UACES Facebook Arkansas scientists investigate effects of high nighttime air temperatures on rice quality
skip to main content

Arkansas scientists investigate effects of high nighttime air temperatures on rice quality

By Abbi Ross
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast Facts:

  • High nighttime temperatures during kernel filling can negatively affect yield and quality of rice crops
  • Arkansas researchers study genetics, physiology, chemistry of nighttime heat stress in rice
  • Aim to breed new high-yielding, disease-resistant varieties with improved heat tolerance 

(529 words)

Download MS Word version 

Download PHOTO of Dr. Paul Counce:

Download PHOTOS of rice growth chambers:

STUTTGART, Ark. — Arkansas scientists are working to develop rice varieties that are tolerant of Arkansas’ frequent high nighttime air temperatures, a condition that can significantly reduce yields and post-harvest quality.

Environmental Control
BRING THE HEAT -- These rice plants in a greenhouse growth chamber at the Rice Research and Extension Center, are part of a study on high nighttime air temperatures. (Division of Agriculture photo by Fred Miller)

Paul Counce, a University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture professor and rice physiologist, is leading the high nighttime air temperature rice research in the division’s Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station.

“We began to do work about twenty years ago to pin these issues down,” Counce said. “We started a series of experiments at the Rice Research and Extension Center and in Fayetteville with Dr. Terry Siebenmorgen.”

The team's current objective is to identify genes associated with resistance to high night temperatures, Counce said.

Prolonged high night air temperatures during critical physiological stages can reduce the quality and yield of rice, Counce said. Years with unusually warm seasons, like 2010 and 2016, can result in almost catastrophic losses due to reduced pollination and fertilization of rice flowers. At later stages of development, high night temperatures decrease the milling quality of rice.

“It’s not just that there are high night temperatures that cause quality degradation, it is that they occur when the rice is at a certain physiological stage,” said Terry Siebenmorgen, distinguished professor of food science for the Division of Agriculture. “That is when those temps are so impactful, they alter the way the starch is put together in the kernel.”

Siebenmorgen said the result is that rice kernels that are normally translucent become chalky and prone to breakage during milling. The kernels that remain intact do not cook properly for meals or when making cereals and other food products.

Markets are determined by rice quality to a large extent, and when quality decreases it makes marketing difficult, Counce said. In some years, farmers’ profits decline from both lower yields and price markdowns resulting from poor milling quality.

After working for years to determine the physiological and chemical bases of the problem, Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station scientists are now evaluating cultivars for their nighttime heat susceptibility, Siebenmorgen said.

Growth chambers that can control environmental conditions are used to simulate high nighttime air temperatures to test rice breeding lines and varieties for their tolerance or susceptibility, Counce said. The growth chambers also allow researchers to control the light and carbon dioxide levels, which also play roles in rice plant and seed development. The growth chambers were funded by the Arkansas Rice Checkoff program.

“What we are trying to do is improve our understanding of the varieties and the yield and quality responses of the rice we have to the high temperatures,” Counce said.

This stage of the investigation focuses on identifying breeding lines with genetic tolerance of high nighttime air temperatures, Counce said. “Division rice breeders can then cross those tolerant lines with high-yielding and disease resistant lines to develop improved varieties,” he said.

“This is an excellent step forward in our efforts to find, develop and breed rice that will tolerate high nighttime air temperatures,” said Bob Scott, Rice Research and Extension Center director.

To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow us on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch and Instagram at ArkAgResearch.


About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

Media Contact: Fred Miller
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station
(479) 575-5647

Related Links