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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Highlights
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New in June, 2014 - Recent Publications, Grants AwardedHonors and Awards Received, Outreach, Non-technical ArticlesCritical and Emerging Issues


Recent Publications -


Shannon R.M. Pinson, L. Tarpley, W. Yan, K. Yeater, B. Lahner, E. Yakubova, X.Y. Huang, M. Zhang, M.L. Guerinot, and D.E. Salt.  2014. World-wide genetic diversity for mineral element concentrations in rice grain.  Crop Science (Published online June 20, 2014 doi:10.2135/cropsci2013.10.0656).


About half the world’s population relies on rice as their dietary staple and, for these people, a large proportion of their micronutrients come from rice grains.  Some of these nutrients are essential (e.g., zinc) while others are unwanted (e.g., arsenic).  The identification of rice cultivars containing uniquely high or low concentrations of various mineral elements is an important first step toward breeding new rice varieties with enhanced grain nutritional value (known as biofortification).  We grew 1760 diverse rice varieties that originated from around the world under flooded and unflooded field conditions in Texas, evaluated their grain for concentration of 16 elements, and identified a number of varieties with unique grain element concentrations. However, the number of rice varieties having extremely high concentrations for each element was very low which suggests that these may be caused by single gene mutations having a major effect rather than multiple gene mutations.  This was exciting in that major-genes are more easily incorporated by breeders into new varieties than multi-gene traits. Based on the results of this study, we have crossed these varieties with a U.S. cultivar in order to identify the genes and physiological mechanisms underlying the extreme grain element concentrations we observed. 


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Grants Awarded - none to report.


Special invited presentations given, or honors and awards received - none to report.


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Public Outreach/Stakeholder and Collaborator Contacts -

June 2 Dr. Shannon Pinson was interviewed by Corina Storrs, a freelance science journalist working on an article for the NY Times focused on use of microbes for bioremediation of soils contaminated with arsenic.  She is also collecting information about means other than bioremediation for affecting the amount of arsenic that is accumulated in edible portions of plants.   


June 13 The DBNRRC hosted some 60 junior high school students that were participating in a federally funded summer training program called GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs).  This summer they are being trained in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) related subject areas. Scientists and support staff discussed with the students rice breeding, bioinformatics, disease diagnostics, and genomic analysis.  Results from a feedback questionnaire given to the students after the tour demonstrated that 58% would consider a career in agricultural research. The event was highlighted in the local Stuttgart newspaper on June 27.


June 16 Ms. Linda Gunnell, a 6th grade teacher from Dewitt, Arkansas has joined DBNRRC for a summer mentoring program funded by Arkansas STRIVE. Ms. Gunnell was a participant in the Future Scientists training program that was conducted at DBNRRC in 2013. The purpose of the current program is to provide teachers with hands-on, real-world research experiences that expand their scientific and technological knowledge. The program is eight-weeks long and teachers can receive professional development credit. Ms. Gunnell met with each of the research project leaders at the center. In collaboration with the cereal chemistry staff, she is developing a teaching curriculum to determine amylose content of different market classes of rice. The laboratory methodology has been modified by ARS staff to primarily use products that can be purchased in local stores to reduce costs and facilitate use of the protocol.


June 18 Dr. David Gealy provided photographic images from DBNRRC research of sprangletop, a problematic rice weed in the southern USA, for inclusion in a book and website about the plants of New York City that are being published as part of a non-profit educational project in conjunction with the New York City Department of Parks. 


June 23 Dr. David Gealy and other DBNRRC scientists hosted 11 rice scientists from the EPAGRI rice research center in Santa Catarina, Brazil to tour DBNRRC facilities and research plots, and hold a roundtable discussion of  weed management, genetic improvement of rice germplasm, and other research and production challenges in rice systems in the US and South America.

June 25 Dr. Anna McClung was interviewed by Lisa Hamilton, a journalist who writes about agriculture and rural communities. She is collecting information about how important genetic resources are for breeding and providing food for the world.

During the month of June, 82 rice accessions from the Genetics Stocks Oryza (GSOR) collection were distributed to researchers in the USA and Canada.


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Non-technical Articles Published - none to report


Critical or Emerging Issues - none to report


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For more information, please contact Anna McClung, Research Leader,

Last Modified: 7/10/2014
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