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Arizona researchers to sequence West African rice strain
Date:7/13/2009

A $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation will allow University of Arizona researchers to unlock the genetic code of West African cultivated rice and along the way to gain knowledge that could help commercial rice strains to better withstand dwindling resources, a changing climate and increased demand.

BIO5 Institute members Rod A. Wing, professor of plant sciences and Steve Rounsley, research professor of plant sciences, are co-primary investigators on the new grant. Wing previously took part in a six-year, $200 million project to sequence the genome of Asian cultivated rice.

Now, new techniques Wing and Rounsley have developed will allow them to sequence West African rice in only six months at a fraction of the cost.

"We'll be the first to so rapidly generate an extremely high quality genetic sequence, one that can be used forever to unravel the secrets of West African rice," Wing said.

Asian rice is the most common commercial rice crop and serves as a staple food in many countries. Since West African rice was originally cultivated under harsher conditions than Asian rice, it's better adapted to withstand hardships such as high temperatures and limited water.

Understanding the genes behind those adaptations could be a valuable first step in breeding new, hardier Asian strains as well crucial work, given that the world's rice-dependent population is expected to double in the next 25 years.

Understanding both West African and Asian rice will also help researchers to better understand the whole process of domestication, or turning wild plants into food crops. That knowledge could also ultimately be used to improve the world's crops. "We'll be able to ask a lot of interesting questions about how two independent domestication events occurred," Rounsley explained.

Researchers at other institutions around the world are ready to use Wing and Rounsley's sequencing technique to sequence
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Contact: Deborah Daun
ddaun@email.arizona.edu
520-626-2059
University of Arizona
Source:Eurekalert

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