Hybrid Rice Update

img-Hybrid-RiceBy Brian Otis, Ph. D.

Hybrid rice is changing the way rice is grown in America for the better. Hybrids gained an initial foothold in the U.S. market in 2003 and have achieved an average market growth of almost 40 percent per year over the past 10 years. Hybrid rice was quickly embraced by growers for its significant gain in yield and tolerance to various diseases and pests.

Over the past decade, hybrid rice has been the driving force for overcoming challenges and offering solutions that benefit the rice industry. One such challenge has been the susceptibility of crops to diseases such as neck blast and bacterial panicle blight. In many cases, standard rice variety yield potential is severely reduced by increased levels of blast, panicle blight, sheath blight and straighthead disease. Hybrid technology inherently delivers increased disease tolerance and higher yielding plants. This combination directly reduces the costs associated with rice production, while making the crop a more profitable, sustainable product.

Alternative Crops Competition

Another challenge facing rice farming communities is the competition for land from alternative crops. The supply of rice farmland and water in many parts of the United States rice growing regions is diminishing. Rice farming communities need a sustainable rice crop with higher yield to remain profitable, not to mention competitive with alternative crops.

Hybrid technology has provided the rice industry with a clear solution since it produces more grain on fewer acres using fewer inputs. This, too, has contributed directly to improved profitability for rice farmers. Moreover, the capacity of hybrid rice seed to overcome environmental and disease challenges has added to the economic advantage of the U.S. rice industry by lowering costs and increasing production.

And what challenges lie ahead? Some in the industry might point to grain size, or chalk and amylose content. Hybrid technology is currently being adapted to help the rice industry tackle each of these issues. New hybrid seed products are currently in development to meet these challenges head on, many of which have already been shared with the milling industry.

Hybrid rice is also becoming the future of rice production around the world, where its significantly higher yield is being embraced to help address the food needs of a growing population faced with limited natural resources.

In summary, as market needs have shifted among farmers, millers and importers of U.S. rice, the introduction of hybrid rice technology has answered the call for innovation and positive changes in U.S. rice production for more than a decade. Hybrid rice technology has provided sustainable solutions to many of the rice industry’s most challenging issues. Further improvements are underway that should enable this relatively new technology to continue delivering reliable solutions to farmers, millers and consumers – for years to come.

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