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The Huge Potential of 'Waterproof' Rice

 

Narrator: Rice farmers in India and Bangladesh, where flooding causes major crop losses every year, may soon be able to plant submergence-tolerant rice varieties, thanks to the work of an international team of researchers, including those at the University of California, who have been working to develop rice that can withstand up to two weeks of complete submergence.

Bailey-Serres: For a very long time, rice farmers have been interested in protecting their plants from complete submergence. A lot of the rice lands in the world are susceptible to submergence because of strong rains due to monsoons. Rice is grown in flood-prone regions about twenty percent of the rice growing areas in the world and so having the ability to grow a line that's submergence-tolerant would enable rice farmers to ensure that they will have a yield from their crop.

Narrator: Julia Bailey-Serres, a professor of genetics at UC Riverside, is leading the work to determine exactly how the gene Sub1A makes the plant dormant during submergence. Bailey-Serres's lab collaborated with that of Dr. Pamela Ronald at UC Davis.

Bailey-Serres: Their work was instrumental in identifying the gene region that contains the genes that confer submergence tolerance. And along with this study, my lab here at UC Riverside characterized the physiological and the developmental differences between submergence tolerant and submergence intolerant rice.

Narrator: This ‘waterproof' rice passed tests in farmers' fields, with several of these varieties now close to official release by national and seed certification agencies in Bangladesh and India.

 

Additional reading:

UC Rice Geneticists Recieve High Honor from U.S. Department of Agriculture

From Genes to Farmers’ Fields: “Waterproof” Rice Set to Make Waves in South Asia

'Wateproof' Rice Varieties Pass Field Tests in Bangladesh and India