanjing on this trip, where we discussed future collaborative work with researchers at the Nanjing Agricultural University.

The bottom-line is that international cooperation in rice research is of great benefit to the Louisiana rice industry in the short and long term. We need to have these collaborative efforts to maintain and enhance the viability of the Louisiana rice industry.

China’s Economic Engine

As a footnote, I will add that the country of China never ceases to amaze me. Every time I visit China I become more impressed with the economic prowess of this country. China is truly an economic behemoth. Everywhere you look there are high-rise apartment and office buildings under construction. It seems that in every major city, at least 40 percent of the high-rise buildings are under construction. I have been told that more than 80 percent of the cranes in use in high-rise construction in the world are in China.

While on this trip, we rode the brand new high-speed rail system (190 mph) from Tianjin to Nanjing, then later from Nanjing to Beijing. This rail system is another example of the rapid development and infrastructure improvements underway in this country. Riding the rails provided further examples of economic development. Everywhere you look along the trip there are factories newly built or under construction. There is an economic boom in this country that cannot be overstated. From my personal observations, I truly believe that China is well on its way to becoming a world economic superpower that will soon rival the United States.

Permission granted, October 15,2013, by B. Leonards (LA Farm &Ranch) to republish article on
10/15/2013 7:04:16 PM
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