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New flood-tolerant rice offers relief for world's poorest farmers

Los Baos, Philippines -- A gene that enables rice to survive complete submergence has been identified by a team of researchers at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines and at the University of California's Davis and Riverside campuses. The discovery allows for development of new rice varieties that can withstand flooding, thus overcoming one of agriculture's oldest challenges and offering relief to millions of poor rice farmers around the world.

Although rice thrives in standing water, like all crops it will die if completely submerged for more than a few days. The development and cultivation of the new varieties are expected to increase food security for 70 million of the world's poorest people, and may reduce yield losses from weeds in areas such as the United States, where rice is seeded in flooded fields. Results of this study will appear in the Aug. 10 issue of the journal Nature.

"Globally, rice is the most important food for humans, and each year millions of small farmers in the poorest areas of the world lose their entire crops to flooding," said Pamela Ronald, a rice geneticist and chair of UC Davis's Plant Genomics Program. "Our research team anticipates that these newly developed rice varieties will help ensure a more dependable food supply for poor farmers and their families. And, in the long run, our findings may allow rice producers in the United States to reduce the amount of herbicides used to fight weeds."

Funding for the research was provided by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ); the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service National Research Initiative; and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The German funding was particularly important as it supported efforts to transfer the submergence characteristic to existing, popular rice varieties, maximizing the impact of the breakthrough.<
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Contact: Duncan Macintosh
d.macintosh@cgiar.org
632-580-5673
International Rice Research Institute
10-Aug-2006


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