Terry Siebenmorgen, director of the University of Arkansas’s Rice Processing Program, received the Rice Technical Working Group Distinguished Service Award at the organization’s biennial meeting recently in Long Beach, California.
The award recognizes Siebenmorgen’s career-long research to improve post-harvest rice processing, according to a university news release.
The scope of his work ranges from preharvest property characterization through drying, storage, milling and end-use quality evaluation.
Using an integrated approach that involves polymer chemistry, cereal chemistry and crop physiology, Siebenmorgen’s research has improved understanding of the development, composition and processing behavior of individual rice kernels.
He developed and tested the “glass transition hypothesis” concerning how rice kernels change in physical and chemical structure because of heating during drying.
Subsequent research showed that under certain conditions, this process can lead to some kernels fissuring and then breaking during milling. More precision in harvesting rice at ideal moisture content and adjusting drying methods led to greater milling yields and improved food quality and value.
Among other revelations, Siebenmorgen’s research showed that preharvest conditions, such as high night-time air temperatures, affected post-harvest quality and milling yields.
Understanding the physical and chemical activity in rice kernels during harvest and processing led to industry adoption of solutions that have improved food quality in the rice industry.
Siebenmorgen also developed new research procedures that changed how scientists think about rice. Among these, he pioneered kernel-to-kernel technology that rapidly measures individual kernel properties.
He also implemented automated imaging technology and other systems that more quickly and accurately measure and assess rice kernel characteristics.
“Dr. Siebenmorgen is recognized in the U.S. rice industry as the leader in post-harvest rice research,” Keith Glover, president and CEO of Producers Rice Mill Inc., of Stuttgart, Arkansas, said in the release.
Dean Oliver, director of Innovation & Technical Services, and Michael Smith, vice president for Quality & Innovation, both of Riceland Foods, co-signed a letter supporting Siebenmorgen’s nominations for the award.
“Dr. Siebenmorgen has invested his career in providing practical research to develop real solutions to some of the rice processing industry’s greatest opportunities,” they said in the letter. “A mentor to dozens of students who have come through his program and a true friend to many colleagues around the world.”
During his career at the University of Arkansas, Siebenmorgen built his research into a broader program, combining the expertise of collaborating food science researchers, laboratory staff and graduate students into the Rice Processing Program based in Fayetteville.
To make sure the program’s research was meeting the needs of the rice industry and consumers, Siebenmorgen recruited food companies from across the United States to form the Rice Industry Alliance, which now holds annual meetings to share research and solicit feedback from the industry.
“Forming the Rice Industry Alliance was a stroke of genius,” said Nathan McKinney, Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station assistant director and interim director of the Rice Research and Extension Center in Stuttgart.
Siebenmorgen is quick to share credit for his success.
“With any recognition there are so many people to thank,” Siebenmorgen said. “There are countless faculty, administrator and staff colleagues, and graduate students who contribute to our work. I couldn’t do this without them. And we have tremendous industry support, without which we couldn’t have come this far.”