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Ancient farmers chose rice attributes
by Staff Writers
Kobe, Japan (UPI) Jun 6, 2011

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Farmers in China 10,000 years ago were early pioneers of genetic breeding, developing practices still used today to boost agricultural yields, researchers say.

Masanori Yamasaki of Kobe University in Japan says those Chinese farmers, like modern breeders, came to realize shorter plants would produce higher yields, as the stalkier plants could produce more grain without falling over, NewScientist.com reported Monday.

So they unwittingly began selective breeding that resulted in a genetic shrinking of rice stems, he says.

Yamasaki looked at sticky rice, Oryza sativa japonica, and found found two mutations in the variety's SD1 gene that did not exist in a wild variety or in long-grain rice.

That suggests a strong effort to conserve and encourage the variety 10,000 years ago, when both sticky and long-grain rice were being domesticated, he says.

Yamasaki says he thinks farmers growing the first sticky rice drove this change to get a better harvest and in doing so kicked off an early "green revolution" mirrored in modern efforts last century to select for the SD1 gene to boost yields and feed a burgeoning global population.

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