Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The California Rice Experiment Station

Moving Forward on a Foundation of Past Success

⋅ BY DUSTIN HARRELL ⋅
California Rice Experiment Station

The California Rice Experiment Station (RES) has a long legacy of supporting the California rice industry by providing new and improved rice varieties. The original and current Calrose varieties are known worldwide for their superior quality. To date, the RES has released 57 varieties since it was first established in 1912.

The California Rice Experiment Station is home to the annual California Rice Field Day in Biggs, California. Many varieties and herbicide options are shown and discussed by breeding and Extension experts throughout the day.

Unlike other public and private rice breeding programs, the California RES and its developed varieties are uniquely owned by California rice growers. This feat was accomplished by the formation of the California Cooperative Rice Research Foundation (CCRRF), a grower owned non-profit [501(c)(5)] research foundation. Guidance for the RES activities and asset management is provided by the 11-member board of directors of the CCRRF.

In addition to variety development, the RES also supports the California rice industry by providing quality foundation seed, developing new technologies, and collaborating with university and Extension partners to help provide agronomic and pest management (weed, insect, and disease) research and develop rice best management practices for rice production systems.

The Rice Breeding Team

The RES has seen its fair share of success in variety development over the last 111 years. More recently, the RES has seen an influx of new leadership at the RES. Approximately 66% of the current staff were hired after 2021. These new leaders will usher in the next generation of improved rice varieties for California.

Current leadership of the prominent medium grain breeding program is Dr. Teresa De Leon. The long grain and short grain breeding programs are led by Dr. Nirmal Sharma and Dr. Frank Maulana, respectively. While no new rice varieties are planned for release in 2024, two varieties were released in 2023 and two more varieties are being considered for release in 2025.

Calhikari-203

The first variety released in 2023 was Calhikari-203 (CH-203). Calhikari-203 is a high-yielding, premium-quality, short grain rice variety. It has an astonishing average yield advantage of 10.9% over Calhikari-202 all while maintaining exceptional grain quality. The yield advantage was consistent across all state-wide variety trial locations.

Calhikari-203 reaches 50% heading in 89 days, which is two days earlier than Calhikari-201 and two days later than Calhikari-202. It is approximately 1 inch taller than Calhikari-202, but it is more resistant to lodging. However, the variety will still lodge and nitrogen use should be limited to around 90 pounds of N per acre to mitigate the potential for lodging.

Last, but not least, the new Calhikari-203 is the first variety in the premium quality short grain class that is non-pubescent (glabrous). This means that the rice variety does not have hairs on the rice hulls or leaves of the plant. This alone makes Calhikari-203 a more desirable variety compared to its predecessors. Calhikari-203 was grown in registered seed production in 2023; therefore, registered and certified seed should be available for the 2024 season.

M-521

The second variety release of 2023 was M-521. M-521 is the first ever release of a Calrose medium grain variety with the ROXY® herbicide tolerance trait. The variety was developed from an initial cross with an M-206 line containing the ROXY® trait and M-210, which contains the Pi-b blast resistance gene.

The variety has consistent grain quality with M-206 and M-210 and reaches 50% heading in 81-days. The yield potential of M-521 (when grown without the ROXY® companion herbicide from Albaugh, LLC) is approximately 1% to 2% less than M-206 and M-210. This is not too bad considering the first Clearfield and Provisia variety releases had a yield drag over 10%.

Although the M-521 variety has been released, the new-use label for the companion ROXY® herbicide that will be partnered with the ROXY® variety to make up the ROXY® Rice Production System (ROXY® RPS) is awaiting EPA approval. Therefore, seed production and the commercial launch of the ROXY® RPS will be on hold until the herbicide label is approved.

The only M-521 in production for 2024 will include research acres, foundation seed production at the RES, and a limited number of acres in the Mill Quality Evaluation Program.

20Y4033 – a Fragrant Calrose

A new aromatic Calrose medium grain variety is being considered for release in 2025. The variety has the same grain quality and cooking characteristics expected from California Calrose varieties but also contains a lightly fragrant aroma when cooking. The variety is derived from an initial cross between a M-206 selection and A-202 followed by two backcrosses to M-206.

The variety has been met with a lot of excitement by taste testers and the local community. The variety will target a small domestic niche market that likes the aroma of long grain Jasmine type varieties but prefers the cooking and eating characteristics of Calrose medium grains.

18Y2070 – a New Arborio

Abolish preplant (left) versus ALB 2023 preplant (right) with resistant watergrass as part of a 2023 ROXY® RPS Albaugh Efficacy Test in M-521.

Another variety being considered for release in 2025 is a new arborio rice variety tested as 18Y2070. Arborio rice varieties are medium grains that have a bold, fat grain with a chalky white center. Arborio varieties have an Italian heritage and are often used to cook Italian dishes like risottos.

The new 18Y2070 outyields both the original Arborio and the most prominent Arborio rice currently being grown in California (89Y235) by over 12%. This yield advantage is achieved all while improved milling characteristics over its predecessors. In addition, it has a stronger stalk strength than its predecessors although it is still suspectable to lodging. The 18Y2070 is also the first non-pubescent (glabrous) variety in this class.

Anytime a new specialty variety like an arborio is released, it is important to have it tested by chefs and connoisseurs of the specialty variety. The new 18Y2070 variety was distributed to over 20 different prominent chefs across the U.S. from New York City to San Francisco and from Dallas to Chicago for cooking and taste evaluations in comparison to the original Arborio and the 89Y235.

The results from the chef surveys were overwhelmingly in favor of the new 18Y2070 as compared to the older Arborio varieties. While a name for the variety has not been decided yet, the RES staff is leaning towards the name Calamore-201 which acknowledges the Italian heritage of arborio varieties and the California origin of the 18Y2070.

Improving Tools for California Rice Growers

While rice variety development is the focal point of research for the RES, the RES has been diligently working on improving communication and disseminating information to California rice growers. A new website (www.crrf.org) was launched in 2022. The new website has a wealth of information on the varieties developed at the RES.

A new Foundation Seed Portal (FSP) is set to be launched in February of this year. The FSP is an online portal where California seed rice growers can request and buy RES foundation seed. Seed rice growers will have their own log-in account where they can do the following: ■ Request an allocation of available varieties from the California Crop Improvement Association (CCIA). ■ Receive their allocation back from CCIA. ■ Modify their allocation. ■ Sign warranty and disclaimer forms and retired variety MTAs. ■ Pay their bills online. The FSP accounts will also serve as a digital warehouse for all associated paperwork.

In addition, rice statistical information for the state can also be found on the site. One feature that has become the most utilized is an interactive map of all the state-wide variety trials. Growers are able to select a location on the map and pull up the official variety trial results for that location for the current year. New for 2023 was the addition of a pulldown menu where you can see the variety trial results at that location for previous years.

A new Foundation Seed Portal (FSP) is set to be launched in February of this year. The FSP is an online portal where California seed rice growers can request and buy RES foundation seed. Seed rice growers will have their own log-in account where they can do the following: 1) request an allocation of available varieties from the California Crop Improvement Association (CCIA), 2) receive their allocation back from CCIA, 3) modify their allocation, 4) sign warranty and disclaimer forms and retired variety MTAs, and 5) pay their bills online. The FSP accounts will also serve as a digital warehouse for all associated paperwork.

Related Articles

Connect With Rice Farming

Quick Links

E-News Sign Up