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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid