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New flood-tolerant rice offers relief for world's poorest farmers

A gene that enables rice to survive complete submergence has beenidentified by a team of researchers at the International RiceResearch Institute in the Philippines and at the University ofCalifornia's Davis and Riverside campuses. The discovery allows fordevelopment of new rice varieties that can withstand flooding, thusovercoming one of agriculture's oldest challenges and offering reliefto millions of poor rice farmers around the world.

While rice thrives in standing water, like all crops it will die ifcompletely submerged for more than a few days. The development andcultivation of the new varieties is expected to increase foodsecurity for 70 million of the world's poorest people, and may reduceyield losses from weeds in areas like the United States where rice isseeded in flooded fields. Results of this study will appear in theAug. 10 issue of the journal Nature.

"Globally, rice is the most important food for humans, and each yearmillions of small farmers in the poorest areas of the world losetheir entire crops to flooding," said Pamela Ronald, a ricegeneticist and chair of UC Davis' Plant Genomics Program. "Ourresearch team anticipates that these newly developed rice varietieswill help ensure a more dependable food supply for poor farmers andtheir families. And, in the long run, our findings may allow riceproducers in the United States to reduce the amount of herbicidesused to fight weeds."

Background

Rice is the primary food for more than 3 billion people around theworld. Approximately one-fourth of the global rice crop is grown inrain-fed, lowland plots that are prone to seasonal flooding. Theseseasonal flash floods are extremely unpredictable and may occur atany growth stage of the rice crop.

While rice is the only cereal crop that can withstand submergence atall, most rice varieties will die if fully submerged for too long.When the plant is covered with water, its oxygen and carbon dioxidesupplies are reduced,
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Source:University of California - Davis


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