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Researchers develop flood-tolerant California rice

Rice grown anywhere in the world soon could be made completely flood-tolerant because of new research by UC Riverside geneticists, done in collaboration with scientists at UC Davis and the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. By gradually introducing into California rice "submergence tolerance," a property that enables rice to survive extreme flood conditions, the researchers show how potentially any variety of rice could be made to survive short-term floods that completely submerge the rice plant ?a result benefiting rice farmers worldwide.

The researchers are the first to identify a small cluster of related genes responsible for providing a line of Indian rice with the capacity to survive complete submergence for more than two weeks. The researchers transferred this cluster of genes into California rice by first cross-pollinating the Indian and California rice and then continuing the cross breeding over several generations until all the Indian rice genes, except the cluster of genes needed for submergence tolerance, were gradually replaced with genes from the California rice. The result was California rice that can withstand floods in which the rice plant is completely submerged.

Study results appear in this month's issue of The Plant Cell.

In their work, led by Julia Bailey-Serres, a professor of genetics at UCR, the researchers evaluate two nearly genetically identical lines of California rice: the original submergence intolerant line and the new submergence tolerant line. A careful comparison of the two California rice lines showed that in the submergence tolerant line the rice plants orchestrate a number of cellular responses to submergence that are controlled by specific genes present in the submergence gene cluster. The researchers report that this cluster, which originated in the Indian rice and was bred into the California rice, is responsible for changes in cell metabolism and growth while the
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Source:University of California - Riverside


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