Saturday, November 1, 2014

Investment in temperate rice research pays dividends

Dr. Jong-Min Jeong and Dr. Russell Reinke at the Korean Rural Development Administration's Chuncheon sub-station, where rice is tested under cold water treatment.

BANGKOK, Thailand - “Their investments are paying off,” says Dr. Russell Reinke, head of the Temperate Rice Research Consortium (TRRC), referring to the support given by the Korean Rural Development Association (RDA). RDA is the consortium's primary investor.

Temperate rice is generally grown in regions with long days and lower temperatures than the tropics, at latitudes greater than 23.5° south or north. Areas that produce this type of rice are widely dispersed around the world, making regular scientific interaction a big challenge.

RDA’s funding made TRRC possible, as well as the recent research developments and breakthroughs on temperate rice. In recent years, there has been an increased sharing of germplasm among partners. TRRC now has 22 member-countries. Because of the isolation of some temperate regions, it’s also crucial to have a reason for temperate rice regions to come together and share research developments.

Key results on sustainability, cold tolerance, and grain quality were presented during the 5th Temperate Rice Conference (TRC5), integrated this time around into the science program of the 4th International Rice Congress or IRC2014 in Bangkok, Thailand.

TRC5 is seen as a way of educating the tropical researchers about the extent and diversity of rice-production regions (e.g., temperate rice).

“This conference has provided a venue for us to interact. Just as RDA’s investment is paying dividends, I hope that the effort that researchers have made to come here will also pay dividends for them,” adds Dr. Reinke.

Since its creation, TRRC has accomplished more through collaborative research aimed at increasing rice production in temperate and high altitude regions, as well as overcome constraints to better yield and quality of temperate rice.

Among several constraints that limit rice production in temperate areas is low temperature. It affects several million hectares of rice cultivation area in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and South and North America resulting in annual yield losses. In addition, low temperature at the seedling stage damages boro rice production in Bangladesh and in high-altitude regions of Bhutan, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Nepal.

Also, biotic stresses such as blast and bacterial blight are problems in areas with lower temperature---a disease-conducive environment in temperate as well as high-altitude regions.

Even though temperate japonica rice occupies only 20% of the rice cultivation area worldwide, the decline in its production is a major cause of food insecurity.

Thus, research and sharing of information through TRRC play important roles in understanding how yield potential can be increased in temperate areas.

Around 1,500 participants from 69 countries are attending the 4th International Rice Congress, or IRC2014, at the Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Centre (BITEC).

IRC2014 is being held under the patronage of the Royal Government of Thailand, specifically the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, and is touted as the “Olympics of rice science,” being the largest gathering of rice science and industry held every four years. 

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