Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Volatility is not only for markets... it's for grains too.

Throughout the International Rice Congress 2010, I heard people talk about the volatility (aka. instability) of the rice market. The rice price crisis in 2008 illustrated how badly economies and governments dependent on rice imports were affected by existing policies and by unhealthy speculations. 

However, aside from volatility of the market, rice price (particularly of those prized in the export sector) is also affected by the volatile compounds surrounding the rice grain. 

Robert Hall and Fe Calingacion presented comparisons of chemical profiles between basmati- and jasmine-type varieties. These profiles were obtained using high-technological platforms made available in the European Union via the Metabolites for Plants, Health, and Outreach (META-PHOR) project. Based on the reports, the compound believed to be the most critical to fragrance is not the most important after all, based on the levels of chemicals in the profiles. Also, the aroma associated with basmati rice and with jasmine rice have the same compound; BUT what makes these types distinct are hundreds of other compounds that have yet to be identified.

(Fe and Robert on metabolite profiling.)

On the other hand, Chanthakhone Boualaphanh presented updates on the genetics behind the fragrance of Lao traditional glutinous rice and her attempt to incorporate the gene to a non-fragrant but high-yielding improved glutinous variety.

(Chan on the genes of aroma.)

Fragrance adds value to rice varieties. Understanding what else affects it will help breeders identify more precisely what genes they need to target.