Borlaug fellow shares rice research findings

Johnny Morgan  |  2/14/2019 7:52:01 PM

(02/14/19) BATON ROUGE, La. — A participant in a U.S. Department of Agriculture fellowship program spent 10 weeks working in an LSU AgCenter laboratory to develop higher quality rice varieties to be used in Malaysia.

Malaysian rice breeder Acga Cheng, of the University of Malaya, gave a presentation Feb. 12 on her work during the time she spent at the AgCenter through the USDA-sponsored Borlaug Fellowship Program. It gives scientists from developing countries a chance to study and work with those in the U.S.

Each fellow is assigned a mentor who coordinates the fellow’s training while they are in the country.

Niranjan Baisakh, an AgCenter plant molecular biologist and geneticist, served as Cheng’s mentor while she was at LSU AgCenter.

Cheng received her doctorate in genetics from the University of Malaysia and is currently a senior lecturer at the university.

“Much of my work has been involved with research in the rice industry,” she said. “My previous research has been involved in developing high-quality rice.”

The work she completed at the AgCenter involved plant breeding and genetics.

“My goal here is to develop a simple and rapid molecular toolbox to breed a new high-yielding rice variety that is resistant to diseases and infections,” she said.

The rice industry is improving in Malaysia, but more work is ahead, she said.

“We have not reached the point of self-sufficiency in Malaysia just yet, but we hope to do so in the next couple of years,” she said.

During her time here, she extracted DNA from 20 rice varieties to test for disease resistance.

Baisakh said he has been involved in the Borlaug Fellowship Program since 2010.

“Acga is probably the 10th fellow to be involved in my lab,” he said.

Baisakh will be visiting Cheng’s lab at the University of Malaya later this year.

Jonathan Hubchen, assistant director of the AgCenter Global Network, said there is a two-stage process for bringing in fellows.

“The first step includes recruiting the fellows,” he said. “And the second stage is when the host institutions are identified, which occurs in late May.”

The AgCenter has hosted nearly 40 fellows in the past 12 years, with about a third of them working in the School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences, Hubchen said.

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Malaysian rice breeder Acga Cheng of the University of Malaya, center, receives her Borlaug Fellowship Certificate of Completion from LSU AgCenter Global Network assistant director Jonathan Hubchen, right, and AgCenter plant molecular biologist and geneticist Niranjan Baisakh after presenting her research on Feb. 12 in Baton Rouge. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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