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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA scientists work on creating more resilient rice

    Rod Wing wants to help feed the world.

    That’s why the UA plant sciences professor and director of the Arizona Genomics Institute is working together with the Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan, China, to breed new types of rice using modern gene sequencing.

    The rice researchers are growing will also be resistant to drought, insects and excessive salts, and will be able to grow in poorer soil while using less or even no fertilizer, Wing said.

    The new crop will help to combat some of the harmful effects of nitrogen fertilizer used in rice fields in China, which have left many individuals, including women who perform the spraying, with lung disease, cancer and birth defects in their children, Wing said.

    Rice is currently the main staple in about half the world’s diet, so any improvements in its production will greatly benefit the globe, he added.

    The group mostly uses “”classic methods”” to alter the rice and cross-breed the plants the way people have done for thousands of years, he said.

    It also use genetic engineering, when useful and necessary, to give the new strain of rice a certain set of genes, he added.

    “”The technology is very safe,”” Wing said, adding that it is up to consumers to decide whether they want to consume the rice.

    In the end, Wing said he thinks the work will double the current rice yield and keep up with the world’s burgeoning population.

    The rice is not being used commercially as of yet, said Galbraith David W. Galbraith, a UA plant sciences professor who has been working on the project with a USDA grant for two years, “”but we are working on that aspect.””

    Wing said the rice will not be commercially available for the next5-10 years.

    UA researchers compare wild rice strains with domesticated varieties to find genetic discrepancies, Wing said. They check to see if they find genes that enable survival of the wild rice, where the cultivated kind cannot grow.

    This method is an improvement to the traditional methods of plant breeding because “”it speeds everything up,”” Galbraith said.

    Conventional agricultural breeding requires plants to be examined once they are grown, while genotyping the rice allows them to “”rapidly determine”” what will and will not work, he said.

    The International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines has been interacting closely with the research group at UA. It and HAU in China have been using research developed in Arizona to grow the new strains of rice where there is a much better climate and soil for them, Galbraith said.

    In the Philippines and China, UA researchers are growing rice in large trial fields that are “”practically implemented”” in that part of the world, he said.

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