Researchers Look to Develop Sturdier Rice

John DavisRice, USDA

weedyriceU.S. Department of Agriculture researchers are looking at genetic traits in weedy rice to develop a variety of the grain that flourishes in the face of climate change. This article from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service says the work hopes to develop sturdy, high-yield varieties of cultivated rice.

[Lewis] Ziska, who is with ARS’s Crop Systems and Global Change Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, studied several rice cultivars to determine if changes in temperature and CO2 levels affected seed yields. He also looked for visible traits that could signal whether a plant cultivar has the genetic potential for adapting successfully to elevated CO2 levels.

The investigation included weedy red rice, which infests cultivated rice cropland. Despite the plant’s downsides, previous assessments indicated that weedy rice growing under elevated CO2 levels had higher seed yields than cultivated rice growing under the same conditions.

For seed yield, only weedy rice and the rice cultivar ‘Rondo’ responded to elevated CO2 levels when grown at optimal day/night air temperatures of 84 °F and 70 °F. In addition, only the weedy rice gained significant increases of aboveground biomass and seed yield under elevated CO2 levels at the higher temperatures expected for rice-growing regions by 2050.

The findings were published in Functional Plant Biology in 2013.