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2-Plants: Indian scientists start to work on "wonder rice"



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TITLE:  Work on advanced rice variety
SOURCE: Times of India, by Kountey A. Sinha
        http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1198527.cms
DATE:   12 Aug 2005

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Work on advanced rice variety


NEW DELHI: Scientists in India are raring to start work on creating an
advanced rice variety which would be pest resistant, have higher
nutritional value and be able to survive in dry, almost drought-like
conditions.

Presently, India, which produces 90 million tonnes of rice annually in
750 varieties, loses 15% of its production because of climatic conditions
and pests.

The promise of creating such a variety has come after the recent
announcement made by members of the International Rice Genome Sequencing
Project that they have decoded all the 37,544 genes in a single grain of rice.

The team also included two Indian scientists -- Akhilesh Tyagi from Delhi
University and N K Singh from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute,
Pusa.

Both decoded half of chromosome number 11. Each grain of rice has 12
chromosomes, six of which were decoded by scientists from Japan, 2.5 by
US while France, China and Taiwan decoded one chromosome each.

Speaking to TOI, N K Singh said: "The project to find all the genes
started in 2000. In four years, we mapped half of chromosome 11 though
our target time was 2005. With the structural genomics completed, we will
now start functional genomics in order to find what different genes do in
the rice grain. An important goal is to place newly identified,
advantageous genes into regional rice varieties that are adapted to
particular regions and growth conditions."

S N Shukla, additional director-general of the Indian Council of
Agricultural Research, added: "Once we find the different functions of
the genes, we can create new types of rice. We will look for genes which
can counter salinity, drought and pests. When we find them, we will use
them to breed better rice plans producing higher grain numbers."

According to B S Dhillon, director of research of Punjab Agricultural
University, farmers presently use the trial-and-error method. "They mix
and match two varieties of rice. If what comes out suits their purpose,
they go on to cultivate that type of rice grain. Now with the total gene
blueprint decoded, farmers in India can undertake precision breeding. We
are raring to start creating biotique tolerant rice with enhanced
nutritional value."

Rice is the first crop plant whose complete genetic sequence, or genome,
has been decoded. The DNA of rice has 400 million genetic letters holding
37,544 genes in all -- about 12,000 more genes than humans.

Importantly, in the short term, completion of the rice genome is expected
to speed up conventional breeding programmes, allowing researchers to
produce rice strains that are resistant to drought and disease and that
grow in colder climates and at higher altitudes.

"This is really a project that can lead to important discoveries and
findings that can help the condition of the poor. The poorest of the poor
are the ones that depend on rice the most. What lies ahead for us is
working out the function of individual genes and how they can be
manipulated to produce better strains of rice. With the world's
population rapidly heading for the 7 billion mark, feeding everyone is a
growing problem that has to be tackled now," Singh added.

Rice is the staple food for more than half of the world's population,
with three billion people dependent on it worldwide. The International
Rice Genome Sequencing Project began in 2000 and pooled the resources of
groups from 10 nations -- Japan, China, India, Thailand, Taiwan, Brazil,
France, Canada, Britain and US.




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