At EI, we are identifying useful genes that could be bred into elite rice varieties to help rice resist environmental pressures.
Scientific name: Oryza sativa
Rice is eaten by more than half of the world’s population in every meal, particularly in Asia. In order to ensure food security in the world’s most populated regions, we are identifying useful genes that could be bred into elite rice varieties to help rice resist environmental pressures. One urgent need is building tolerance to increasing levels of salt, as the depletion of underground water is allowing the intrusion of water from the sea.
To help find useful new genes, we have sequenced the whole genome of 616 types of rice native to Vietnam, which represent the rich diversity of rice in the country. Through this, we have been able to characterise the genes associated with crops in different regions: coolness in northern varieties of rice, drought in upland varieties, and salinity in lowland coastal varieties.
What Earlham Institute is doing.
We are analysing how physical characteristics of rice are linked to the genes that control them, including how the grain looks, heading date (when the flowers begin to appear), and inflorescence and leaf characteristics.
We also plan to extend the analysis to more complex characteristics in the future, particularly related to tolerance to pests and abiotic stress (salt, drought, flooding and emerging pathogens).