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New MAFES Rice Variety May Threaten Standard
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A new rice variety soon to be in commercial production is giving indications it may be a strong contender for the state's most popular variety.
Priscilla was released in 1997 by Dr. Dwight Kanter, agronomist with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. The new rice variety started in the early 1980s by an Arkansas researcher as a cross between three existing varieties.
"In early tests, Priscilla was one of the highest yielding semi-dwarfs that we observed," Kanter said.
The Lemont variety occupies about 73 percent of Mississippi's rice acreage. Priscilla has averaged yields 10 to 20 bushels per acre more than this standard semi-dwarf.
In addition to high yields, Priscilla is characterized by good stalk strength and lodging resistance, or the ability of the rice plant to stand up at maturity, making harvest more efficient. The variety also has a higher tolerance to sheaf blight disease, to which the current leading variety is very susceptible.
On-farm tests conducted under commercial growing conditions with a wide range of soil types, management practices and weather conditions show Priscilla is well suited for Delta production.
Dr. Ben Jackson, former MAFES agronomist at the Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, was given the original variety cross by an Arkansas researcher. He made selections from this cross for several years, and Kanter continued with the selections after Jackson retired.
"Through selection, we developed a stable line, and evaluated its performance for several years in our yield tests to determine its merits as a potential variety," Kanter said. "We also did disease screening work on Priscilla."
Development of the variety began in 1986, and extensive testing began in 1994. MAFES released Priscilla in 1997 and began production of foundation seed. Mississippi seed growers will plant registered Priscilla seed this year for producing certified seed. Certified seed will be available for commercial planting in 2000.
Randy Vaughn, operations manager at MSU's Foundation Seed Stocks Program, explained the steps a rice variety goes through to reach certification. First, the breeder plants the new variety and selects mature heads that appear completely normal in every respect with the varietal characteristics.
"The breeder individually threshes the heads and plants the seeds from each chosen plant in its own row," Vaughn said. "These seeds are considered a head row, and represents one parent plant from the previous year."
All the plants in the head rows are evaluated collectively and individually, and the entire row is discarded if any abnormalities are seen.
"The hope is that we will be able to increase the uniformity of the variety with this process," Vaughn said. "Uniformity is critical to the success of a variety."
Remaining head rows are harvested and the seeds combined to become the following year's breeder seed, which when harvested, yields foundation seed.
"Foundation seed is the first generation recognized under the state certification program, and is sold to the seed companies to raise registered and certified seed," Vaughn said.
Certified seed is sold to growers for typical production and processing. Vaughn said Foundation Seed Stocks has an adequate supply of Priscilla this year, which is available through MAFES.
The process from choosing the original seeds from the new variety through certification takes at least five years, Vaughn said. Numerous standards and inspections, both in the field and in the lab, must be met to ensure the genetic purity of the new variety.
"A lot of factors go into determining a variety's success," Kanter said. "As researchers, our goal is to release the best variety, but there can be some factors that likely will be encountered under large-scale production that were not encountered in small plot research before it was released. With time, other aspects of a variety's strengths and weaknesses may show up."
When Lemont was introduced, it took some time for growers and processors to learn its characteristics and take advantage of its potential. It now is one of the most popular varieties.
Kanter expects a similar learning process to occur with Priscilla.
"Once Priscilla gets into more widespread production and more producers have a chance to grow and observe it on their farms, it could become a very significant variety in our overall production," Kanter said.