A University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff research professor has been collaborating with universities in East Africa to address challenges related to rice production. Sathish Kumar Ponniah, an associate professor of plant science at UAPB, has been working with researchers at the University of Embu in Nairobi, Kenya, and the University of Ngozi in Burundi to solve issues related to rice production, a crucial staple in many African countries.
At the University of Embu, the focus has been on a new variety of rice that has shown promising results. However, despite its high yield, the variety displays some negative characteristics, such as chalkiness, which can impact its appearance, milling quality, and market price.
Ponniah has been working with researchers at the University of Embu on potential solutions to reduce chalkiness in the rice variety while maintaining its desirable qualities, such as high yield and fragrance. This collaboration has involved sharing gene-editing technology and visiting UAPB’s biotechnology lab.
Ponniah’s visit to Kenya was supported by a grant from the 1890 Center of Excellence for Global Food Security and Defense. This grant aims to assist UAPB and Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge in strengthening the food value chain in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and anticipated global shocks impacting the agriculture industry.
The research collaboration also involved scholars from the University of Ngozi in Burundi, who were interested in knowledge, resources, and skills to develop a biotechnology lab for rice production.
In addition to working with the University of Embu, Ponniah’s collaboration involved visiting research centers and meeting with farmers and other key players in the rice value chain process in the Pishori Rice District, Kenya’s premier rice production region. Visitors from Kenyan universities also participated in training and technical assistance at UAPB, as well as at Alcorn State University in Mississippi and Southern University.
Overall, Ponniah’s research collaboration in East Africa is focused on addressing challenges in rice production and strengthening the food value chain, with the goal of enhancing resiliency in the face of global shocks impacting the agriculture industry.