Sci­en­tists un­lock largest map of any crop to fast-track rice breed­ing

Agriculture - - Contents - BY PAUL M. ICAMINA

THE GE­NETIC VARIATIONS of cul­ti­vated Asian rice have been mapped.

The map of 3,010 ac­ces­sions, or the unique iden­ti­fier given to a DNA, is the largest for a crop’s genome, the com­plete set of DNA—in­clud­ing all of its genes that con­tains all of the in­for­ma­tion needed to build and main­tain a par­tic­u­lar rice va­ri­ety. The map is im­por­tant in rice re­search be­cause ge­nomic vari­a­tion is re­spon­si­ble for all the dif­fer­ences that make each rice va­ri­ety dif­fer­ent from an­other. The ge­netic map will en­able sci­en­tists to dis­cover new gene vari­ants and char­ac­ter­ize known genes for im­por­tant traits, such as the nat­u­ral abil­ity of a par­tic­u­lar va­ri­ety to re­sist dis­eases and with­stand floods, drought, and salty water.

Molec­u­lar breed­ers could use the ge­netic mark­ers to se­lect rice plants that are more likely to carry a de­sired trait be­fore they are planted in the field, the In­ter­na­tional Rice Re­search In­sti­tute (IRRI) said in a press state­ment.

About 780,000 rice ac­ces­sions are avail­able in gene banks world­wide. To en­able the more ef­fi­cient use of these ac­ces­sions in fu­ture rice im­prove­ment, the Chi­nese Academy of Agri­cul­tural Sci­ences (CAAS), Beijing Ge­nomics In­sti­tute (BGI-Shen­zhen) and IRRI se­quenced the 3,000plus rice genomes.

“This in­for­ma­tion leads to faster and more ac­cu­rate de­vel­op­ment of va­ri­eties suited to var­i­ous agri­cul­tural en­vi­ron­ments, es­pe­cially for un­fa­vor­able rice-grow­ing ar­eas where the poor­est and most vul­ner­a­ble farm­ers re­side,” said Dr. Jac­que­line Hughes, IRRI Deputy Di­rec­tor Gen­eral for Re­search.

“Plant breed­ers can make more in­tel­li­gent choices in se­lect­ing traits for im­proved va­ri­eties that farm­ers can cul­ti­vate, which leads to food and nu­tri­tion se­cu­rity. This is how ad­vance­ments in rice science can im­pact the lives of mil­lions of farm­ers and con­sumers.”

Rice is the sta­ple food of half the world. By 2035, an ad­di­tional 112 mil­lion met­ric tons of rice needs to be pro­duced on a smaller area of land, us­ing less water and un­der more fluc­tu­at­ing cli­matic con­di­tions, which will re­quire that fu­ture rice cul­ti­vated va­ri­eties be higher yield­ing and re­silient to mul­ti­ple stresses.

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