Rice experts worldwide to convene in Galveston March 1-4

by Kathleen Phillips, Texas A&M AgriLife

More than 400 rice scientists, industry representatives, consultants and growers are expected to gather in Galveston March 1-4 for the 36th Biennial Rice Technical Working Group meeting at Moody Gardens in Galveston, officials said.

“We’re expecting scientists from across the U.S. as well as a number of people from Asia, Latin America, Africa and Europe,” said Dr. Ted Wilson, center director at Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center-Beaumont, which is hosting the event.

Registration and conference details are at http://www.rtwg.net. The meeting takes place every other year and is held in Texas once a decade.

Wilson said the event will cover everything about rice production, management and varietal improvement.

“As scientists, we often focus narrowly on one topic,” Wilson noted. “Consultants have to focus on the whole crop from agronomy to pest management to economics. And growers have to do the same thing but at yet another level. So these interactions that we will have at the meeting are really helpful, because by partnering with growers or consultants, we can do so much more than we can by ourselves.”

Dr. Lee Tarpley, AgriLife Research plant physiologist in Beaumont and program chair, said the conference will include 270 presentations.

“One of the really neat things about this meeting is that we have such a wide range of disciplines,” he said. “We’ve got talks on economics and marketing; weed control and growth regulation; rice culture; breeding and genetics; grain quality, processing and storage; and plant protection against disease and insect pests.”

Tarpley said six symposia are being held during the meeting to focus on the most important and timely issues facing the U.S. and world rice industry. Symposia topics are: Sustainable Organic Rice Production, Water Conservation Technologies for Sustainable Rice Production, Rice Value-Addition, Updates for Crop Consultants, The Role of Climatic Stress on Rice Yield and Quality, and Blast Disease.

“Although the U.S. only produces about 2 percent of all rice in the world, we are leaders in many of the scientific areas,” Wilson said. “What makes us a leader with our partners overseas is complementary expertise. It is not just us; it’s us working with them that really does it.”

Wilson noted that AgriLife Research scientists over the past 25 years have identified eight key traits in rice plants that interact to explain almost 80 percent of the average variation in yield. Traits such as producing leaves quickly or slowly, or the location on the plant where the flower head is formed help determine yield and are key to the inbred and hybrid rice breeding programs at Beaumont.

How plant traits interact to determine rice yield performance under conditions of temperature stress also will be addressed as part of the climatic stress symposium.

The rice stink bug will be a focus of the pest management topics at the meeting,  according to Dr. Mo Way, AgriLife Research entomologist in Beaumont. Attendees will learn about possible changes in the threshold numbers that determine when it is economically advantageous to use control measures on the insect.

Attendees will also get an update on blast, a serious disease on rice and wheat, according to Dr. Shane Zhou, AgriLife Research plant pathologist in Beaumont.

“Blast is an important disease and causes significant damage to rice around the world,” Zhou said. “Wheat blast is the biggest threat to wheat production in South America, and it poses a threat to wheat production in the U.S.”

“Right now in the U.S., the crop doesn’t have wheat blast, but it has the potential to spread, so our speakers will focus on developing global strategies for management of rice blast and wheat blast.”

Tarpley said the conference will include a wide variety of information applicable not only for rice but for various other cropping systems.  

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