Scientist begin to develop super green rice.
by Voice of America:
Researchers are working to develop rice varieties which require much less water, fertilizer and pesticide than modern types of rice demand. Rice feeds roughly three billion people in Asia alone, and is a staple food around the world. Modern rice plant varieties yield double or triple the amount of grain possible before the 1960s.
Petrochemical-based fertilizers are costly and becoming more so. The same is true of the pesticides farmers use to control insects and weeds. Also, the pollution they cause is ruining aquatic ecosystems in many parts of the world.
Today, IRRI is working on what it calls Green Super Rice – “green” meaning environmentally friendly – because it will grow as much or more grain with fewer inputs; and “super” because it will be better able to tolerate drought, flooding, salty water, insect pests and more.
If it sounds like a big job, that’s because it is. Each one of those traits can be controlled by multiple genes. Combining all the right genes into one plant – without using genetic engineering – takes a whole lot of plant breeding, says Anna McClung, head of a major U.S. government rice breeding center.
The project spans 16 countries. IRRI and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences have spent the last 12 years mating hundreds of different varieties from the world’s largest rice collection.
For example, some of the genes that help a new variety survive prolonged periods underwater came from a variety that would drown in those conditions. The genes were there, they were just switched off. Ironically, that plant is fairly good at surviving the opposite extreme: drought.
Several first-generation Green Super Rice varieties should be available to farmers in eight target countries in Asia and eight in Africa in about two years. Meanwhile, researchers continue stacking more traits into new varieties to help farmers produce more with less, in order to feed a growing world.
Is it too early to begin talking about world hunger and dependence on fossil fuels ending in 2012?