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Utilizing genomics to create rice, food security
10:02:02 AM | Wednesday, July 4th, 2018

Author: Holly Demaree-Saddler

Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Philippine Statistics Authority.

LOS BAÑOS, THE PHILIPPINES — The development of Green Super Rice, a new breed of stable, climate-smart, high-yielding varieties, opens up the potential of understanding and using genomics of agroecosystems in responding to the increasingly complex challenges the agricultural sector is facing today.
“As the global population continues to increase exponentially each day, so does the demand for rice, a major staple food and livelihood for more than 3.5 billion people,” the IRRI said. “Given the current growth rate, it is expected that global population will reach around 10 billion by 2050. Much of this increase will occur in poor, densely populated regions in Asia and Africa that are already highly dependent on rice for food, nutrition, and livelihood.”

The article “The Rice Genome Revolution: from an Ancient Grain to Green Super Rice” published in Nature Reviews Genetics discusses how genomes from domesticated and wild rice can be used to improve other breeding programs, making it more responsive to global needs.

Rod A. Wing, IRRI’s first AXA Chair and University of Arizona professor, teamed up with Michael D. Purugganan of New York University, and Qifa Zhang of the Huazhong Agricultural University, in investigating genetic variation among domesticated rice species to develop more stable high-yielding varieties and enhance other breeding programs. Though traditional breeding programs resulted in varieties with better lodging resistance and higher yield vigor, it has been costly in terms of resources, especially as they pertain to the environment.

In 2008, one year after Professor Zhang first proposed the concept of Green Super Rice (GSR), IRRI and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, began working together to use genomics to develop GSR varieties. That is, varieties that are higher yielding and more nutritious, while at the same time requiring less water, fertilizers and pesticides and can grow on marginal lands. GSR varieties also hold the potential to help smallholder farmers mitigate the impact of climate change in their livelihoods.

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