News / Asia

In Philippines, Crop Researchers Try to Flood-proof Rice

FILE - A rice farmer sows seeds in Oton, Iloilo, Philippines.
FILE - A rice farmer sows seeds in Oton, Iloilo, Philippines.
Simone Orendain
Crop scientists from around the world are in the Philippines this week at the International Rice Research Institute, exchanging ideas on how flooded rice and other staple crops could stay alive for long periods. 
                                            
Scientists at the International Rice Research Institute have already found a way for several varieties of rice to live after being totally submerged for more than 10 days: certain kinds of rice can be crossbred with a gene called SUB1, which stops the rice from growing while it is underwater, thus preserving itself. About five years ago, farmers in the Philippines, Indonesia and several South Asian countries started growing these varieties.
 
Despite that success, IRRI Principal Scientist Abdelbagi Ismail says close to 25 million hectares of rice is lost to flooding every year in Asia and Africa alone.  There are about 150 million hectares of rice worldwide.
 
With one seventh of the total crop lost, Ismail says researchers want to find a way to make flooded rice survive even longer, so they are now looking more closely at the work of researchers who study how plants survive without oxygen.
 
 “Now SUB1 can protect up to two weeks, but sometimes we get floods up to 25 days.  So we lose it even with SUB1.  So we want to see if we can increase flooding tolerance by more than one week- additional to SUB1.  Any information that comes from these studies could help us,” explained Ismail.
 
Ismail also pointed out that IRRI, whose work is heavily focused on how rice adapts to flooding, is currently concentrating on three areas.  Scientists want to help inundated rice sprouts continue to grow normally, discover other genes that can perform the same function as SUB1, and breed varieties that can withstand total and partial submersion. This last goal will be particularly helpful for many rice-growing areas, as during the rainy season flooded soil will oftentimes never completely drain.
 
Researchers are still working to understand how plants are able to sense low oxygen levels, which sends them into survival mode.
 
Scientist Laurentius Voesenek, of the Netherlands’ Utrecht University, researches wild plants that live in partial submersion or flood-prone river areas, focusing on fundamental traits that help plants cope with flooding.  Voesenek’s work is on ethylene, a gas emitted by plants once they become submerged.
 
“Gases produced by the plant can only very slowly escape.  So if production continues it builds up and that is a very reliable signal for the plant to know ‘I’m under water.  I’m in trouble.  I have to do something.  Switch on genes which might protect,’” explains Voesenek.
 
Scientists are also sharing work on crops that can be grown despite stagnant flooding. Ismail says this work is important, and will help discover how farmers can use the wet soil of flooded rice fields for other staples such as maize, wheat and barley.

You May Like

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, No voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve and do not want to take a risk by endorsing independence More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid