It’s amazing to me how many kinds of rice there are. I racked my brain trying to think of the ones I could name last week & came up REALLY SHORT!
- Long-grain rice is probably what I know best cause it’s what most of the farmers I know grow. Varieties like cypress, some of the new ones that carry the Rice-Tec name (have a friend or two there).
- Of course there is sushi grade rice too…. I met a farmer in California that was growing one of those varieties a few years ago. He was nice enough to give me a few pounds to bring home. It was a bit aromatic and I loved it.
- Speaking of a bit aromatic, there are quite a few varieties of jasmine rice I’m sure.
- I’ve heard “wild rice” as Uncle Ben’s sells it really isn’t rice… can’t believe I didn’t think to ask that question when I was at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
- I’ve seen red rice in the field, it’s not anything any of us want to eat but I have to wonder if genetically it’s related and if there is something we could pick up there to use.
But when I logged onto the IRRI website I have to admit I was stunned to see there were more than 109,000 different types of rice! Come on, how many of you would have had a clue that there were that many types of rice? Seriously.
And what intrigues me is how you get information on so many different genetic backgrounds and where do you even start to know how to improve a crop that is so incredibly diverse gentically? I would say those questions are some of the reasons that I’m in awe of plant breeders.
IRRI researchers globally are working on identifying the genetics and mapping the rice genome, according to a release on the site.
I had the chance to see IRRI’s headquarters in Los Banos. And while there, I was really impressed with the commitment to improving this crop most of us take for granted. And in fact, I’d go so far as to say that in the US, it’s a totally unappreciated grain. That differs DRAMATICALLY from many countries with large populations like China, Indonesia and India.
In the country that is home to IRRI’s world headquarters, rice is a primary crop and it’s so common that I was told several times that Filipino’s feel like they haven’t had a meal if there was no rice. I saw this first-hand as a mix-up left a family potluck dinner without rice. My friend’s 6 year old nephew Usher was distraught over the idea of no rice. And as the house we were at scurried to fill the void, the nephew played and paced — Usher really wasn’t eating til there was rice despite having been hungry. When the rice came out, I went & got him and the child ran like he was on fire! He couldn’t get to the rice fast enough!
With that sort of deep love for the crop, seeing that rice yields in the Philippines has more than tripled in the past 50 years, outpacing global averages makes me thankful. Thankful for the farmers who grow rice and thankful for the scientists who are finding ways to improve the productivity of the crop and solving other problems farmers face. See, IRRI isn’t just breeders. They have scientists all around the world looking at agronomic practices for rainfed & irrigated cropping, ways to improve harvest and storage, etc. They do it all. And I was lucky enough to see one tiny little fraction of it!
The next blog post was on how IRRI manages digital data.
This is the fifth in a series of posts on Phillipines ag info picked up during a recent vacation.
- First post was on my farm geekness that gets me out & about in agriculture while on “vacation.”
- My second post was about plant breeding in Los Banos
- The third post was on getting my bearings on the geography & agriculture.
- The fourth post was about veggies in the field we toured.
- And I posted the video we watched at IRRI here. More to come later.
- OH and for fun, you may want to see Bboy picking coconuts!