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July 2024

Researchers make breakthrough discovery that could change how we produce rice — here’s what they found

“This research is a significant step towards fully mechanized hybrid rice breeding.”

Rice is one of the most important grains in the food supply network. The humble cereal is an essential part of the diet of around half of the world’s population. 

However, it is labor intensive and a drain on resources to produce. Concerningly, too, given its importance, rice yields are at risk as an overheating climate increases the frequency and intensity of droughts and flooding — ironically, rice production is also one of the leading contributors to planet-warming pollution.

That’s why a discovery in China could be a promising solution to a multitude of problems. Scientists have pinpointed a gene that would allow the mechanized separation of hybrid rice seeds, which is typically done manually.

As Interesting Engineering detailed, the discovery could streamline harvesting efforts and improve breeding. This could help boost and secure rice yields and make the process of picking grains much quicker.

The GSE3 gene makes it possible for scientists to create both smaller and larger grains, making it easier for a mechanical process to separate hybrid seeds from the rest of the harvest. This method has been found to lead to 21% to 38% greater yields.

Manual separation typically results in 96% to 98% purity. The gene-edited hybrid grains separated mechanically with a basic sieve can achieve 96% purity, which meets commercial standards. 

“This research is a significant step toward fully mechanized hybrid rice breeding,” study leaders said, per Interesting Engineering. 

According to data shared by the World Economic Forum, demand for rice is expected to increase by 1.1% a year between now and 2031 as the global population rises. 

But just 1 kilogram of rice needs around 3,000 to 5,000 liters of water to produce. With droughts a growing concern, and increased flooding events washing out rice fields, it’s anticipated that the changing climate could reduce rice yields by 15% over the next 25 years.

That’s why finding new methods to grow and harvest rice safely, abundantly, cheaply, and efficiently is so important, and the research from China — which is one of the world’s largest producers of rice — could be a game-changer. QR Code

Published Date: June 23, 2024

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