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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs