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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs