Traits of grain quality strongly influence the adoption of new varieties. Examples of traditional varieties that continue to be widely grown, despite efforts to replace them with higher-yielding lines, are Basmati 370, selected in 1920; Domsiah and Khao Dawk Mali 105, selected in 1958; and Koshihikari, selected in 1960.
A major constraint to combining high yield with desired quality is the absence of appropriate tools to evaluate eating quality. More knowledge on grain quality will enable informed targeting of the products developed in IRRI’s breeding work. Specialty products that add value to grains, which are minimally processed, nutritionally beneficial, or environmentally friendly further illustrate the need for new tools for quality.
Understanding the basis of different eating qualities will ensure that the right traits are combined with specialty traits so that eating quality is maintained, thus facilitating adoption by high-value markets.
Our second approach to increasing income, especially for women farmers and processors, is to determine innovative uses of broken grains – something that diminishes its value. Even with the best postharvest management, some grains will always break during milling. Innovative ways to use these in rice-based products will add more value to milled rice. The proportion of broken grains decreases the price of rice, so, providing a market for those will increase the value and quality of the rice. Specialty traits and innovative rice products that increase the nutritional and commercial value of the crop is being prioritized on the basis of consumer studies.
IRRI and its partners’ work will develop a phenotyping platform and tools for evaluating quality and specialty traits of grains and rice products, will prioritize specialty rice with good eating quality for high-value markets, develop processing techniques that add value to low-grade rice, and conduct market analysis and information for developing and targeting specialty rice and rice products.
We also work with the International Network for Quality Rice (INQR). The Network consists of members who work on rice in research, quality evaluation in rice improvement programs, and private sector equipment manufacturers. If you are a member of IRRI's network on producing good-quality rice, or are interested in a dialogue with our experts, visit the INQR site.
IRRI has found that from harvest to market, farmers usually lose 30-50% of their earnings. Conservatively, they are losing around US$30 per ton of rice harvested.