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

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project 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.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid