Dr Chris Proud joins Rice Breeding Australia as Senior Rice Breeder

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Experienced rice researcher Dr Christopher Proud has been appointed as the Senior Rice Breeder of Rice Breeding Australia Ltd (RBA). RBA is a new not for profit company involving AgriFutures Australia, the SunRice Group and The Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia as its members, established to fast track rates of genetic gain in rice breeding. Greater rates of genetic gain mean rice growers can expect new improved rice varieties sooner and more frequently than before.

Dr Proud will oversee the RBA breeding program which has a particular focus on accelerating the rates of genetic gain for water productivity in Australian rice in line with the industry goals detailed in the AgriFutures Rice Program Strategic RD&E Plan (2021-2026).

In his previous role as Post-Doctoral Research Fellow for the University of Queensland, Dr Proud’s research focused on the genetic control of cold tolerance in rice and identifying and better understanding traits likely to be important in aerobic rice production systems.

“As part of this research I was exploring high value traits to improve the water productivity of rice in temperate Australia,” said Dr Proud.

“This research involved developing and validating molecular markers that can be used for high throughput selection for improved cold tolerance, testing different breeding methods to increase rates of genetic gain for cold tolerance and continually developing improved cold tolerance and aerobic-adapted germplasm for use as parents in the rice breeding program.”

This research has been able to identify several small parts of the chromosomes of rice (QTLs) involved in the control of cold tolerance.  Early indications are that when these QTLs are combined, they can deliver a much higher level of cold tolerance than is now available in Australian rice varieties. Following on from this success, Dr Proud is now setting his sights on an ambitious goal to accelerate the breeding of rice varieties in line with the industry supported and designed AgriFutures Rice Program Strategic RD&E Plan (2021-2026).

“The primary aim for the industry is to develop improved water productivity of varieties to enable the industry to reach a goal of 1.5 tonnes of rice grown per megalitre of water,” he said.

“A key factor in achieving improved water productivity is the development of cold tolerant rice varieties”.

Dr Proud joins Dr Georgina Pengilley who was appointed as inaugural CEO of RBA in September last year.

“Meeting the industry’s water use target as quickly as we can is a key aim for RBA. Dr Proud brings with him knowledge and skills to be able to assist RBA to achieve this ambitious goal and deliver improved varieties as quickly as possible.  We are very excited to have someone of the calibre of Chris with these unique and very relevant skills join the RBA team,” said Dr Pengilley.

Despite the ambitious nature of the industry’s water productivity goal, Dr Proud is looking forward to the challenge of developing varieties that will contribute towards a more profitable and sustainable Australian rice industry.

“I’m motivated about our goals. I like a challenge and given the work that is already happening to develop the right germplasm I think we can meet the water productivity goal.”

The formation of RBA is critical for the industry as it approaches the junction of shifting consumer perceptions, climate change, and seasonal fluctuations.

“The rice industry needs to be able to demonstrate that it can sustainably produce year in year out – part of this is about good water stewardship and being able to demonstrate to the community that we’re getting the balance right.”

“The good news is that the industry is certainly looking for that transformation and its ready to move forward,” said Dr Pengilley.

For more information about the AgriFutures Rice Program, visit the AgriFutures Australia website.  

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AgriFutures Rice Program Strategic RD&E Plan

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