Wild rice to provide “gene toolkit” for crop improvement


Wild rice in Sri Lanka (source: R.S.S. Ratnayake)

Further evidence of the increasing interest in CWR as an untapped repository of genetic traits for crop improvement was provided by the recent decision of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to award $9.9 million to a University of Arizona-led Consortium who is to carry out further research on wild relatives of cultivated rice with the aim of isolating the genetic traits that make some wild rice species withstand extreme weather conditions and live in poorer soils.
Plant scientist Rod Wing, who is leading the University of Arizona (UOA) effort, states that the aim of the project is to “identify and catalog all the genes found in the wild relatives of rice and analyze their functions to identify genes that confer adaptations helping wild varieties cope with extreme environments and breed them into cultivated rice."
By delving into the structural variations of the rice genome, the project also aims to gain further insight into the evolutionary biology of wild rice. "We want to really understand the evolution of the rice genus Oryza in great detail," Wing was reported saying. "For example, which genes are the shared ones that make a rice plant a rice plant, and which are those that account for the differences we see between species?"
Most importantly the project includes an in situ conservation component that aims to preserve wild rice populations, maintaining their diversity and ensuring their conservation in the wild.
For more information read the full article.