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
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

Guru Careers: Financial Director / FD / Senior Finance Manager

Up to 70k DOE: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Financial Director ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company has been manufacturing high quali...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is the fairest onl...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Production Planner is require...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen