Rice that withstands drought

Scientists develop a new variety of rice that needs very little water and can withstand drought.

A group of Indian, Chinese, and Canadian scientists has developed transgenic rice that gives high yield even under severe water deficit. The new rice variety has been developed by transferring a gene from a common plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, into a variety of Indian rice called samba mahsuri. This gene is known to be involved in pathways controlling growth and development. Arabidopsis thaliana is a flowering plant widely used for research purposes but it has no agronomic value as such.  

Putting the thaliana gene into rice increased its height, the length of the panicle that encloses the grain, the efficiency of photosynthesis and water use as well as the chlorophyll content. Under water-scarce conditions created in the laboratory, the transgenic rice performed better than its unmodified counterparts, according to research results published in the journal Scientific Reports

The content of chlorophyll which is required for the plants to grow reduces under stress conditions like drought, which in turn hits the yield. The transgenic rice maintained high chlorophyll content even under water deficit and therefore performed better. 

“The need for extensive irrigation is a major constraint in rice production. Overexpressing TOR gene plays a major role in improving the plant development, biomass, and yield potential under limited water conditions. Transgenic plants would be expected to have higher yields and better plant performance. Also, saved water, the most important ingredient in cultivation, could be utilised in the cultivation of other crops that need water and are deprived of it,” says P.B. Kirti, professor, department of plant sciences, University of Hyderabad.

The research team included Achala Bakshi, Mazahar Moin, M. Udaya Kumar, Aramati Bindu Madhava Reddy, Maozhi Ren, Raju Datla, E.A. Siddiq, and P.B. Kirti at the University of Hyderabad and PJTS Agricultural University in Hyderabad, University of Agricultural Sciences-GKVK in Bangalore, besides scientists from National Research Council of Canada and Chinese academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing, and Chongqing University in Chongqing, China.  

(India Science Wire)