The rice, called Carolina Gold, was popular in the South during the Colonial era.
As part of an effort to bring new attention to this rice, geneticists Anna M. McClung and Robert Fjellstrom at an ARS (Agricultural Research Service) unit in Texas have developed molecular markers that can be used to fingerprint rice cultivars.
After evaluating over 1,600 cultivars, or accessions, the RM190 genetic marker - linked to the gene that controls rice starch -was effective at distinguishing Carolina Gold and its derivatives from other accessions.
This and several other markers have been used to purify the heirloomcultivar into what is now called Carolina Gold Select.
Working with AnsonMills of Columbia and the Texas Rice Improvement Association ofBeaumont, Texas, Carolina Gold Select is being grown commercially for use ina niche market.
Currently 400 million tonnes of rice is consumed in the world each year, making it a staple food commodity for half the world's population.
Rice starch, a soft, white powder over twice as expensive as wheat and corn starch, is used by the food industry for its gel strength, gelling temperature and starch granule rigidity.
Key applications for the ingredient with a tiny granule size, neutral taste, and soft mouthfeel include baby food, extruded products, soups, dressings and meat preparations.
But one of the fastest growing markets for rice starch are functional foods, forecast to double within five years in the UK alone from €1.2 billion to €2.47 billion.
Rice starches are