. Energy News .

Gene breakthrough to help Japanese farmers hit by tsunami
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) Jan 23, 2012

Scientists in Britain and Japan have unveiled a fast-track way towards breeding crops with higher yields or resistance to climate change.

Early beneficiaries should be Japanese farmers who need salt-loving rice plants after their fields were submerged in last year's tsunami.

The technique unveiled Sunday, which does not use genetic modification, pinpoints DNA variants which confer specific qualities in a plant.

Armed with this knowledge, breeders can then use classic methods to splice these genes into an existing strain.

Right now, it can take up to five or even 10 years to develop a strain, which is known as a cultivar. But the "MutMat" approach should speed this marathon to a sprint of little more than a year, say its inventors.

"Essentially, it helps to get to the needle in the haystack faster," Sophien Kamoun, a professor at The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, eastern England, told AFP.

The method, reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology, focussed on a Japanese wild rice cultivar called Hitomebore.

Researchers led by Ryohei Terauchi from the Iwate Biotechnology Research Centre created 1,500 variants of Hitomebore, each of which had different characteristics, using a chemical treatment to speed up the natural rate of mutation.

They honed in on a variant that had a trait for higher yields and crossed it with the original strain of Hitomebore. The resultant plant was then self-pollinated and grown.

The scientists compared the genome of this progeny with that of the original Hitomebore. Like laying one map on top of another, they were swiftly able to spot the genetic telltale for the bigger yield.

The process offers a huge gain in time for plant breeders, say the scientists.

Traditionally, breeders have to cross many generations of plants to ensure that desired genes are anchored in the cultivar and unwanted ones are stripped out.

But the new method quickly highlights the right genes, meaning that it should not take more than a few generations of fine-tuning to come up with the desired outcome.

In their experiment, Terauchi's team identified the traits for semi-dwarfism, which leads to short, stubby plants with a full head of grain.

It was this characteristic that famously unleashed the Green Revolution in the 1960s, boosting rice harvests in China, India and other countries that teetered perpetually on the brink of famine.

The team has since grown a collection of plants from Hitomebore which cope with high salinity.

"Once genes contributing to salt tolerance are identified, they will be used for developing rice cultivars suitable for cultivation in the roughly 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) of paddy fields of the northern Japan coast that were flooded by the tsunami," the study says.

Kamoun said MutMat was simpler than other gene-spotting methods and was especially promising as it could improve a crop that had already adapted to local conditions.

The right genes are introduced "by classical breeding," he added. "There's no GM [genetic modification] involved in this approach at all."

Other crops with a relatively small and uncomplicated genome are excellent candidates for MutMat but complex species such as wheat and corn would be difficult, he said.

Kamoun said MutMat only became feasible through cheap computing power and low-cost gene sequencing.

"This is what's so exciting for the future," said Kamoun. "These technologies were not available just a few years ago. The full impact on improving crops and on agriculture is going to be tremendous, and it's very timely, given the challenge we have with food security."

Last October, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said the global population of seven billion could rise to at least 10 billion by 2100, but could top 15 billion if birth rates are just slightly higher than expected.

That amounts to a major challenge to boost yields, use land and water more sparingly and develop crops that can cope with climate-induced drought and flood.

Related Links
Farming Today - Suppliers and Technology

Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries


. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

A road map for food security as the climate changes
Washington DC (SPX) Jan 23, 2012
While last month's climate negotiations in Durban made incremental progress toward helping farmers adapt to climate change and reduce agriculture's climate footprint, a group of international agriculture experts, writing in Science magazine, urges scientists to lay the groundwork for more decisive action on global food security in environmental negotiations in 2012. "Agriculture worldwide ... read more

Satellite observes spatiotemporal variations in mid-upper tropospheric methane over China

NASA Finds 2011 Ninth-Warmest Year on Record

NASA Sees Repeating La Nina Hitting its Peak

Map project accuses Google users of edits

US Air Force Awards Lockheed Martin Contract for Third and Fourth GPS III Satellites

Raytheon to Develop Mission Critical Launch and Check Solution for Global Positioning System

First Galileo satellite GIOVE-A outlives design life to reach sixth anniversary

USAF Awards Contract to Lockheed Martin for GPS III Launch and Checkout Capability

Team finds natural reasons behind nitrogen-rich forests

Amazon Basin shifting to carbon emitter: study

Indonesia pledges to conserve half of Borneo region

New study evaluates impact of land use activity in the Amazon basin

Findings prove Miscanthus x giganteus has great potential as an alternative energy source

Bio architecture lab technology converts seaweed to renewable fuels and chemicals

US Woody Biomass Prices Have Dropped the Past Three Years

From field to biorefinery: Computer model optimizes biofuel operations

In Solar Cells, Tweaking the Tiniest of Parts Yields Big Jump in Efficiency

A Shade Greener Aim to Supply 35,000 Families with Free Solar by 2015

Green Roofs Embrace Renewable Solar Energy

New Solar Shingle Mount Requires No Trimming

China voices 'deep concern' over US wind tower probe

Power generation is blowing in the wind

Spain's Gamesa wins Chinese wind turbine contract

Mortenson Starts Construction of Rim Rock Wind Project

Gloucester, Yanzhou in giant $8bn coal play: report

Four trapped miners found dead in China: Govt

Five rescued from collapsed Chinese mine

Coal mine collapse traps 12 in China

Chinese professor calls Hong Kong people 'dogs'

Police fire on Tibetans in China, one dead: locals

China jails third activist in a month for subversion

Dragon Year spells nightmare for Hong Kong mums


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement