A breakthrough in rice breeding could feed billions of people

(ORDO NEWS) — An international team of researchers has succeeded in getting hybrid rice to propagate from seed, which in the future will significantly reduce the cost of producing new plants and make them affordable for low-income farmers.

Hybrids of crops of the first generation often turn out to be larger and more productive than their parent species – this phenomenon is called heterosis, or “hybrid strength”.

However, if hybrids are crossed with each other, their offspring will be much worse. So farmers who want to get the maximum yield from their plot every year are forced to constantly buy new seeds from producers.

Rice is the main crop grown for half of the world’s population. Ever since Chinese agronomist Yuan Longping created the first high-yielding hybrid rice plants in the 1970s, scientists have been constantly looking for ways to propagate such rice without losing its “hybrid vigor”.

One way to achieve this is to have rice plants clone themselves so that each successive generation is an exact copy of the previous one.

It sounds fantastic, but in fact, scientists have long known that plants have such a phenomenon as apomixis, in which new seeds develop exclusively from the cells of the parent plant, without the participation of foreign pollen.

To increase the likelihood of such a phenomenon, an international team of researchers edited the plant’s genes responsible for sexual reproduction, “forcing” it to reproduce asexually, using only its genetic material.

The result was a hybrid rice, 95 percent of the seeds of which developed as a result of apomixis. For at least three generations, all subsequent plants were identical to the parent.

Now, in order to get seeds of hybrid rice, it is not necessary to carry out the work of crossing parent plants, and farmers, having once acquired a grain supply, will be able to sow fields with a high-yielding crop for many years.

The results of this study will significantly reduce the cost of producing hybrid rice and allow low-income people to purchase it for their fields. As a result, this will be able to save millions of people from starvation, while the area of ‚Äč‚Äčarable land does not even have to be increased.


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