Something new is being cooked in the FLAR’s quality laboratory. Integration of processes, renovated spaces and modern equipment are part of the transformation that, in an shared effort with CIAT, is carried out with the aim of improving the effectiveness of the processes and the accuracy of analysis of rice milling and culinary quality.
These changes are not only part of a plan to improve the research capacity and services offered by the laboratory for both CIAT, FLAR and its members, but also seek to respond to the demands of the sector, where quality is a determining factor of rice production.
22 years of transformations
Since 1995, FLAR assumed the responsibility of coordinating the laboratory activities which up to that time were carried out by CIAT rice breeding program. The operation of the CIAT-FLAR quality laboratory avoided duplication of efforts, allowed the costs-sharing of equipments and process, as well as facilitated the knowledge exchange in the implementation of common methodologies, protocols and experiences regarding grain quality of rice. “The laboratory is an emblematic example of the operating principles that drove the creation of FLAR, as it demonstrates how the whole group benefits when a partner, such as CIAT, specializes in a specific function in which it has a clear strength to offer to others: quality analysis,” explains Luis Roberto Sanint, Executive Director 1995-2006.
In the early years of the laboratory, conventional reference methods were used for quality assessment. Victoria Kuri, the laboratory coordinator until 2010, recalls, “for a long time the analyzes that were carried out had not changed, there were no different quality tests, the availability of seed for use in the early generations was limited and the evaluations required a meticulous work”. However, in 1998 and thanks to a donation from CIAT, the laboratory took a major step towards the modernization and automation of amylose analysis with the acquisition of the near-infrared spectrometer equipment NIRS System 6500. “We knew of a technology that was revolutionizing research with great success. This is how the NIRS arrived at the laboratory and with a lot of effort, care and and frustrations we managed to adapt it to our needs,” says Kuri.
The members of FLAR continued to prioritize the quality of the grain as an essential feature to include in the new varieties launched to the market. Gonzalo Zorrilla, Executive Director 2006-2013, indicates that during this period the laboratory worked on updating the knowledge to optimize the quality evaluation carried out in the laboratory. “IRRI1 created an international network on quality called INQR2, of which FLAR was a part and was fundamental because it allowed us to exchange information on methodologies and parameters of grain quality with other rice quality laboratories around the world,” says Zorrilla.
Integration of processes, new equipment and renewed spaces
Since 2013, the laboratory modernization plan become more important and, once again, a joint effort by CIAT and FLAR materialized the acquisition of tools and the adaptation of spaces that together with an increase in research capacity, allowed the integration of two key activities that helps rice breeders in the decision-making process: mill quality analysis and the culinary quality analysis of the rice.
The acquisition of S21 equipment for the white center analysis in 2013, the RVA viscosity analyzer in 2015, the Ohaus digital scale and moisture analyzer in June 2016 and more recently the purchase of the NIRS DS2500, are part of the laboratory’s new infrastructure. At the same time, advances have been made in other aspects such as the training of a sensory panel to evaluate different attributes associated with the quality of cooked rice, such as gloss and adhesiveness, carried out in 2013.
“The laboratory has been growing in the last years, both in its capacity of analysis and in the number of samples that are made. This change and the incorporation of new equipment, which give us greater versatility to offer new analysis to the users, drove the renewal of the area“, says Eduardo Graterol, executive director of FLAR.
Katerine Loaiza, coordinator of the laboratory since 2011, explains that the remodeling included the expansion of the storage area, an improvement that “also allowed to optimize the step by step of the evaluation of culinary quality, giving a logical order to the equipment in accordance with the process“, she says.
But undoubtedly, the most important change that the quality laboratory presents is the integration of milling and culinary quality analyzes in a shared space, which will allow greater traceability and tracking of the samples that arrive in the laboratory. That is how in 66 square meters is found the sample storage area, an annex room with the equipment for shelling the rice, polishing, sorting and milling rice; the equipment to evaluate chalk, viscosity and amylose analysis, as well as rice cookers where the samples are cooked.
“With these new capabilities we are offering a better service so that plant breeders, producers, industry and consumers can have rice with the quality expected,” says Graterol.
A matter of quality
For Joe Tohme, leader of the CIAT agrobiodiversity area, with the recent changes, the rice quality laboratory becomes more important not only for FLAR and CIAT but also for the region, because as he explains “the quality of the rice will be the character of differentiation into the future, for both local markets and for the regional and international export market. “
With the paint still fresh, CIAT and FLAR are still thinking about the possibilities to accelerate the impact of the laboratory on quality research. “We want to socialize these new capabilities with users, that’s why the laboratory is open for those who want to come and know the methods of analysis that advance very quickly and that are available in our rice quality laboratory”, says Graterol.
For now the FLAR’s rice quality laboratory will continue to provide its services to CIAT, FLAR and its members as it has for the past 22 years, efficiently and handling high standards for the analysis and storage of samples.
|The before and now of the FLAR’s Rice Quality Laboratory|
1 International Rice Research Institute, IRRI.
2 International Network for Quality Rice, INQR.