From Lab to Field: LSU’s Ambitious Project to Create Climate-Resilient Rice Variety

LSU Mechanical Engineering Professor Manas Gartia, and the LSU AgCenter have recently been awarded a significant $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture sector. According to this news release from Louisiana State University’s College of Engineering, this grant will be used to fund their collaborative effort in designing a new variety of rice that can thrive in drought conditions. The need for such a development arises from the fact that rice is a crucial staple food for more than half of the global population, and as rice production continues to increase, so does the demand for water.

Rice cultivation, particularly the conventional season-long flood irrigation method, contributes to several environmental issues, including the depletion of underground water tables, increased salinity in groundwater, air and water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. Professor Gartia emphasized that despite a 39% increase in land-use efficiency and reductions in water and energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and soil losses in U.S. rice production over the past four decades, there is still a need for more resource-efficient practices.

To address these concerns, the research team led by Professor Prasanta Subudhi from LSU’s AgCenter School of Plant, Environmental, and Soil Sciences will focus on two main hypotheses. The first hypothesis suggests that developing new rice varieties with better adaptation to climate variations, coupled with innovative crop management practices, can enhance the sustainability and profitability of rice production systems. The second hypothesis states that implementing educational and outreach extension programs will facilitate the adoption of a climate-resilient rice management system by current and future generations of rice growers in the Southern U.S.

Professor Gartia’s role in the project involves studying the phenotype and molecular changes in rice under various stresses, such as salt, drought, water, and heat. By identifying the genes responsible for the rice plant’s survival under drought conditions, the team aims to create a variety of rice with those specific traits. This will enable rice cultivation even in arid regions, reducing the reliance on water resources.

Gartia plans to utilize innovative metabolomic (NMR, LC-MS) and imaging (Raman microscopy) technologies to examine the leaf metabolic profiling in stress-tolerant plants. His objective is to establish a correlation between metabolite levels and stress tolerance in different rice genotypes under various stress conditions. By observing dynamic fluctuations in metabolite levels in real-time using Raman mapping, Gartia hopes to gain valuable insights into the stress response of rice plants.

Additionally, the team will employ techniques such as mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI) and mass spectrometry coupled with liquid chromatography (LC-MS) to analyze lipidomic profile changes in the leaves due to environmental stressors. These comprehensive methods will aid in characterizing the metabolomic profiles of rice lines exposed to drought and salinity stresses.

The outcome of this project will have significant implications for the rice industry, which is one of the largest sectors in both the United States and Louisiana. In 2022 alone, the U.S. produced over 150 million pounds of rice, solidifying its position as the world’s fifth-largest rice exporter. Louisiana, with its favorable warm climate, abundant water, and water-retaining clay soils, stands as the nation’s third-largest rice-producing state, trailing behind Arkansas and California.

This collaborative effort between LSU Mechanical Engineering Professor Manas Gartia and the LSU AgCenter has the potential to revolutionize rice production by creating a drought-resistant rice variety. By reducing the reliance on water resources and promoting more sustainable practices, this research aims to ensure a stable supply of rice for the ever-growing global population. In conclusion, the $10 million grant received by Professor Gartia and the LSU AgCenter will facilitate groundbreaking research in designing a new variety of rice that can withstand drought conditions. By combining innovative technologies and focusing on sustainability, this project has the potential to transform the rice industry, ensuring its resilience in the face of climate variability and environmental challenges.

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LSU AgCenter Received Grant for Sustainable Rice Research

It was recently announced via this news release from the LSU AgCenter, that one of their scientists has been awarded a $10 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture in order to improve the sustainability and profitability of rice farming. This will be accomplished through the LSU AgCenter scientists’s innovations in research that advance crops that are reportedly climate-resistant. The Louisiana State University Agricultural Center School School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences received this $10 million grant as a part of a $70 million dollar investment from the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture in order to establish robust, resilient, and climate-smart food and agricultural systems. As of the writing of this article, it is the largest grant for rice research that the LSU AgCenter has ever received.

William F. Tate IV, LSU President, commented on Louisiana State University’s Agricultural Center’s awarded grant by saying, “agricultural innovation remains paramount to the future of Louisiana. Securing federal funding for projects like this empowers LSU’s Scholarship First Agenda and enables us to further leverage our agricultural expertise.”

The need for Louisiana rice farming to become more sustainable and profitable is apparent as the state’s rice production currently contributes $550 million to Louisiana’s economy, and this amount is regularly affected by extreme weather patterns resulting from climate change. These extreme weather patterns pose significant challenges to enhancing rice production productivity, so this project is extremely vital, as its outcomes aim to assist southern rice growers to “make the right decisions at the right time to reduce yield losses, land use, water and energy consumption.”

Prasanta Subudhi is the lead investigator of the project and a crop geneticist in the LSU School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences. Subudhi commented on how their project will affect the future of Louisiana rice production by saying, “we will equip the current and next generation of rice farmers, consultants and researchers with the necessary knowledge and skill set to embrace the new climate-smart agriculture technologies and production practices.”

Specifically, the project’s objectives are listed as aiming to “assess the socio-economic and environmental impacts of current crop management practices and identify barriers to adopting novel technologies and practices; develop novel genotypes with enhanced tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses; develop and optimize environmentally friendly crop management practices; and implement a robust extension program to disseminate the concepts and benefits of sustainable farming technology.”

