Friday, December 05, 2008

Flood tolerant rice breakthrough

An article in the Sacramento Bee reveals that a geneticist at UC-Davis is receiving an award for her work developing a flood-tolerant rice. What is most exciting is that the research, which was funded partly by USDA, did not use genetic engineering. Scientists identified a gene, called Sub1A, that is responsible for flooding tolerance in rice. "Identifying the gene allowed plant breeders to use "precision breeding" to create new rice varieties that could recover after severe flooding and "produce abundant yields of high-quality grain," the release says.
Pamela Ronald, a professor of plant pathology, Julia Bailey-Serres, a UC Riverside genetics professor and David Mackill, of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, will be given the 2008 U.S. Department of Agriculture National Research Initiative Discovery Award Friday at UC Riverside.
Other than their flood tolerance, the new plants are virtually identical to popular high-yielding varieties.

Flooding in Bangladesh and India reduces rice yields by up to 4 million tons each year, enough to feed 30 million people.

Researchers anticipate the flood-tolerant rice plants will be available to farmers within the next two years.

The plants are not subject to the regulatory testing that can delay release of genetically modified crops because they are the product of precision breeding, not genetic modification, the release states.
Study Background
Ronald led the effort to isolate the gene, and her lab showed that the gene is switched on when rice plants are submerged in water. The project took 13 years to complete.

"To be part of this project as it has moved from my lab in California to rice fields in Asia has been inspiring, and the project underscores the power of science to improve people's lives," Ronald said in a written statement.

The research that led to the gene's isolation was funded by USDA grants to Ronald, Mackill and Bailey-Serres. The breeding work was funded by the USDA and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

All told the USDA allotted nearly $1.45 million to the research project, a UC Riverside news release states.
Cross posted from

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