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Webinar recording: Arkansas’ rice breeding program with Dr. Karen Moldenhauer
Author: Bobby Coats, Professor of Economics

Video: Dr. Karen Moldenhauer discusses the University of Arkansas System – Division of Agriculture’s Rice Breeding Program

Video Title: University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Rice Breeding Program

Date and Time Video Recorded: November 30, 2017, 10:00 a.m. Central Standard Time (CST)

Description: Arkansas’ Senior Rice Plant Breeder Dr. Karen Moldenhauer discussed her Rice Plant Breeding Program as well as the University of Arkansas System, Division of Agriculture’s Rice Breeding Program.

Video Link:

The rice breeding program in Arkansas has similar objectives to those of other U.S. crops. These include increasing production through higher yielding cultivars, conferring resistance to/tolerance of biotic and abiotic stresses via genetic resources, and improving seed quality characteristics. Cultivar development is a team approach that involves breeders, geneticists, pathologists, entomologists, agronomists, economists, soil scientists, food scientists, weed scientists, physiologist statisticians, and extension specialists with inputs from producers, consumers, and the rice industry.

Plant breeding, broadly defined, is the art and science of improving the genetic pattern of plants in relation to their economic use (D.C. Smith, 1966).  As in so many areas of science today, there is an art to the techniques and the interpretation of data. Data comes from visual selection, agronomic measurements, and molecular information.

Plant breeders are always looking to the future because it takes at least 8 to 10 years to develop a new cultivar and get it to producers. In the words of Henry Beachell (2001), “We need to anticipate future needs and strive for goals not easily pictured by others—farsightedness and tolerance of uncertainty are useful attributes; long-term commitment and patience are required.” In the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture rice breeding program, hybrid rice is one of our future goals. We also consider improving disease resistance, earliness, and quality characteristics as intermediate goals.  Since majority of U.S. rice cultivars belong to the tropical japonica subspecies, our long-term goal is to increase the genetic diversity of these cultivars through the introduction of new germplasm from all available sources, including indica subspecies and other species, to develop a new generation of high-yielding cultivars that show resistance to/tolerance of biotic and abiotic stresses.

Historical biographical information

Karen A.K. Moldenhauer is a rice breeder for the University of Arkansas, located at the Rice Research and Extension Center, Stuttgart, Arkansas.  She was born Karen Ann Kuenzel  in Dubuque, IA, December 28, 1952 and grew up in the town of Garnavillo, IA.  She received her B.S. degree in biology from Iowa State University in 1975 and continued her education at North Carolina State University where she received an M.S. in plant breeding and cytogenetics in 1977, under the direction of Earl Wernsman.  She returned to Iowa State University and received her Ph.D. in plant breeding in 1982 under the guidance of Kenneth J. Frey. In 1985 she married Dr. Paul M. Moldenhauer and they have two children Jonathan and Henry.

After receiving her Ph.D. in 1982, Dr. Moldenhauer accepted a research position as a rice breeder with the University of Arkansas as an Assistant Professor in Agronomy.  This position was located in Stuttgart, Arkansas at the Rice Research and Extension Center.  She was promoted to Associate Professor in 1987, and Professor in 1992.  Dr. Moldenhauer’s work has focused on the development of improved cultivars for the rice producers.  During her tenure as project leader for the rice breeding and cultivar development program at the University of Arkansas, 29 rice cultivars have been released to producers.  These varieties have had a substantial impact on rice production in Arkansas, averaging 25% to 60% of the rice acreage in any given year.   With the release of these new cultivars the state average rice yields have increased from about 95 bushels/acre in 1982 to 168 bushel/acre in 2013 and 2014 with an average yield of 164 bushel/acre this year.  These cultivars have increased disease resistance, increased lodging resistance, and earlier maturities than those they have replaced.  Her selections Drew, Kaybonnet, and Katy, were the first commercially available cultivars with resistance to all of the commonly found rice blast races in the southern growing region.  They have been utilized by the rice breeding groups in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas as sources of resistance to both races IB-49 and IC-17.

Dr. Moldenhauer also initiated (1989) and established (1991) a rice biotechnology program which utilized anther culture and a marker assisted selection (2001) at the Rice Research and Extension Center as a complement to the existing rice breeding program.  She has also been involved in many interdisciplinary cooperative research efforts  including joint research planning, management and field evaluation for rice studies involving soil fertility (DD50 program, and nitrogen interaction studies); plant pathology (recurrent selection for sheath blight tolerance, rice blast inheritance studies, sheath blight, blast and kernel smut nurseries); and food science (rice kernel characteristics and food quality traits).

Dr. Moldenhauer has 13 utility patents and 12 PVP certificates granted.  She has published 10 book chapters, 86 referred publications, 251 reviewed publications, and 132 Abstracts.  She is a Fellow of the Crop Science Society of America, the American Society of Agronomy and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Moldenhauer has served on numerous committees for the University of Arkansas System and professional organizations over the years as well as on the Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee and National Genetics Resources Advisory Council.  She was appointed to the International Rice Research Institute Board of Trustees where she is currently serving a 3 year term to expire at the end of 2018.

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