Researchers to release new red rice cultivar

by Eric Schroeder
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Susan McCouch, professor of plant breeding and genetics, with grains of Scarlett, a new red rice cultivar. Photo by Jason Koski, University Photography.
ITHACA, NEW YORK, U.S. — Scarlett, a new red whole grain rice featuring a nutty, rich flavor, will be released later this year thanks to the collaborative work of researchers from Cornell University and the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The researchers said the red rice cultivar is packed with nutrients, and the red bran on the rice contains high levels of antioxidants and flavonoids that are common in red-colored grains and fruits.

“If people find brown rice nutritious and delicious, this rice is even better,” said Susan McCouch, professor of plant breeding and genetics, who co-developed Scarlett with collaborator Anna McClung, director and research leader at the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center in Stuttgart, Arkansas, U.S.

McCouch and her team were responsible for the back-crossing between the two rice parents and the genetic analysis, while McClung performed the phenotypic evaluation and made the final breeding selection.

The researchers’ field trials showed Scarlett to be high yielding and disease resistant, while also growing well under organic conditions. The cultivar is being commercially produced and will be available to the public later this year, the researchers said.

Scarlett is a cross between a U.S. long-grain tropical japonica variety called “Jefferson” and a strain of Oryza rufipogon, the wild ancestor of Asian rice, collected in Malaysia. The researchers said it will be the first time a cultivated rice variety with a red pericarp (the seed’s bran layer), will be released in the United States.

The new red rice cultivar has been adapted to subtropical climates of the southern United States, and also may be grown in Uruguay and Argentina. McCouch said the rice also may be grown in parts of West Africa and Asia, but the grain quality may not be preferred by people in that region.

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