News / Asia

Scientists Developing Salt-Tolerant Rice

Japan tsunami flooded rice paddies, destroying crop

The March 2011 Japan tsunami contaminated some 20,000 hectares of rice paddies with salt.
The March 2011 Japan tsunami contaminated some 20,000 hectares of rice paddies with salt.

Multimedia

Audio

Scientists are developing a salt-resistant variety of rice.

The move was prompted, in part, by last year's Japan tsunami, which flooded some 20,000 hectares of rice paddies.



The rice varieties Japanese farmers were growing in those paddies couldn't survive in salt-contaminated soil.

Those ruined paddies might be the first to test out the new rice-growing techniques.

Delicate balance

The challenge before scientists, says plant biologist Sophien Kamoun at the Sainsbury Laboratory in the United Kingdom, is, “How do you introduce a new trait like salt tolerance into that local variety, while at the same time you maintain all the other traits that make that variety really ideal for that region?”

Two salt-tolerant rice varieties developed with the new methods. The parent variety, in the middle, is not salt-tolerant.
Two salt-tolerant rice varieties developed with the new methods. The parent variety, in the middle, is not salt-tolerant.

Plant breeders normally take that ideal variety and mate, or cross, it with one that is salt-tolerant. Some of the offspring would acquire that trait. But they may also differ from the ideal variety in other ways.  

“If you make a cross, for example, with an unrelated variety of rice, you will have thousands of differences," Kamoun says.

Those differences may be good or bad. Accentuating the positive while eliminating the negative may take a decade or more.

Kamoun and colleagues in Japan started instead with a popular high-quality rice variety and, using a technique common in plant breeding, introduced random changes - or mutations - in the plant’s genes with a chemical.

“Then you end up with thousands of plants that have all kinds of changes in their habits," Kamoun says. "And then you plant them out there in the field and identify the plants that have particular traits of interest.”

New salt-tolerant rice varieties are doing well in greenhouse experiments.
New salt-tolerant rice varieties are doing well in greenhouse experiments.

Sequencing lots of genomes

Then Kamoun’s group did something that would have been too difficult and expensive just a few years ago. They used new technology to sequence the entire genomes of the plants with those traits of interest. They identified precisely what genetic changes were found in plants with the new traits and where those changes appear on the map of the rice genome.

It’s a big improvement for crop breeders who usually follow rough landmarks in the genetic map to guide their efforts.

“Instead of saying, ‘It’s between Street A and Street B,’ you can say, ‘It’s exactly this address,’” says U.S. Department of Agriculture scientist Shannon Pinson.

She was not involved in the research. But she says it is exciting not only because it makes plant breeding more precise. She says even when breeders know where in the genetic map to find the genes responsible for a trait, or phenotype, “That doesn’t mean we know exactly what the gene is, and what the sequence is and what change in that sequence is causing that change in phenotype.”

Pinson says the new method hones in on the precise changes in a gene responsible for changes in a trait. That should make it easier to figure out how the gene works.

Sophien Kamoun says his colleagues have already improved the salt tolerance of a high-quality rice variety in greenhouse experiments and expect to have it ready for farmers in a couple years - far sooner than conventional breeding would take.

And he says the methods should cut the time needed to develop other varieties and other crops as well.

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing 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.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid