Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Dream Rice and the 2nd Green Revolution

A 2nd Green Revolution is at hand. During the 1960s, the projected Malthusian Theory of mass starvation was prevented by the strides in the increase in yields of grains and other staple crops brought about by advances in agro-technology such as the ability of crops to respond better to fertilizer. But these processes have reached their full potential while the global population still is increasing combined with decreasing land devoted to staple crop growth due to development, climate change and the availability of irrigation.

Now, genome sequencing technology is being utilized to increase the yield of crops and resistance to disease and pests. Also, this will enable varieties that are robust in the face of climate change.

With the massive bank of rice varieties in the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and technology from China, more than 3,000 of the world’s most significant types of rice have had their DNA sequencing completed.

This means, farmers and rice breeders will be able to increase the yield of new varieties more quickly and under conditions related to climate change. This will also include varieties that are resistant to disease and pests and will pack in more nutrients and vitamins.

“This will be a big help to strengthen food security for rice eaters,” said Kenneth McNally, an American biochemist at the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) here. Since rice was first domesticated thousands of years ago, farmers have improved yields through various planting techniques according to reports from Agence France Presse (AFP)

In the past, techniques were more of on a trial and error basis such as cross-breeding. But because of DNA mapping and sequencing, there is now knowledge that can facilitate faster the process because of these strides in molecular genetics.

Thus, better rice varieties can now be expected and developed and then transferred to farmers in the soonest possible time. It used to be 12 years and has been cut down to 3 years.

The process roughly compares with solving a giant jigsaw puzzle made up of billions of microscopic pieces.

A multinational team undertook the four-year project with the DNA decoding primarily in China by BGI, the world’s biggest genome sequencing firm.

Leaf tissue from the samples, drawn mostly from IRRI’s gene bank of 127,000 varieties were ground by McNally’s team at its laboratory in Los BaƱos, near Manila’s southern outskirts, before being shipped for sequencing.

A non-profit research outfit founded in 1960, IRRI works with governments to develop advanced varieties of the grain.
Source: Readings from AFP and http://www.manilatimes.net/dna-breakthrough-raises-hopes-for-dream-rice/245186/

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