Rice is an essential and fastest-growing staple food in more than half of the world’s population, particularly in Asia, Africa, and Latin American countries.
Rice researchers are finding possible strategies to come up with resilient rice crop varieties to withstand climate change effects like a rise in temperature, drought, salinity due to saltwater intrusion in low-lying coastal areas recognizing its role in feeding a vast number of the global population.
According to researchers, rice uses a less efficient C3 photosynthetic pathway. By introducing the more efficient C4 photosynthesis traits into rice, it will double water use efficiency, increase photosynthetic efficiency by 50% and improve its nitrogen uptake.
The study appeared in Plant Biotechnology Journal. Dr. Maria Ermakova, one of the study’s lead authors, says that they have assembled five genes from maize that code for five enzymes in the C4 photosynthetic pathway into a single gene construct and installed in into rice plants.
Although introducing all the genes that will make C4 rice is still a long way, this is the first paper that they have assembled on functional C4 biochemistry in rice and which is a promising development.
The old approach will take several years to insert a single gene each time but using synthetic biology scientists were able to inject several genes at the same time and make prototypes of plants in just a few months.
The significant development is that scientist have mastered the technology which could speed up the process to create C4 rice.
The implications for this new finding are significant to rice crop production, especially in arid places and water-scarce and drought-prone areas.
It could strengthen food security in drought and heat prone areas and support resilience towards climate change.
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PHOTO CREDIT: “Planting rice with colourful umbrellas” by Dr. Nani Araneta de Leon