EI trains the next generation of rice breeders in Vietnam

24 May 2016

Scientists from the Earlham Institute (EI) in partnership with Agricultural Genetics Institute (AGI) begin their bioinformatics training programme in Vietnam to identify 600 rice varieties to accelerate crop breeding. The team, led by Dr Jose De Vega, aim to sequence and analyse the genetic diversity in Vietnamese native rice lines to help Vietnam’s crop research and precision breeding programmes.

The advanced training will equip Vietnamese scientists with the skills in bioinformatics and genomics for crop analysis, and ensures future knowledge for their peers.

Previously, EI, UK and AGI, Vietnam, initiated a collaboration to sequence the genome of a representative number of Vietnamese rice varieties to characterise the genetic variations in native rice crops and develop genetic markers that could be used to accelerate rice breeding.

The EI team will now visit Vietnam several times during the next 12 months funded by the Newton Fund through the British Council to carry out training workshops in advanced bioinformatics tools to help achieve precision breeding techniques for much larger rice yields, and at the same time to learn the techniques and diversity involved in rice breeding in Vietnam.

Alongside the Vietnamese team of scientists, EI, with the collaboration of AGI and NIAB, Cambridge, will develop an advanced genomics platform for rice breeding focused on traits of agronomic interest. The rapid identification of rice varieties that are tolerant and resilient to adverse conditions will work towards alleviating the current challenges the Vietnamese agriculture industry face and contribute to food security.

Rice is a staple food for a population of 90 million in Vietnam and one of the main exporter commodities of the country. Vietnam is experiencing an exceptional growth, in its economic output and population rising, as a global leading agricultural country. There is, however, an increasing threat from climate change such as emerging pathogens, drought and rising sea levels. The areas under greatest risk are the deltas of the Red and Mekong rivers, which represent the major rice growing regions of Vietnam.

Dr De Vega, Acting Head of the Crop Genomics Group at EI, said: “We will complement the generation of this data with the development of databases and the application of bioinformatics pipelines to identify associations of alleles with specific phenotypes.

“We expect to characterise markers that will enable more efficient rice breeding. The use of genomic approaches to rice breeding in Vietnam builds on the experience and knowledge that we have developed while working in wheat and barley genomics.

“Rice has a simple genome for which many genomics resources have been already generated and it offers an excellent model for the evaluation and assessment of new strategies for breeding that could later be applied to more complex crops.

“This collaboration with Vietnam will also open opportunities to work with world leading scientists with experience in rice breeding and agronomy.”

The programme will extend to the exchange of scientists from Vietnam coming over to the UK to gain further expertise in bioinformatics and genomics analysis through training workshops, and EI scientists also learning from their field phenotyping activities in Vietnam.

EI has set up a public database to host the variant data of the latest rice genome assemblies and annotation, accessible to all.

The application of new genomics technologies to improve crop breeding is a priority at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) at UK. The proposed project continues the partnership initiated between EI and AGI in partnership with NIAB.

EI is strategically funded by BBSRC and operates a National Capability to promote the application of genomics and bioinformatics to advance bioscience research and innovation.


Notes to editors.

Notes to editors

To find out more about the project and Dr De Vega's whereabouts, read our blog Rice, rice baby! Training Vietnamese rice breeders.



For more information, please contact:

Hayley London

Marketing & Communications Officer, Earlham Institute (EI)

  • +44 (0)1603 450 107


About Earlham Institute

The Earlham Institute (EI) is a world-leading research institute focusing on the development of genomics and computational biology. EI is based within the Norwich Research Park and is one of eight institutes that receive strategic funding from Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC) - £6.45M in 2015/2016 - as well as support from other research funders. EI operates a National Capability to promote the application of genomics and bioinformatics to advance bioscience research and innovation.

EI offers a state of the art DNA sequencing facility, unique by its operation of multiple complementary technologies for data generation. The Institute is a UK hub for innovative bioinformatics through research, analysis and interpretation of multiple, complex data sets. It hosts one of the largest computing hardware facilities dedicated to life science research in Europe. It is also actively involved in developing novel platforms to provide access to computational tools and processing capacity for multiple academic and industrial users and promoting applications of computational Bioscience. Additionally, the Institute offers a training programme through courses and workshops, and an outreach programme targeting key stakeholders, and wider public audiences through dialogue and science communication activities.



The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, BBSRC invested over £509M in world-class bioscience in 2014-15 and is the leading funder of wheat research in the UK (over £100M investment on UK wheat research in the last 10 years). We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/institutes


About The Newton Fund

The Newton Fund is now a £735 million fund which, through science and innovation partnerships, promotes the economic development and welfare of poor people in developing countries. The Fund is overseen by the Department for Businesses Innovation and Skills (BIS) and delivered through 15 delivery partners in collaboration with 15 partnering countries. For more information visit: www.newtonfund.ac.uk

Tags: Crops, Rice