News / Africa

Scientists Develop Green Super Rice

Program focuses on making a hardy, eco-friendly crop

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is developing 'Green Super Rice,' which will be environmentally friendly and better able to tolerate drought, flooding, salty water and insects.
The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is developing 'Green Super Rice,' which will be environmentally friendly and better able to tolerate drought, flooding, salty water and insects.

Multimedia

Audio

Researchers are working to develop rice varieties which require much less water, fertilizer and pesticide than modern types of rice demand.

Rice feeds roughly three billion people in Asia alone, and is a staple food around the world. Modern rice plant varieties yield double or triple the amount of grain possible before the 1960s.

When the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) first introduced these varieties, they were called "miracle rice" because they helped ward off famine is Asia. But they have some major shortcomings.

"When farmers don't have these fertilizers, they fail them miserably," says Jauhar Ali, an IRRI senior scientist.

Petrochemical-based fertilizers are costly and becoming more so. The same is true of the pesticides farmers use to control insects and weeds. Also, the pollution they cause is ruining aquatic ecosystems in many parts of the world.

In addition, they need to be irrigated. But experts say water supplies are increasingly challenged by urbanization and climate change.

Sustainability concerns growing

These were secondary concerns as famine loomed in the 1960s, according to Colorado State University rice researcher Jan Leach.

"[Back then, they said], 'OK, we just need more yield. We need to produce more rice,'" she says. "Now we can step back and say, 'OK, now we know how to get more rice. Now let's think about how to get more rice and be sustainable.'"

Today, IRRI is working on what it calls Green Super Rice - "green" meaning environmentally friendly - because it will grow as much or more grain with fewer inputs; and "super" because it will be better able to tolerate drought, flooding, salty water, insect pests and more.

"All this will be combined into one," Ali says, "Plus disease resistance also. And not only that. We will do it in what they like to eat."

Huge program

If it sounds like a big job, that's because it is. Each one of those traits can be controlled by multiple genes. Combining all the right genes into one plant - without using genetic engineering - takes a whole lot of plant breeding, says Anna McClung, head of a major U.S. government rice breeding center.

"The magnitude of what they're doing is really quite unique and tremendous," she says. "We're talking 10-fold more than a regular program would do. Maybe 100-fold more."

The project spans 16 countries. IRRI and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences have spent the last 12 years mating hundreds of different varieties from the world's largest rice collection.

Hidden diversity

Colorado State's Jan Leach says with that many varieties to choose from, researchers can find valuable traits hidden in the rice genome.

"Many of the traits are present, but they are not turned on until you get them into the right genetic background, or sometimes in the right environment," she says.

For example, some of the genes that help a new variety survive prolonged periods underwater came from a variety that would drown in those conditions. The genes were there, they were just switched off. Ironically, that plant is fairly good at surviving the opposite extreme: drought.

Several first-generation Green Super Rice varieties should be available to farmers in eight target countries in Asia and eight in Africa in about two years. Meanwhile, researchers continue stacking more traits into new varieties to help farmers produce more with less, in order to feed a growing world.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs