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

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs