Flood-drought tolerant rice can feed world’s hungry

Flood-tolerant rice plants can surprisingly survive drought and feed more of the world’s hungry, says new research.

Plant scientists at the University of California, Riverside have made a discovery that can greatly benefit rice growers and consumers everywhere, the journal The Plant Cell reports.

They have demonstrated in the lab and greenhouse that rice that is flood tolerant is also better able to recover from a drought, according to a University of California statement.

“Flood tolerance does not reduce drought tolerance in these rice plants, and appears to even benefit them when they encounter drought,” said Julia Bailey-Serres, professor of genetics at California-Riverside, who led the project.

Bailey-Serres and her team – Takeshi Fukao, senior researcher, and Elaine Yeung, an undergraduate student – focused on Sub1A, a gene responsible for flood tolerance in rice and found only in some low-yielding rice varieties in India and Sri Lanka.

Sub1A works by making the plant dormant during submergence, allowing it to conserve energy until the floodwaters recede. Rice with the Sub1A gene can survive more than two weeks of complete submergence.

Plant breeders have already benefited farmers worldwide by having transferred Sub1A into high-yielding rice varieties without compromising their desirable traits – high yield, good grain quality, and pest and disease resistance. (IANS)

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