Discovery of gene code for rice may help feed world

Scientists have deciphered the genetic blueprint of the rice plant - the world's most important staple crop - in what is seen by many as a vital step towards feeding the planet.

Proponents of the breakthrough say understanding the genetic code will enable scientists to develop new varieties that could boost yields to sustain the growing human population.

More than half of the people on earth rely on rice for 80 per cent of their dietary needs, but production must increase by a third in the next 20 years to feed the developing world.

A Japanese-led consortium of 32 institutions in 10 countries helped in the Rice Genome Sequencing Project. The completed map, published in the journal Nature, shows that the plant has 37,544 genes, about 7,500 more than the human genome, positioned along 12 chromosomes.

"Rice is a critically important crop, and this finished sequence represents a major milestone," said Robin Buell, a plant geneticist at the Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, Maryland, one of the consortium.

"We know the scientific community can use these data to develop new varieties that deliver increased yields and grow in harsher conditions.

"The genetic map will greatly speed the hunt for genes that increase yield, protect against disease and pests, or provide drought-resistance in rice and other cereal crops."

Knowing the precise details will also give scientists an insight into other closely related cereal crops such as barley, corn, wheat, rye, sorghum and millet, said Joachim Messing of Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey.

"The rice genome is the Rosetta Stone of all the bigger grass genomes," Dr Messing said. "Knowing its sequence will provide instantaneous access to the same genes in the same relative physical position in other grasses and accelerate plant gene discovery in many important crops such as corn and wheat."

The importance of publishing the full rice genome was underlined in 2002 when 20 leading scientists publicly complained about the plans of multinational companies to keep the data they had on rice genes a commercial secret. But Monsanto and Syngenta have since donated their data to the consortium, which enabled the project to be completed on time and to budget.

Richard McCombie, of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, a co-leader of the study, said: "This study revealed thousands of genetic markers or signposts in the rice genome that are of immediate use to plant breeders and others working to improve rice agriculture.

"This is also the first finished genome sequence we have from any crop plant, so rice is a great model to use genome sequence information to improve many aspects of agriculture."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent