Using wild ancestor plants to make rice more resilient to increasingly unpredictable water availability

Departments: Centre for Novel Agricultural Products, Biology & Environment

Project Director: Prof Ian Graham

Image of rice

Rice is the staple food for more than two billion people, but a quarter of global rice production relies on rainfall rather than irrigation, so is vulnerable to the increased frequency of droughts and flooding predicted under climate change. There is an urgent need to develop rice strains that are both drought and submersion tolerant but current commercial strains have limited genetic diversity from which to generate increased environmental resilience.

The researchers will develop commercial varieties of rice carrying different segments of DNA from wild ancestors, and test how they perform in real agricultural conditions in the field in India to identify the most drought resistant varieties. The socio-economic barriers to adoption of these new varieties will also be studied, as well as their impact on the production of rice under predicted future climates. The team hope to produce drought tolerant rice varieties that are accepted and adopted by local communities in India, as well as new breeding tools to enable rapid further development of improved rice varieties.

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Funding: This work was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Department for International Development and (through a grant to the BBSRC) the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, under the Sustainable Crop Production Research for International Development programme, a joint initiative with the Department of Biotechnology of the Government of India's Ministry of Science and Technology.