Jazzman varieties providing alternatives to imported aromatic rice

Frances Gould  |  10/9/2013 8:13:19 PM

Although yields of Jazzman and Jazzman 2 may be lower than other varieties, Dr. Steve Linscombe of the LSU AgCenter says that issue is offset by the premium offered by mills for specialty rice.

Photo By: LSU AgCenter

Jazzman aromatic varieties developed at the LSU AgCenter’s Rice Research Station have gained acceptance in farmers’ fields and on consumers’ tables.

Rice farmers in the southern United States grew more than 10,000 acres of Jazzman last year.

Dr. Steve Linscombe, a regional director for the LSU AgCenter and director of its Rice Research Station at Crowley, said yields overall for Jazzman and Jazzman 2 were lower than other varieties. But he said that was expected.

"We had some fields that exceeded expectations and some that didn’t meet expectations," Linscombe said, stressing the emphasis in developing Jazzman rice lines was on the aromatic trait. "We knew going into this endeavor that Jazzman and Jazzman 2 didn’t have the yield that our current varieties have."

The lower yield has been offset, however, by a premium offered by mills for the specialty rice, Linscombe said.

"It was a learning experience for some who had never grown a specialty variety before," he said, explaining part of that learning curve included keeping the rice separate from the rest of a farmer’s crop.

Linscombe said consumers and the restaurant trade have readily accepted Jazzman rice as alternatives to imported Jasmine from Thailand.

"Almost across the board, everything I’ve heard has been positive, even exceeding my expectations," he said. "A lot of the restaurateurs using imported Thai Jasmine have been really positive about Jazzman, and in many cases, the comments I’ve heard is this is better than Thai Jasmine."

Linscombe said the superior aroma can be traced to different factors.

Thai Jasmine often is blended with nonaromatic rice, but U.S. Jazzman is not mixed. "Our Jazzman is a known entity, and that is not really always the case with imported Jasmine," Linscombe said.

Also, shipping rice across the ocean from Thailand increases the likelihood rice may sit in a container on a dock, exposing it to hot temperatures and diluting the aroma, he said. On top of that, the time it takes from harvest in Thailand until the rice reaches grocery shelves in the United States can diminish the aroma and flavor.
Another point in Jazzman’s favor is that consumers have confidence the U.S. product has been grown with federal oversight.

"Everything we do is subjected to U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration standards," Linscombe said.

Farmer Jimmy Hoppe of Fenton said he is upbeat for Jazzman’s potential.

"I’m going to increase acreage because of demand," he said. "The mills are expecting more use, and I continue to move more rice."

LSU AgCenter rice breeder Dr. Xueyan Sha, who developed the varieties, said the Jazzman offerings to consumers have gone beyond the United States, with one U.S. company exporting it to Vietnam and Hong Kong.

Sha said he is continuing work to improve Jazzman quality. He spent a month in 2011 cooking 2,000 different samples and looking for improvements in aroma and grain appearance.

He also is at work on a Clearfield Jazzman version – to give farmers more flexibility in their variety selections and weed control.

"It makes it much easier for farmers also because if you have Clearfield all around, you don’t have to worry about herbicide drift," Sha said, explaining Jazzman and Jazzman 2 were used to develop the Clearfield Jazzman lines.

(This article was published in the 2012 Louisiana Rice Research Board Annual Report.)

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