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University of Arizona-led group awarded $9.9 million to develop 'super rice'
Date:9/3/2010

A University of Arizona-led consortium has been awarded $9.9 million from the National Science Foundation to develop a deeper understanding of the wild relatives of cultivated rice with the ultimate goal of creating next-generation varities that are better capable of withstanding drought and poorer soils and produce higher yields than current forms of domesticated rice.

The main goals are to study the genes of different wild rice species and identify genes that could be used to improve the crop.

Cereal crops including rice provide 60 percent of the calories and protein harvested worldwide, said UA plant scientist Rod Wing, who is director of the Arizona Genomics Institute in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, holder of the Bud Antle Endowed Chair for Excellence professor in the School of Plant Sciences and a member of the BIO5 Institute.

"Half of the world's population depends on rice, and that population is expected to double in 30 years," he said. "We need to figure out a way to come up with a rice variety with increased yield and capable of growing on less land, on poorer soil, with less water, and with less fertilizer."

Part of RICE 2020, an international coordinated effort in rice functional genomics, the NSF funds the undertaking of functionally characterizing the genomes of all 24 rice species, with the goal of transforming not only crop biology but evolutionary biology as well.

Using wild rice to improve rice crops

"What we're trying to do is identify and catalog all the genes found in the wild relatives of rice and analyze their functions," Wing said. "The idea is to identify genes that confer adaptations helping wild varieties cope with extreme environments and breed them into cultivated rice."

The data could be used immediately to enhance food security, Wing pointed out, by providing a "toolkit of genes" that can be used to improve crop rice.

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Contact: Daniel Stolte
stolte@email.arizona.edu
520-626-4402
University of Arizona
Source:Eurekalert  

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