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Rice yields researched to tackle food security issues
Date:6/21/2010

Melinda Gates Foundation, the team are hoping to change the biochemistry and anatomy of rice leaves to increase grain yield by introducing a C4 mode of photosynthesis. Currently, the project is in the gene discovery stage, which involves randomly mutating sorghum and rice to try and determine which genes regulate and determine C4.

Research will shortly be moving into phase two, which will involve engineering rice to allow the team to test the gene function. In addition, for the first time, natural variations in rice are being studied using IRRI's world gene bank of rice to look for natural variation. In total, the project is expected to span over a 15 year period.

As a result of research into the re-engineering of photosynthesis in rice being conducted by this group, rice plants that can produce 50 per cent more grain using less fertilizer and less water will be brought a step closer to reality. The project will also act as a model project for changing any other C3 crops, (e.g. wheat and barley), into C4.

Professor Paul Quick from the University of Sheffield's Department of Animal and Plant Sciences is heading up the team, which includes a team of 70 researchers, as well as 20 international collaborators world-wide. He will be working with Professor Richard Leegood, also from the Universitys Department of Animal and Plant Sciences and Professor Peter Horton, FRS, who has collaborated with the IRRI on improving rice photosynthesis for over 15 years.

Professor Paul Quick, from the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield, said: "C4 rice is a completely novel idea. Nowhere else in the world and never before have scientists been able to supercharge a C3 plant and convert its photosynthetic mechanism into C4. A C4 photosynthetic engine in rice would increase the efficiency of solar energy conversion by 50 per cent and nearly double its water use efficiency, as well as improving its fertilizer-use
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Contact: Shemina Davis
shemina.davis@sheffield.ac.uk
01-142-225-339
University of Sheffield
Source:Eurekalert  

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