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'Waterproof' Rice Varieties Pass Field Tests
December 4, 2008

New flood-tolerant rice varieties, developed by an international team of researchers, including scientists at UC Davis, UC Riverside and the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, have passed field tests and are expected to soon be available to farmers in Bangladesh and India.

Flooding in those countries annually reduces rice yield by up to 4 million tons — enough rice to feed 30 million people.

The new flood-tolerant rice plants were developed by identifying a single gene — called Sub1A — that is responsible for flood tolerance in rice. Identification of the gene enabled the institute’s plant breeders to use “precision breeding” to create the new rice varieties. The new plants are effectively identical to popular, high-yielding rice varieties, except that they recover after severe flooding to produce abundant yields of high-quality grain.

The researchers anticipate that the flood-tolerant rice plants will be available to farmers within the next two years. Because the plants are the product of precision breeding, rather than genetic modification, they are not subject to the same regulatory testing that can delay release of genetically modified crops for several years.

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