Research finds way to double rice crops in drought-stricken areas

November 20, 2008

University of Alberta research has yielded a way to double the output of rice crops in some of the world's poorest, most distressed areas.

Jerome Bernier, a PhD student in the U of A Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, has found a group of genes in rice that enables a yield of up to 100 per cent more in severe drought conditions.

The discovery marks the first time this group of genes in rice has been identified, and could potentially bring relief to farmers in countries like India and Thailand, where rice crops are regularly faced with drought. Rice is the number one crop consumed by humans annually.

The results of the study were published recently in the plant sciences journal Euphytica. Bernier's research began four years ago and focused on upland rice, which, unlike the majority of rice crops, grows in non-flooded, dry fields. "If drought hits, the yield can drop to almost nothing," Bernier said. He conducted his research at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, in conjunction with scientists there and in India.

He started with 126 genetic markers and narrowed his search to a group of genes that had the desired impact. In very severe drought conditions, rice strains with the new genes were shown to produce twice as those strains that did not have the genes. The new genes stimulate the rice plants to develop deeper roots, enabling it to access more of the water stored in the soil.

"For subsistence farmers who rely on the crop to feed their families, this extra yield can make a world of difference," said Bernier.

Less loss to drought may also mean an increased supply of rice globally, said Dean Spaner, Bernier's project supervisor and a professor of agricultural, food and nutritional science at the U of A.

Source: University of Alberta

Explore further: Canadian genomics project is leading the way in wheat breeding innovation

Related Stories

Photosynthesis gene can help crops grow in adverse conditions

September 18, 2015

A gene that helps plants to remain healthy during times of stress has been identified by researchers at Oxford University. Its presence helps plants to tolerate environmental pressures like drought—and it could help create ...

Sequencing of barley genome achieves new milestone

August 25, 2015

Barley, a widely grown cereal grain commonly used to make beer and other alcoholic beverages, possesses a large and highly repetitive genome that is difficult to fully sequence. Now a team led by scientists at the University ...

Recommended for you

What are white holes?

October 9, 2015

Black holes are created when stars die catastrophically in a supernova. So what in the universe is a white hole?

Horn of Africa drying ever faster as climate warms

October 9, 2015

The Horn of Africa has become increasingly arid in sync with the global and regional warming of the last century and at a rate unprecedented in the last 2,000 years, according to new research led by a University of Arizona ...

Could 'The Day After Tomorrow' happen?

October 9, 2015

A researcher from the University of Southampton has produced a scientific study of the climate scenario featured in the disaster movie 'The Day After Tomorrow'.

A mission to a metal world—The Psyche mission

October 9, 2015

In their drive to set exploration goals for the future, NASA's Discovery Program put out the call for proposals for their thirteenth Discovery mission in February 2014. After reviewing the 27 initial proposals, a panel of ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.