CADET AND Jacinto, two new rice varieties with a gene for improved cooked rice texture, entered commercial production this year, thanks to new technology that speeded their development.

Agricultural Research Service scientists at Beaumont, Texas, and their colleagues at the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, College Station, used the fast-paced biotechnological selection process - called marker-assisted selection - to locate desirable genes in noncommercial varieties and deploy them into the new varieties through conventional breeding.

Here's how marker-assisted selection works. Scientists first create maps of markers - DNA sequences in or near genes whose locations are known - and compare them with the occurrence of traits associated with improved market or agronomic qualities of rice varieties. If the markers and these traits appear together more often than would occur by chance, the locations of the genes for the improved trait are likely to be near the same chromosomal locations of the markers.

As is usually the case, multiple genes govern a single trait of economic importance. These genes' locations are called quantitative trait loci (QTLs). Once QTLs are identified, the scientists conduct DNA tests on rice breeding lines to find out whether they have the desired QTLs. If so, marker-assisted selection enables the researchers to put these traits into new-variety development programs much sooner than if they tried to identify plants with good genes through trial-and-error breeding experiments.

Cattle and timber products suffered heavy losses from recent ice storms in southwest Arkansas.

Many miles of fences were damaged from falling trees and limbs heavy-laden with ice. Producers should be checking their fences for damage to prevent livestock escapes. So far there have been no reports of cattle losses from falling trees and limbs, but some animals could have been killed or injured.

Cold, wet weather conditions will necessitate feeding cattle extra hay. Under these conditions, cattle's energy requirements are often increased 25 to 50 percent or more. Cattle will consume greater quantities of hay or other forages that are low in fiber content, so feed the better-quality hay during periods of inclement weather.

Timber owners suffered thousands of dollars in losses from snapped and damaged trees. Young pine tree stands and stands recently thinned were more heavily damaged. Older trees were primarily damaged from broken limbs. Injured trees could be more at risk from pine beetles and fungi next spring and summer.

Producers should salvage damaged trees if possible. Many of the damaged trees can be salvaged into pulpwood under certain circumstances. Salvaging these damaged trees will help reduce the potential for insect and fire outbreaks.