Major Breeding Objectives

Learn more about our breeding program, mission, organization, and major objectives at the Rice Experiment Station.

Rice Research Proposal

Rice research at RES will continue toward the primary objective of developing improved rice varieties for California.

Project leaders will concentrate efforts on developing rice varieties for the traditional medium, short, and long- grain market classes. Research efforts will continue to improve and develop specialty rice such as waxy (mochi or sweet) rice, aromatic rice, and others as an adjunct breeding effort. Major breeding emphasis will continue on improving grain quality, yield and disease resistance. Efforts will be made to effectively use new as well as proven breeding, genetic, and analytical techniques. RES staff will expand DNA marker screening capabilities. Following are the major research areas of the RES Rice Breeding Program planned for short, medium, and long-grain types.


Efforts to identify, select, and improve culinary and milling quality in all grain types will continue to receive major emphasis. Improved cooking evaluation techniques are being used that include use for DNA markers for amylose content, gelatinization temperature, and RVA profiles. The RES quality lab is being renovated to support quality evaluation and research for variety development.

Resistance to Disease

The RES Rice Breeding Program is continuing efforts to improve disease resistance in our California varieties. Evaluation and screening for stem rot and sheath spot resistance will be conducted by the plant pathologist on segregating populations, advanced breeding lines, and current varieties. Rice blast disease presents an additional threat to California. Research and breeding activities to address rice blast to develop improved blast resistant varieties will continue. Materials from backcrossing efforts to transfer disease resistance have been transferred to the breeding projects for evaluation. New resistant sources and foreign germplasm will continue to be evaluated as potential parental material. Foreign germplasm will be introduced through quarantine for use in breeding and research.


Yield is a complex character that results from the combination of many agronomic traits. Emphasis will continue on breeding varieties with high grain yield potential, minimal straw for high yield, and more stable yields while maintaining and/or improving grain quality.

Tolerance to Low Temperature

Tolerance to low temperature remains an essential character needed at seedling and reproductive stage in California rice varieties. Segregating populations and advanced experimental lines will continue to be screened in the San Joaquin nursery for resistance to blanking, normal vegetative growth, a minimum delay in maturity, and uniform grain maturity. Selection at UCD has been discontinued due to concerns about adjacent UC research activities. Cold tolerance data will include two seeding dates of advanced material at RES, UCCE Statewide Yield Tests, refrigerated greenhouse tests, and data from cold tolerance and the Hawaii winter nurseries.

Lodging and Maturity

Improved lodging resistance will receive continued emphasis in all stages of variety development. Efforts will continue to develop improved varieties that have a range of maturity dates with major emphasis placed on early, very early maturity, synchronous heading, and uniformity of ripening.

Other Areas

The program will continue to look for mutants with herbicide tolerance or resistance as well as characterizing varietal differences in response to rice herbicide for screening purposes.

Cooperative Projects

Cooperative research by the rice breeding program staff with USDA, UC, The Temperate Rice Research Consortium, and others in the area of biotechnology, genetics, quality, agronomy, entomology, plant pathology, and weed control will be continued in 2012. Emphasis will be placed on applied research and more basic studies that may contribute to variety improvement for California.

Rice Research Priorities and Areas of Breeding Research

General Rice Research Objectives of Rice Experiment Station

The primary research objective of RES is the development of high yielding and quality rice varieties of all grain types (short, medium, long) and market classes to enhance marketing potential, reduce cost, and increase profitability of rice. Rice breeding research priorities at RES can be divided into general priorities that are applicable to all rice varieties developed for California, and specific priorities that may differ between grain types, market classes, special purpose types, and the special interests of the plant breeding team members.

A secondary but important objective is to support and enhance UC and USDA rice research through cooperative projects and by providing land, water, and input resources for weed control, insect, disease, and other disciplinary research.

General Rice Breeding Priorities Applicable to All Public California Rice Varieties
  • High and stable yield potential
  • Disease resistance
  • Cold tolerance and seedling vigor
  • Early maturity and lodging resistance
  • Synchronous heading and maturity
  • Improved head rice milling yields
  • High quality rice consistent with grain type, market class, or special use
  • Develop and utilize DNA marker assisted selection
Specific Rice Breeding Priorities by Grain Type, Market Class, and Special Use
Calrose Type Medium Grains
  • Improve Calrose medium grains
  • Improve stem rot resistance in medium grains
  • Improve blast resistance in medium grain
  • Increase yield potential, cold tolerance, and genetic diversity
  • Explore opportunities to provide herbicide tolerance
Premium Quality, Short Grains, and Medium Grains
  • Improve California short grain rice
  • Develop superior premium quality short and medium grain varieties
  • Improve waxy, low amylose, and bold grain rice
  • Use DNA markers for grain quality and disease resistance breeding
Long Grains
  • Superior quality for table and processing
  • Improve head rice milling yields and fissuring resistance
  • Improve basmati types
  • Develop jasmine types
  • Improve aromatic types
  • Improve cold tolerance
Rice Pathology
  • Screening and evaluation of advanced breeding lines for blast, stem rot, and sheath spot.
  • Facilitate transfer of stem rot and aggregate sheath spot disease resistance from wild species of rice and disease resistance genes identified in RiceCAP
  • Mapping of stem rot resistance genes and marker aided selection for stem rot and blast
  • Facilitate germplasm introduction and pathology related research
Rice Breeding Photos
  • Chris Narayan

    Plant Breeder Assistant

    Chris is a plant breeder assistant for the California Cooperative Rice Research Foundation (CCRRF).

