Photographer's Note


Jasmine Rice

its immigration from Thai
and residency in the USA

day V


The United States is the world's 4th largest rice exporter—but almost 11% of U.S. rice consumption is imported. Almost all U.S. imports are aromatic rices, mainly for the ethnic Asian market; 75% are of the world-famous fragrant Thai jasmine, also called hom mali. Thai jasmine is, for rice connoisseurs, what Dom Perignon is for champagne lovers and filet mignon is for beef aficionados.

Why not grow jasmine rice in the United States?

First, Thai jasmine rices are sensitive to photoperiod, or daylength. They flower too late to produce grain in time for harvest in most of the United States. And yields are low because the tall jasmines lodge, or fall over, when fertilized. A group of U.S. scientists has started the Stepwise Program for Improvement of Jasmine Rice for the United States. Its purpose is to develop jasmine rice that U.S. farmers can grow profitably and thus, compete with Thai imports, says Dr. J. Neil Rutger, project coordinator and director of the Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center, U.S. Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service, in Stuttgart, Arkansas. Partners are the University of Florida Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade, near Palm Beach; and the Rice Research and Extension Center, University of Arkansas, Stuttgart. Process is step-by-step. "We call it the 'Stepwise Program' because success will be step-by-step," Rutger told PlanetRice. The first step, to induce irradiated mutations of tall jasmine rices, was initiated at the Bumpers Center about 3 years ago.

Rutger is an experienced mutation breeder. He developed Calrose 76, California's first semidwarf rice variety, in 1976 through induced radiation of the tall variety Calrose. Rutger grew the first generation of mutant jasmine in a USDA/ARS winter nursery in Puerto Rice. The two universities and the Bumpers Center are now testing the next generation, to select mainly for early maturing lines, and for higher-yielding semidwarfs that yield more and are suited for mechanized harvest. "The early maturing and semidwarf lines will undoubtedly be two separate mutants," Rutger says. "Next, we'll cross the mutants and select early maturing, semidwarf recombinants." The advantage of induced mutation for two agronomic traits-earliness and semidwarfish-is that the package of unique quality characters are expected to be retained, Rutger explains. The original plan was to develop an improved jasmine rice for Arkansas. "But we soon learned that if we plant in Arkansas, we won't even get our seed back," Rutger says. "It flowers in October—about when the frost comes." But the jasmine rices, and their mutated progeny, could grow in Florida's warmer climate. Florida joins jasmine project. Florida rice breeder Dr. Chris Deren joined the project, and grew the M2 generation in the summer of 2000. He made the first selections late that fall. "We found about 25 semidwarf mutants, and another 25 that matured early," Deren told PlanetRice. "I'm growing them out now." The good thing about mutation breeding, Deren explains, is that one can change the height or flowering date, while leaving genes for jasmine's excellent grain quality intact. Also, one can get stability of traits in the M2 generation, rather than waiting for six or more generations through conventional breeding. "Jasmine is the best rice in the world," an enthusiastic Deren says. "It has a tremendous market." University of Arkansas is testing. Also testing the jasmine progeny lines is Dr. James Gibbons, rice breeder, Arkansas Rice Research and Extension Center. Developing an improved jasmine for U.S. production won't be easy, Gibbons warns. "Quality characteristics—the flavors that make jasmine famous—are complex," he told PlanetRice. The aroma and whiteness of grain, for example, are due to several chemicals. "Consumer preferences are always important with rice—but especially so for jasmine connoisseurs. We must put together so many traits: not only the fragrance of jasmine, but also its whiteness, soft texture, and size and shape of grain—along with yield and early maturity."

Conventional breeding with Jasmine 85 In Florida, Deren is also crossing Thai jasmine rice with Jasmine 85, a U.S. variety with a rich history, and other improved varieties. Gibbons, in Arkansas, is growing and selecting from thousands of F2 progeny from Deren's Florida crosses. Jasmine 85 is the only U.S. farm variety bred at the Philippine-based International Rice Research Institute. Scientists selected it as IR841, from the 841st IRRI cross, made in 1966 by Dr. Ben Jackson, Rockefeller Foundation rice breeder and IRRI liaison in Thailand from 1966 to 1983. One parent is a popular Thai jasmine variety. Organic Jasmine 85 sells well as a "niche rice" to upscale U.S. customers who want new, healthy products—but not to the larger ethnic Asian market. Most Thai jasmine is grown at 600 to 900 meters (about 2,000 to 3,000 feet) elevation in Northeast Thailand. Yields are among the lowest in Asia. The average Thai eats about 132 kilograms (290 lbs.) of rice per year. Rice and food are almost synonymous in Thailand. In fact, the Thai word khao means both "rice" and "food." (By Tom Hargrove)

Photo: Jasmine Rice photographed using Canon EF-50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro Lens with Life-Size Converter EF for maximum close-up view on the shape and transparency of this grain.


TRASH, nicol_g, ChristineLe, claire526, alejandroguzman, kri54 ha contrassegnato questa nota come utile

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