Research efforts conducted at the Rice Experiment Station near Biggs, Calif., continue to pay dividends to the state’s rice industry in the form of better varieties, enhanced understanding of pest control and world competitiveness, according to Gary Simleness of Willows, Calif., chairman of the California Cooperative Rice Research Foundation, Inc.

He told 2008 Rice Field Day attendees at the Rice Experiment Station, “This station pays attention to the details. Since 1912, it has been serving the needs of the California rice industry. We are keeping a constant watch as to the challenges and changing environment which we find ourselves.”

One of the most exciting advances is the station’s expansion of its DNA marker capabilities. “This technology is a breeding tool that should help assist our breeders in making varietal selections in the breeding program,” Simleness says. “DNA markers will help in selecting the semi dwarfing gene, amylase content and resistance to rice diseases.”

A newly acquired DNA sequencer is helping researchers at the station greatly reduce the time required to identify desirable traits in varieties and select breeding lines for further study.

“The purity and high quality of our seed has been clearly demonstrated to growers and to the industry over the past several decades,” Simleness said, adding, however, “recent discoveries of small pockets of red rice contamination have been discovered and isolated here in California. This news is of serious concern to all rice growers.”

Red rice has been detected in six fields in Colusa and Glenn counties since 2003. Researchers and industry leaders are urging an aggressive, proactive approach to limit the spread of red rice.

In addition to scouting carefully, growers and PCAs are urged to contact their county University of California farm advisors if they suspect red rice is present in a field. Red rice can be tricky to identify because it can be mistaken for watergrass escapes prior to heading.

“One of the best preventative measures to protect against red rice contamination and spread is through the use of pure, high-quality rice seed which this station produces,” Simleness says.

An estimated 90 percent of rice growers in California use certified seed. Through a cooperative program between the Rice Experiment Station and the Foundation Seed and Certification Services at UC Davis, foundation seed is being produced for 15 varieties in 2008.