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HARDY rice: less water, more food
Date:9/22/2007

Blacksburg, Va. An international team of scientists has produced a new type of rice that grows better and uses water more efficiently than other rice crops. Professor Andy Pereira at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) has been working with colleagues in India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Mexico and The Netherlands to identify, characterize and make use of a gene known as HARDY that improves key features of this important grain crop. The research, which was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that HARDY contributes to more efficient water use in rice, a primary source of food for more than half of the worlds population. *

Rice (Oryza sativa) is a water guzzler when compared to other crops. It typically uses up to three times more water than other food crops such as maize or wheat and consumes around 30 percent of the fresh water used for crops worldwide. In conditions where water is scarce, it is important to have crops that can efficiently generate biomass (plant tissue) using limited amounts of water. HARDY rice shows a significant increase in biomass under both drought and non-drought conditions. The researchers found that the biomass of HARDY rice increased by around 50 percent under conditions of water deprivation (drought) compared to the unmodified version of the same type of rice.

Dr. Andy Pereira, professor at VBI, stated: This transdisciplinary research project involved the study of two plants. First we used a powerful gain-of-function screening technique to look at a large number of Arabidopsis plants that might have features favorable to water and drought resistance. We were able to identify the HARDY mutant due to its considerable reluctance to be pulled from the soil and its smaller, darker green leaves. Molecular and physiological characterization showed that the improved water usage efficiency was linked to the HARDY gene.

Dr. Aarati Karaba, who worked on the projec
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Contact: Barry Whyte
whyte@vbi.vt.edu
540-231-1767
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert

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