Industry Alliance Meeting highlights research on AWD, grain bin monitors

ken korth

Ken Korth spoke on “Gene Editing: Current Progress and Outlook for Using CRISPR in Rice” — photo by Abbi Ross, University of Arkansas

Rice, already a staple grain for billions around the planet, could become an even more important food source with additional nutrients. Researchers with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s Rice Processing Program presented this and other hopeful insights based upon their academic research at the annual Industry Alliance Meeting.

The 2019 event was organized and hosted by the Rice Processing Program, led by Terry Siebenmorgen, distinguished professor of food science. He said program researchers annually report on their work to sponsors and corporate partners.

“The Industry Alliance Meeting serves as a platform to provide research results to the companies that sponsor the Rice Processing Program,” Siebenmorgen said. “It is also a venue that brings together the rice processing industry to discuss and address current needs of the industry.”

This year’s presentations included research in evaluating production methods, grain drying and processing techniques in which rice can improve nutrition and/or consumer acceptance.

• Seth Graham-Acquaah, a doctoral candidate in food science, presented research on the effect of alternate wetting and drying — also known as AWD — irrigation on rice quality criteria including milling yields, chalkiness and pasting properties, which indicate how rice will function in food production.

Graham-Acquaah found that the use of AWD, which can reduce water use by as much as 30 percent, with multiple-inlet delivery did not effect milling yields of rice compared to rice grown with the conventional, continuous-flood method. AWD did, however, produce rice with slightly greater chalkiness, as well as a lesser “setback viscosity” — a parameter often used by end-use processors of rice as an indication of the way rice will perform during processing.

• Kaushik Luthra, a senior graduate assistant and doctoral candidate in the college of engineering, described research on wireless sensors for monitoring rice conditions during on-farm, in-bin drying and storage. Luthra’s study tested the accuracy and precision of wireless sensors that can be used in rice storage bins. Continuous measurement of temperature and moisture content is vital for ensuring rice quality, and wireless sensors are a new technology to accomplish this.

• Annegret Jannash, a master’s degree candidate in food science, gave a presentation describing how parboiling could fortify rice with mirco-nutrients. Use of fortified rice could alleviate vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Jannash also investigated the optimization of parboiling conditions to fortify rice with minerals while minimizing water usage.

• Wipada Wunthunyarat, another master’s degree candidate in food science, studied whether germinating rice before turning it into flour would improve leavening in gluten-free bread. Wunthunyarat also examined  whether enzyme action on starches and proteins would be different if the germination was performed under anaerobic conditions versus aerobic conditions. She concluded that aerobic germination of brown rice for four days will produce a flour that makes a gluten-free bread that’s less dense, produces a softer crumb and will have a longer shelf life than breads made with flour ground from non-germinated rice.

• Ken Korth, head of the department of entomology and plant pathology, also discussed using CRISPR technology for gene editing in rice and how the technology differs from traditional breeding.

“With traditional breeding, you put out plots of plants and look for the phenotype that you are interested in,” he said. Modern gene editing allows you to make very precise changes in the genome.

“The rice genome has about 430 million base pairs in every cell,” Korth said. “We can go in, select one out of those millions, and change it however we want. It is incredibly powerful.”

The University of Arkansas contributed this article.