  • Matthew Morgan

    Maintenance and Operator

    Matthew is a maintenance and operator of California Cooperative Rice Research Foundation.

  • Justin Valencia

    Maintenance and Operator

    Justin is a maintenance and operator of California Cooperative Rice Research Foundation.

  • Randy Jones

    Field Supervisor

    Randy is the field supervisor of California Cooperative Rice Research Foundation.

  • Joe Martin

    Plant Breeder Assistant

    Joe is a plant breeder assistant for the California Cooperative Rice Research Foundation (CCRRF). His primary focus at CCRRF is to assist in the short grain breeding program. He received his BS in Plant Biology from the University of California Davis. He is currently enrolled in the Plant Breeding Academy at UC Davis to help further his knowledge in plant breeding.

  • Davinder Singh

    Plant Breeder Assistant

    Davinder is a plant breeder assistant for the California Cooperative Rice Research Foundation (CCRRF). His primary focus at CCRRF is to assist in the long grain breeding program.

  • Ravinder Gakhal

    Senior Plant Breeder Assistant

    Ravinder is a senior plant breeder assistant for the California Cooperative Rice Research Foundation (CCRRF). His primary focus at CCRRF is to assist in the medium grain breeding program.

  • Baldish Deol

    Senior Plant Breeder Assistant

    Baldish is a senior plant breeder assistant for the California Cooperative Rice Research Foundation.

  • George Yeltatzie

    Genetics Lab Technician

    George is the genetics lab technician for the California Cooperative Rice Research Foundation.

  • Frank Maulana, Ph.D.

    Short Grain Breeder

    Dr. Frank Maulana is a rice breeder for the California Cooperative Rice Research Foundation (CCRRF). He is leading a short grain breeding program to develop improved short grain rice varieties for five market classes, including conventional or regular, low amylose, sweet or waxy, premium quality and arborio or bold grain. The objectives of the program include developing rice varieties with high and stable yield, high milling grain yield, seedling vigor, cold tolerance, lodging resistance, and disease resistance. He received a BS in Crop Science from Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) in Malawi. Then, he worked as a plant breeder at the Agricultural Research and Extension Trust (ARET) for five years. He then went on to obtain PhD and MS in Plant Breeding and Genetics from Kansas State University (KSU), Manhattan, KS. Before joining CCRRF, he was a postdoctoral researcher at Louisiana State University (LSU) AgCenter-Rice Breeding program. His research project at LSU focused on implementation of genomic selection in an applied rice breeding program.

  • Gretchen Zaunbrecher, Ph.D.

    Genetics Lab Director

    Dr. Zaunbrecher is the Genetics Lab Director for the California Cooperative Rice Research Foundation (CCRRF).  The Genetics Lab utilizes marker assisted analysis to provide valuable genetic information to assist the breeders in rice varietal improvement.  In addition, through traditional mutational breeding as well as gene editing, we hope to develop new varieties of rice with enhanced yield, herbicide, and disease resistance, and other agronomically valuable traits.

  • Nirmal Sharma, Ph.D.

    Long Grain Breeder

    Dr. Nirmal Sharma is a plant breeder for the California Cooperative Rice Research Foundation (CCRRF), leading the long grain breeding project and incorporating disease resistance, high milling yield, seedling vigor, cold tolerance, and herbicide resistance into future rice varieties. He received his BS in Agriculture and MS in Biotechnology from Bangladesh Agricultural University. Then, he worked as a breeder in the Plant Breeding Division of the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) for several years. Next, he moved to the United States to pursue his PhD in crop sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Upon completing his degree, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Noble Research Institute before joining CCRRF.

  • Teresa B. De Leon, Ph.D.

    Medium Grain Breeder

    Dr. Teresa B. De Leon is currently leading the improvement and variety development of CCRRF medium grain project. She previously led the short grain breeding project from 2018-2021. Prior to her employment at the station, she worked as Plant Geneticist to University of California Davis for identification, origin, and prevention of weedy red rice. She developed pre-breeding and introgression lines of Louisiana rice with improved salinity tolerance for Louisiana State University Agricultural Center. As Assistant Scientist and Research Scholar, she has also worked at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and University of the Philippines at Los Banos on disease resistance of rice and other crops. With several years of experience in rice research and development, Dr. De Leon is integrating the use of conventional and molecular tools in breeding for medium grains with high yield potential, high grain quality, wide adaptation, cold tolerance, disease and herbicide resistance, and most importantly, a rice with excellent cooking and taste quality for consumers.

  • Emily Schaaf

    Executive Assistant

    Emily is the executive assistant of California Cooperative Rice Research Foundation.

  • Dustin Harrell, Ph.D.


    Dr. Dustin Harrell has been the Director of the California Cooperative Rice Research Foundation Rice Experiment Station since November of 2021. Prior to his current leadership position, he held positions as the Resident Coordinator of the LSU AgCenter’s Rice Research Station, the Extension Rice Specialist for the state of Louisiana, and the project leader for the Rice Fertility and Agronomy Project at the LSU Rice Experiment Station.

  • Kirk Troughton

    Maintenance and Operator

    Kirk is a maintenance and operator of California Cooperative Rice Research Foundation.