Reportedly, the project will use all knowledge gained through rice research to increase both the speed and accuracy of the identification of rice genotypes that have desirable combinations of genes for improved adaptation to a changing climate. Matt Lee, the Interim Vice President of Agriculture and Dean of the College of Agriculture, said, “with this project, the AgCenter is showing its commitment to promoting and disseminating sustainable farming practices and technologies and to training of the next generation of researchers and extension workers.”

This grant comes after last year, when the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station in Crowley, Louisiana developed a new type of rice used to improve blood sugar levels. Additionally, a partnership with the Lafayette Parish Master Gardener Association, the Lafayette 4-H program, and the LSU AGCenter that incorporates gardens in schools saw students from five elementary schools — Alice Boucher, Charles Burke, Cathedral-Carmel, Green T. Lindon and Cpl. Michael Middlebrook — compete in the On Cuisine du Jardine, making complete nutritional meals using at least two ingredients grown in their school gardens. These two pieces of recent LSU AgCenter news coupled with this recent grant award, contribute to the Center’s impact on education, agriculture, and Louisiana as a whole.

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LSU AgCenter Offers Home Restoration Resources Following Hurricane Ida

After devastating Hurricane Ida left countless homes and businesses in Southwest Louisiana in various states of disrepair, the LSU AgCenter LaHouse Home and Landscape Resource Center is serving those repairing their residences and facilities with valuable information/home restoration resources, according to this article from the University’s Agricultural Center.

The Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, which has been formally operating under the LSU umbrella since 1971 and has only grown to operate out of 15 total research stations, extension offices in all 64 parishes, and 14 academic and research departments at LSU A&M. Funded by a partnership with federal, state, and local governments, grants, and private funds, the LSU AGCenter is one of the LSU System’s nine total campuses, and since late august’s Hurricane Ida left many in the area beginning to repair their residential and commercial structures on their own, the AgCenter is distributing valuable information and guidance at no cost to residents.

Citizens are being advised to visit the “Flood Recovery and Resilience” page that is located on the LSU AgCenter website for a curated selection of articles and publications on storm recovery and strategies to avoid similar damage in the future.

Claudette Reichel is a housing specialist for the LSU AgCenter who told the University’s press that repairing one’s home following a terrible weather event can be a massively daunting and stressful ordeal due to the financial and health-related costs. She told the press, “the expense, time, and work that go into repairing your home can have a silver lining with clean-up and restoration methods that reward you with a more resilient, healthy, energy-efficient and comfortable home. Even when money is tight, there are opportunities to make choices for a better home.”

One of the more valuable resources located on the LSU AgCenter’s Storm Clean-Up page is the guidance of a publication entitled “Storm Damage Cleanup,” which offers its readers the following tips to adhere when completing repairs following this past storm or preparing for the next one.

  • Before you enter any home that has flooded, you should ensure that all electrical and gas supply lines have been disconnected and carefully assess all potential dangers such as structural damages and snakes prior to entry.
  • For peace of mind, have a professional assess and inspect all service appliances and fixtures prior to their use.
  • A building that has been flood-damaged will require special attention in order to avoid or correct a “mold population explosion.” Please follow the 10-steps listed in the AgCenter’s fact sheet for safe and effective DIY mold removal.
  • It’s suggested that moldy, porous items such as carpeting and gypsum wallboard be removed as soon as possible. Additionally, you should clean and disinfect all surfaces that came into contact with floodwaters and allow those materials to dry thoroughly.
  • You should throw out any food preparation and food storage items made out of wood or plastic that came in contact with floodwater and sanitize all metal and ceramic items that came into contact as well.
  • Test all well water following a storm and refrain from drinking it until it is deemed safe to do so.
  • Be advised that any homes built prior to 1978 will likely have lead-based paint and materials containing asbestos, so proper precautions should be taken when conducting repairs, renovations, or “gutting the walls.”
  • All wet carpet should be removed instead of salvaged while Solid hardwood and ceramic floor tiling can often be restored depending on the types of damage that occurred. When in doubt, it’s best to replace the flooring.
  • When assessing a home that has come into contact with significant amounts of floodwater, you should determine which pieces of damaged furniture can be salvageable. For instance, wooden pieces of furniture can often be restored if they are properly cleaned and allowed to sufficiently dry while upholstered furniture is often found to be incredibly difficult to restore, especially if the item was fully submerged.

Outside of the flood-damage tips, the LSU AgCenter offers an in-depth page of frequently asked questions that cover a wide range of topics that can be pertinent to the resident repairing a recently-flooded home such as replacing insulation and drying home materials.

In addition to offering the public an array of tips and suggested guidance for getting home restoration and getting things back in working order following a damaging storm, precautions should be taken to “wet floodproof” the home to reduce future damage. The term refers to making improvements such as elevating appliances, making repairs with water-resistant materials, and taking precautions to prevent wicking. If these “wet floodproofing” strategies are in place by the time the next tropical depression, heavy thunderstorm, or hurricane comes to town, then there will be a much easier cleanup once the bad weather has passed, thanks to the resources provided by the LSU AgCenter.

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