Scientists at Mississippi State are part of a multi-institutional, $10-million effort to improve the sustainability and profitability of rice farming in the face of climate change.
“Because of our interdisciplinary expertise and MSU’s facilities, we are developing genetic mapping tools to identify the genes associated with stress tolerance, including projected changes in climate,” said Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station Agronomist Raja Reddy. “Being able to identify these genes will help rice breeders develop climate-resilient cultivars, or plant varieties.”
Reddy, a research professor in MSU’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, is working alongside assistant research professors Raju Bheemanahalli Rangappa and Hunter Bowman, also MAFES agronomists. The research team has been awarded $970,000 as part of a four-year, $10 million grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Louisiana State University is the lead institution on the grant from NIFA’s Sustainable Agricultural Systems program. Other partners include the University of Arkansas and Texas A&M University.
Ranking sixth in the nation, Mississippi rice production is a $97 million industry, with over 115,000 farmed acres. In recent years, increasing extremes and unpredictability in weather patterns have begun to threaten the stability of this agricultural commodity.
“Like much of the U.S. Midsouth, Mississippi is seeing greater extremes in our high and low temperatures and greater intensities of drought during the early season,” Reddy said. “These conditions and higher temperatures during flowering are significant impediments to rice yield and grain quality.”
Reddy said the researchers, who collectively have many years of experience studying rice cultivation and breeding, also are planning Extension activities to help growers optimize their resources — particularly water and nutrients — to get the best growth and yield from newly developed cultivars.
According to the LSU AgCenter, the specific project objectives are to assess the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of current crop management practices, identify barriers to adopting novel technologies and practices, develop novel genotypes with enhanced tolerance to biological and environmental stressors, develop and optimize environmentally friendly crop management practices, and implement a robust Extension program to disseminate the concepts and benefits of sustainable farming techniques.
The grant is part of a $70 million investment from USDA to establish robust, resilient, and climate-smart food and agricultural systems.