University of Arizona-led team decodes African rice
International Rice Research InstituteUnderstanding the complete genome of African rice will enable researchers and agriculturalists to develop new varieties of rice with African rice's hardiness, making them better able to adapt to conditions of a changing climate. An international team of researchers led by the University of Arizona has sequenced the complete genome of African rice.
The genetic information will enhance scientists' and agriculturalists' understanding of the growing patterns of African rice, as well as enable the development of new rice varieties that are better able to cope with increasing environmental stressors to help solve global hunger challenges.
The paper, "The genome sequence of African rice (Oryza glaberrima) and evidence for independent domestication," was published online in Nature Genetics on Sunday.
The effort to sequence the African rice genome was led by Rod A. Wing, director of the Arizona Genomics Institute at the UA and the Bud Antle Endowed Chair in the School of Plant Sciences in the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, with a joint appointment in the UA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
"Rice feeds half the world, making it the most important food crop," Wing said. "Rice will play a key role in helping to solve what we call the 9 billion-people question."
The 9 billion-people question refers to predictions that the world's population will increase to more than 9 billion people – many of whom will live in areas where access to food is extremely scarce – by the year 2050. The question lies in how to grow enough food to feed the world's population and prevent the host of health, economic and social problems associated with hunger and malnutrition.
Now, with the completely sequenced African rice genome, scientists and agriculturalists can search for ways to cross Asian and African species to develop new varieties of rice with the high-yield traits of Asian rice and the hardiness of African rice.
"African rice is once more at the forefront of cultivation strategies that aim to confront climate change and food availability challenges," said Judith Carney, a professor in the Department of Geography and the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of "Black Rice." The book describes the historical importance of African rice, which was brought to the United States during the period of transatlantic slavery.
Carney is also a co-author on the Nature Genetics paper, and her book served as one of the inspirations behind sequencing the African rice genome.
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