Plant scientists delve into Australia's ancient past

June 9, 2014
Plant scientists delve into Australia's ancient past
Professor Robert Henry from the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation searches for wild rice in Queensland's Lakefield National Park.

Australia's wild rice could be the key to global food security, according to The University of Queensland's leading plant geneticist.

In research led by Professor Robert Henry from UQ's Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), scientists have identified gaps they call 'genome deserts' in the inherited components or DNA of Australian .

Professor Henry said the gaps were evidence of one or more major selection events that occurred naturally in pre-historic times, well before domestication.

"Rice has been domesticated for several thousand years," he said.

"Australian wild rice, which also has important similarities with , has been isolated from the impacts of domestication in Asia, so its genes still carry huge variation in many parts of the genome.

"Natural selection in the wild was not due to humans.

"Australian wild rice has enormous diversity but we can still see evidence of a major selection event happening, pre-domestication, probably millions of years ago."

"The Australian wild populations represent an invaluable source of diversity supporting rice security."

Professor Henry said rice was one of the world's most important food crops and if it was compromised, the ancient DNA found in Australian wild rice would be crucial to the industry's defence.

"Australian wild rice could play a major role in future worldwide breeding programs that would improve disease and pest tolerance, reduce fertiliser needs, grow healthier crops and enhance ," he said.

The study has been published in PLOS ONE.

Explore further: Gene's past could improve the future of rice

Related Stories

Gene's past could improve the future of rice

January 23, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- In an effort to improve rice varieties, a Purdue University researcher was part of a team that traced the evolutionary history of domesticated rice by using a process that focuses on one gene.

Early agricultural piracy informs the domestication of rice

June 9, 2011

The origins of rice have been cast in a new light by research publishing in the open-access journal PLoS Genetics on June 9, 2011. By reconciling two theories, the authors show that the domestication of rice occurred at least ...

Recommended for you

Genomes uncover life's early history

August 24, 2015

A University of Manchester scientist is part of a team which has carried out one of the biggest ever analyses of genomes on life of all forms.

Rare nautilus sighted for the first time in three decades

August 25, 2015

In early August, biologist Peter Ward returned from the South Pacific with news that he encountered an old friend, one he hadn't seen in over three decades. The University of Washington professor had seen what he considers ...

Why a mutant rice called Big Grain1 yields such big grains

August 24, 2015

(Phys.org)—Rice is one of the most important staple crops grown by humans—very possibly the most important in history. With 4.3 billion inhabitants, Asia is home to 60 percent of the world's population, so it's unsurprising ...

0 comments

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.