Zongbu Yan, a rice breeder specializing in development of hybrid breeding lines, has joined the research staff at the Rice Research and Extension Center as a program associate in the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture rice breeding program.

Yan brings 30 years of experience to the Division of Agriculture rice breeding program, said Christopher Deren, RREC director. “His mission will be to develop breeding lines that can be used in a hybrid breeding program,” Deren said.

Deren said the Division of Agriculture is working to set up a consortium of public breeding programs, with scientists at Louisiana State University, Texas A&M University, Mississippi State University and Southeast Missouri State University. The purpose will be to combine resources and breeding materials in a focus on hybrids that will improve rice production in Arkansas and its neighboring states.

“Zongbu has a lot of experience in China working with hybrids and developing new hybrid breeding lines,” Deren said. “He’ll be working on bringing male sterile systems to breeding material that has traits, such as high yield and disease resistance, that we want.”

Rice is self-pollinating, Deren said, and has both male and female parts. The male parts have to be removed during conventional breeding. Sterile breeding lines will simplify crossbreeding and help assure the addition of only desirable traits to lines with the potential to become improved varieties.

Yan was a professor and rice breeder at the Rice Research Institute of Guizhou Province in China. He retired in 2008 and came to the United States and worked at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. While there, he collaborated with Deren and rice researchers at the USDA’s Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center at Stuttgart.

“We used USDA germplasm to create new sterile breeding lines and develop new hybrid combinations,” Yan said.

Yan said some of those lines will be on display during an annual research field day at the Rice Research and Extension Center Aug. 11.