Every two years, rice researchers and allied industry representatives from around the United States and even the globe get together for a meeting of the minds at the Rice Technical Working Group. For two days, they share research results and discuss future studies focusing exclusively on rice.
This year, more than 300 attended the 38th annual RTWG, which was hosted by Mississippi State University at Orange Beach, Alabama.
The meeting also offers students opportunities to present their master’s or doctoral research. For some, it may be the first time they’ve spoken publicly about their work, says Wayne Ebelhar, an MSU specialist in soil fertility and crop production.
“This is a learning experience,” he says. “A lot of these guys are in their degree programs, and it’s a great opportunity to meet everybody within our field — research people and industry people — all in one place. It’s a real opportunity for students to practice their trade.”
As an added incentive, RTWG holds a poster contest as well as an oral presentation contest for the students, with the top three in each group receiving cash prizes and bragging rights. This year, 15 students entered posters while 29 made oral research presentations.
Altogether, this year’s RTWG included 131 research papers and 95 posters covering nearly every facet of rice research, from genetics, crop protection and water management to fertility.
Bruce Linquist, University of California Extension rice specialist and RTWG chairman, says much of the work presented at the conference ultimately benefits the farmer.
“There aren’t many farmers who come here, but I think farmers would be interested because a lot of the research is generally applied research,” he says. “I think for the industry, it’s fantastic just to bring everybody from the U.S. together. It’s the only chance I think as a rice scientist to get together. I think it’s really neat that we attract a good number of international people as well.”
Jason Bond, Mississippi State University Extension weed scientist and RTWG secretary, says the meeting promotes an open exchange of ideas and spark new views.
“I may see a study that somebody else is doing, and it creates an idea that I can take back to Mississippi,” he says. “It helps the growers in our state because it may be something that we didn’t even think about yet.”
The 39th RTWG is planned for 2022 in Hot Springs, Arkansas.