DNA sequencing to create new rice variety
"A mammoth 2500 litres amount of water is required to produce just 1kg of rice.
"We will be testing a technique developed by IRRI called alternative wetting and drying where the crop is flooded and then dried out for 10 to 15 days.
"Our focus will be to analyse the major benefits we believe to be aligned with this technique, to assess whether it provides the answer to making rice production a more sustainable option in the future.
"The first of those benefits is the potentially large reduction in water usage and analysis of this will be a main focus for the study. As a positive offshoot, using less water means that there is less opportunity for arsenic to enter the rice grain from the ground water, leading to lower levels of arsenic contamination.
"Initial studies have also shown that the technique enhances yield and increases the levels of nutrients contained in the grains – specifically zinc and iron.
"This is of particular significance given that increasing these nutrients in our diets is one of the United Nation's top ten actions that humans can do to reduce suffering."
Professor Meharg added, "Our team consists of scientists from the fields of maths, biogeochemistry, plant physiology, plant genomics and systems biology, and our collaborators span the globe.
"It would be fair to say that this is one of the first occasions that scientists from such a broad range of areas have come together to address the challenge of sustainable rice production in this way.
"If we achieve the outcomes we believe are possible from this project, the result could essentially be a significant improvement in the health and well-being of people across the world by putting better quality rice in the mouths of more people."
The University of Aberdeen is collaborating on the study with the University of Lancaster; the International Rice Research Institute, Philippines; Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh, Bangladesh; University of Calcutta, India and Assam Agricultural University, India