USA Rice Outlook Conference Tackles Plant Communication

Dr. Ralph Dean, headshot, older white man with white goatee and glasses wearing suit and tie
Dr. Ralph Dean
May 13, 2019
ARLINGTON, VA – If your rice plants could talk, what would they say?  “A little more N please.”  “There’s a bug buzzing around here I don’t like much.”  “Those weeds are stressing me out.”  Maybe all of that and more according to Dr. Ralph Dean who will be presenting information on his cutting-edge research at the 2019 Outlook Conference this December.

Dr. Dean, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at North Carolina State University, has been studying how plants behave and how we can understand what plants are “saying” by detecting and analyzing volatile organic compounds plants under stress release.

“We are developing small sensors that farmers can use to essentially listen in to their crops to get a jump on problems,” Dean said.  “So far we’ve been working mostly with corn, but there are applications with all crops.  For rice, we’re going to need to figure a way to work around all that water with our sensors, but obviously it can be done, and we’ll talk about that in Little Rock.”

Dean is no stranger to rice either.  He is one of the foremost experts on rice blast in the world and is working to eliminate this disease that kills enough rice annually to feed more than 60 million people.

“Plants are always telling us something about what they need or how they are doing; the tricky part is knowing what to look or listen for and what it means.  I’m excited to hear what Ralph and his team have in mind for rice to someday improve rice farming results in this country,” said Rice Foundation Director Dr. Steve Linscombe who knows a thing or two about rice research, having spent 35 years at the Louisiana State University Rice Research Center.

The USA Rice Outlook Conference is the largest rice specific event in North America.  The 2019 Conference will take place from December 8-10 at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock, Arkansas.  Check for updates.