The goal of a rice breeding program, Wilson added, is to produce a plant that has enough vegetation to support the greatest amount of grain yield.

"This is very much a balancing act. If you select for a plant type that sends most of its energy to producing grain too soon, the plant will be small and stunted," he said. "At the other extreme, if you select for a plant type that puts most of its early and mid-season growth into vegetation, you can end with a very late maturing plant that has too much vegetation that costs the plant too much energy to maintain, which can result in a plant that either matures its grain too late or which cannot support much grain."

The team is considering three years of detailed data as part of its continuing rice breeding program.

"Our ultimate goal is to develop a new variety of rice, so we are working very closely with Dr. Omar Samonte, a plant breeder and partner on this research, and Jim Medley, the lead technician who keeps the project going," he said.