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A more powerful and efficient engine for rice: the C3-C4 challenge

oduction, especially considering the environmental challenges we face such as climate change," IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler said. "This generation must work to assure food security not only for ourselves, but for future generations as well. We must find and develop big new ideas to help us further increase rice production while using less land, labor, and water."

To meet this important challenge, scientists at the workshop focused on enhancing the rice plant's photosynthetic efficiency, or what's known scientifically as converting rice from a C3 plant to a C4 plant, where the "C" refers to the carbon captured by photosynthesis for growth. To do this, C4 plants--such as maize--use solar energy more effectively for growth.

Dr. Sheehy compared the potential impact of successfully transforming rice from a C3 to a C4 plant as even greater than the production of the semidwarf rice plants that sparked the Green Revolution. "If we can successfully develop a C4 rice plant, the implications and potential impact will be huge--it's one of the great scientific challenges facing people working in the plant sciences."

The experts at the workshop suggested that it will probably take another three to four years to achieve the "proof-of-concept" needed before an international consortium of scientists will have assembled the tools and materials to begin constructing the prototypes of a C4 rice plant. It will be another 10?5 years after that before the first varieties are available.

"Considering the urgent rice production challenges we face, we must start now on this work--there's no time to lose," Dr. Sheehy said.


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Source:International Rice Research Institute


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