Rice Research Greenhouse Dedicated at Southeast's Malden Campus

A new Rice Research Greenhouse expected to broaden area rice breeding efforts spearheaded by the Missouri Rice Research and Merchandising Council with support from Southeast Missouri State University’s Department of Agriculture was dedicated today at Southeast’s Malden Regional Campus. The 1,500-square-foot facility will help further new high yielding rice varieties. Numerous classes focused on breeding and genetics, horticulture, plant physiology and soil sciences, particularly Plant Science, Soil Fertility and Plant Nutrition, will use the facility. The research, demonstration and teaching greenhouse is being funded in part with a $100,000 USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) targeted at supporting rice breeding research, developing new rice breeding techniques and furthering research of Missouri rice. USDA Rural Development officials say they are pleased about the significant benefits the project can provide to the residents and communities of southeast Missouri. “Through new rice breeding techniques, producers may experience improved quality and larger yields during harvest,” said Phyllis Minner, area USDA Rural Development area director. “These rice production advancements could lead to an improved quality of life through increased agricultural revenue.” Dr. Julie Weathers, chair of Southeast’s Department of Agriculture, said the award to construct a greenhouse research and laboratory space for producing public domain rice varieties in southeast Missouri is a tremendous investment that will enhance regional and global cooperation among rice breeders in Missouri and other states, and enhance classroom and undergraduate instruction. [caption id='attachment_25197' align='alignright' width='300'] The greenhouse is a new addition on the east side of the Malden Campus, just off the building’s rice lab.[/caption] Kiefner Brothers Construction of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, served as general contractor for the project. The greenhouse was manufactured by Conley’s Manufacturing and Sales and installed by Jamieson Construction, LLC. Work began in November and was completed earlier this month. “Southeast Missouri State University and the Missouri Rice Research and Merchandising Council are honored to develop the rice breeding greenhouse to promote the creation of new high yielding rice varieties to improve farm profitability across our nation,” Weathers said. The greenhouse is a new addition on the east side of the Harry L. Crisp II Bootheel Education Center with easy access to the building’s rice lab. The greenhouse is within close proximity to the Missouri Rice Research Farm on Highway J between Malden and Glennonville, Missouri, and to Southeast’s regional campus in Kennett. The greenhouse’s siding and roof are made of polycarbonate, offering a glass-like appearance. This is the most efficient type of greenhouse, based on its size and construction, according to Jamieson representatives, said Lisa Howe, senior project manager with Southeast’s Facilities Management. Dr. Christian De Guzman, agriculture research fellow and rice breeder who was hired at Southeast last fall, said the new greenhouse will enhance students’ knowledge and skills about plant breeding. Students will work as research assistants alongside him to better understand rice production with particular focus on rice breeding. [caption id='attachment_25199' align='alignleft' width='300'] Phyllis Minner, USDA Rural Development area director, discusses a $100,000 USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant which helped support construction of the greenhouse.[/caption] The greenhouse has two purposes. It will be used to enhance rice breeding efforts by allowing the rice breeder to grow and house rice varieties used in the breeding program each year and then to grow out and evaluate during the winter months the offspring of the varieties crossed and bred. “The greenhouse will help the breeding program by housing small and controlled rice experiments. It will also house plants that were used for controlled pollination that need to be protected from harsh weather conditions,” De Guzman said. “We will be using the greenhouse to advance rice lines by planting the progenies of the parents in pots to grow out during the winter months thus, shortening the breeding process by planting more generations per year. The greenhouse will greatly enhance our capabilities to breed for new rice varieties.” Breeding brings together a type of rice with certain genetics, such as durability or a quick rate of growth, with another variety of rice with desirable characteristics for propagation to create a new and, hopefully improved, variety of rice. The greenhouse will be used to grow and house specific rice varieties used to advance the breeding program and “to support the rice breeding trials funded by the Missouri Rice Research and Merchandising Council through Dr. (Mike) Aide and me,” De Guzman said. Some of these varieties will be from plants grown in the field and others will be started from seed in the greenhouse. [caption id='attachment_25198' align='alignright' width='300'] Southeast President Carlos Vargas highlights the University's partnerships with USDA and the Missouri Rice Research and Merchandising Council to advance rice research opportunities for Southeast students.[/caption] “Part of rice breeding is making crosses and selection,” he said. “The greenhouse will support that process by housing pollinated plants and conducting some off season selection. Our students, as part of their coursework in the lab or in their undergraduate research may be involved with those processes to enhance their knowledge in breeding and genetics. We will start as soon as the greenhouse is operational.” The greenhouse also will be used to grow other species of plants – vegetables, tropical plants, flowers and some agronomic crops -- that can be used to enhance students’ knowledge in teaching labs for some agriculture courses. Students will participate in group and individual greenhouse research projects where they will grow plants using a completely randomized design to evaluate soil fertilizers and other soil additives. “The students will benefit by having hands-on experience with the plants they see grown in the surrounding fields and horticultural plants that they may not be exposed to otherwise as well as see how a plant breeding program develops,” De Guzman said. “The greenhouse has a wide variety of uses not just for rice breeding. Students pursuing careers in horticulture and soil sciences can conduct small experiments. They can also learn how to manage seedlings and learn basic operations in greenhouse management.” Weathers said having space for growing plants for student projects associated with undergraduate research or class projects is a necessary instructional piece. Dr. Nick Thiele, director of Southeast Missouri State University-Malden, said, “We are very excited about this project and the expanded learning opportunities it offers our students. The facility provides opportunities for the Rice Research Farm and faculty to grow plants year-round. It also provides year-round plant science lab activities for students and an opportunity to learn about a number of alternative growth techniques, including traditional soil media, alternative media and hydroponics, as well as experiences in automated environmental controls.” This summer, work will begin to coordinate students and faculty wishing to conduct research and demonstrate in the greenhouse, he said.