Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Researchers seek holy rice grain

Peter Janssen in IOL News (South Africa): For Thai rice researchers, there's nothing like a natural disaster to test a new variety. In October, when widespread flooding left 640,000 hectares of agricultural land under water for weeks in central Thailand, farmers who had planted Hom Cholasit rice emerged Noah-like from the disaster, their crops intact.

“After that, there was a big demand for this variety,” said Theerayut Toojinda, a rice molecular specialist at the National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (Biotec), at the Nakorn Pathom campus of Kasetsart University.

Hom Cholasit, a variety developed by Biotec four years ago using molecular selection and cross breeding, can survive under water for 24 days, making it well-suited to one of the symptoms of climate change -more flooding.

Unfortunately, it is not resilient to the brown plant hopper, a flaw that had limited its popularity among Thai rice farmers previously. “No variety is all good,” Theerayut said. “You can't get everything.”

But some scientists are trying. Apichart Vanavichit, director of Kasetsart's Rice Science Centre, has been working for the past two years on a “super jasmine” rice variety that is resilient to submersion, diseases and insects….

Rice plantation in Thailand, southwest of Chiang Mai, shot by Martin-Manuel Beaulne, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 UnportedWikimedia Commons

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