Bringing science and development together through news and analysis

  • Chinese scientists identify yield-boosting rice gene

Shares

[BEIJING] Researchers in China have identified a rice gene that could improve both the quality and yield of the staple crop.  

Xiangdong Fu, a geneticist at the Institute of Genetics and Development Biology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, China, and colleagues first discovered the gene — known as GW8 — while studying basmati rice in Pakistan.

Basmati rice is well known for its good grain quality. The researchers found that this feature is influenced by the presence of a gene known as GW8, which can also improve the appearance and flavour of rice.

Fu and his colleagues hypothesised that high-quality Chinese rice varieties might also have the GW8 gene.

Following a series of field studies in Beijing, Guangzhou and Hainan in 2009, the researchers found that a variant of the GW8 gene does exist in certain varieties of high-yielding rice in China.

However, the variant is different to that which was identified in Pakistan, and is related to grain weight and density, both of which boost crop productivity.

The scientists also found a third variant of the gene Amol3, an Iranian rice cultivar (a plant selected for desirable characteristics that can be maintained by propagation), that improves grain quality and productivity.

If this new variant were introduced into basmati rice, grain yields would increase by around 14 per cent, the scientists have predicted. If introduced into the high-quality Chinese varieties, their quality and yields could also be further improved.

Fu said that he hoped the new GW8 variant could eventually be introduced into local varieties in countries across the world.

However, developing these improved varieties would take at least three years, he said.

World Food Prize laureate Gurdev S. Khush, a former head of plant breeding, genetics and biotechnology at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, said the discovery of the GW8 gene in rice was very important.

It has been very difficult to improve the yield potential of basmati rice, Khush told SciDev.Net.

The authors' findings were published in Nature Genetics last month (24 June).

Link to full article in Nature Genetics

References

Nature Genetics doi:10.1038/ng.2327 (2012)

Republish
We encourage you to republish this article online and in print, it’s free under our creative commons attribution license, but please follow some simple guidelines:
  1. You have to credit our authors.
  2. You have to credit SciDev.Net — where possible include our logo with a link back to the original article.
  3. You can simply run the first few lines of the article and then add: “Read the full article on SciDev.Net” containing a link back to the original article.
  4. If you want to also take images published in this story you will need to confirm with the original source if you're licensed to use them.
  5. The easiest way to get the article on your site is to embed the code below.
For more information view our media page and republishing guidelines.