Case Studies

Responsible rice paddies of the future

A new type of high-starch low-methane rice has been developed with a view to simultaneously boosting crop yield and reducing anthropogenically driven methane emissions. The plant is described in Nature.

Chuanxin Sun and colleagues describe a modified type of rice that has increased biomass and starch content in the seeds and stems, and decreased levels of methane production. The plant, which has performed well in a three-year field trial in China, was produced by transferring a single regulatory gene from barley into a conventional rice cultivar. The result is a type of rice that preferentially stores photosynthetically derived sugars in parts of the plant that are above rather than below ground.

With their warm, waterlogged soils, rice paddies are responsible for up to 17% of global emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane. As the world’s population grows, the expected increase in rice cultivation runs the risk of exacerbating this problem. SUSIBA2 rice, as it is called, is the first high-yield, low-methane rice to be developed and could offer a sustainable solution to the problem.

Source: Nature Publishing Group