GENET archive


GMO-FREE PRODUCTS & SEEDS: UCD researcher honored for non-GE rice breakthrough

                                  PART 1

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SOURCE: The Sacramento Bee, USA

AUTHOR: Niesha Lofing


DATE:   02.12.2008

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A University of California, Davis, geneticist is among three researchers being honored this week for their work in developing flood-tolerant rice.

Pamela Ronald, a professor of plant pathology, Julia Bailey-Serres, a UC Riverside genetics professor and David Mackill, of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, will be given the 2008 U.S. Department of Agriculture National Research Initiative Discovery Award Friday at UC Riverside.

The researchers identified a gene, called Sub1A, that is responsible for flood tolerance in rice, according to a UC Davis news release.

Identifying the gene allowed plant breeders to use ?precision breeding? to create new rice varieties that could recover after severe flooding and ?produce abundant yields of high-quality grain,? the release states.

Other than their flood tolerance, the new plants are virtually identical to popular high-yielding varieties.

Flooding in Bangladesh and India reduces rice yields by up to 4 million tons each year, enough to feed 30 million people.

Researchers anticipate the flood-tolerant rice plants will be available to farmers within the next two years.

The plants are not subject to the regulatory testing that can delay release of genetically modified crops because they are the product of precision breeding, not genetic modification, the release states.

Ronald led the effort to isolate the gene, and her lab showed that the gene is switched on when rice plants are submerged in water. The project took 13 years to complete.

?To be part of this project as it has moved from my lab in California to rice fields in Asia has been inspiring, and the project underscores the power of science to improve people?s lives,? Ronald said in a written statement.

The research that led to the gene?s isolation was funded by USDA grants to Ronald, Mackill and Bailey-Serres. The breeding work was funded by the USDA and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

All told the USDA allotted nearly $1.45 million to the research project, a UC Riverside news release states.

                                  PART 2

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SOURCE: University of California-Davis, USA

AUTHOR: Press Release


DATE:   02.12.2008

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture is conferring one of its highest research awards this week upon UC Davis rice geneticist Pamela Ronald and two other scientists, in recognition of their work on developing new rice varieties that can withstand flooding.

The Discovery Award, which recognizes outstanding researchers who address key agricultural problems of national, regional and multistate importance, will be presented Dec. 5 at UC Riverside by Gale A. Buchannan, the USDA?s undersecretary for research, education and economics. The award will be given to Ronald; UC Riverside genetics professor Julia Bailey-Serres; and David J. Mackill, a researcher formerly of UC Davis and now at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.

Ronald?s group isolated the rice genomic region that carries the submergence tolerance trait and demonstrated that one of the 13 genes in the region, called Sub1a, confers submergence tolerance. Mackill?s team used this information to precisely transfer Sub1a into popular high-yielding rice varieties of countries in South and Southeast Asia.

?Dave Mackill led the breeding work and Julia Bailey-Serres, who joined the project in 2002, is leading the work to understand how regulation of the ERF genes control the plant?s complex response to submergence stress,? Ronald said.

The new rice varieties recently passed field tests in Bangladesh and India, and will be made available within two years to smallholder farmers in flood-prone areas whose crop yields are often destroyed by seasonal rains.

?In Bangladesh and India, four million tons of rice are lost to flooding every year, which is enough rice to feed 30 million people for one year,? Ronald said.

The USDA funding of the Rice Sub1 Project began in the mid-1990s with two grants to Ronald and Mackill totaling nearly $490,000. Subsequently, three other USDA grants were awarded to Bailey-Serres and Ronald, bringing the total of USDA funding to the research team to nearly $1.45 million.

This will be the second time in a row that USDA?s Discovery Award is presented to a UC Davis scientist. The 2007 Discovery Award went to plant sciences professor Jorge Dubcovsky, in recognition of his genetics research focused on enhancing the nutritional value of wheat.

About UC Davis

For 100 years, UC Davis has engaged in teaching, research and public service that matter to California and transform the world. Located close to the state capital, UC Davis has 31,000 students, an annual research budget that exceeds $500 million, a comprehensive health system and 13 specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and more than 100 undergraduate majors in four colleges -- Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, Engineering, and Letters and Science -- and advanced degrees from five professional schools: Education, Law, Management, Medicine, and Veterinary Medicine. The UC Davis School of Medicine and UC Davis Medical Center are located on the Sacramento campus near downtown.



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