A rice gene isolated from Indian
plants could boost crop yields at least 20 percent as it increases
uptake of the vital but often trapped nutrient phosphorus,
scientists at the Los Baños-based International
Rice Research Institute (IRRI) said.
The finding will aid food security for farmers on nutrient-poor
land, adding to global production, and help increase their
incomes, the Philippines-based IRRI said in a statement.
''The gene–called PSTOL-1, which stands for Phosphorus
Starvation Tolerance-1–helps rice grow a larger, better
root system and thereby access more phosphorus,'' the institute
The institute noted that phosphorus was often locked in
the soil, unavailable to plants grown in problematic fields,
such as those with acidic soils or upland plots that are
Large areas of Asia have phosphorus-deficient soil, and
often farmers are forced to use phosphate-based fertilizers,
which have numerous negative impacts on the environment.
The gene was developed from the Kasalath rice variety from
India, which grows well in soils low in phosphorus, said
IRRI senior scientist Sigrid Heuer, who led the team that
published the discovery in the scientific journal, Nature.
''In field tests in Indonesia and the Philippines, rice
with the PSTOL-1 gene produced about 20 per cent more grain
than rice without the gene,'' she said.
''In our pot experiments, when we use soil that is really
low in phosphorus, we see yield increases of 60 per cent
and more,'' she added.
The IRRI said scientists in Indonesia were breeding rice
plants with the gene and that the new varieties could be
available to farmers within a few years.
''The plants are not genetically modified, just bred using
smart modern breeding techniques,'' it said.
The finding also shows the importance of conserving genetic
diversity of traditional crop varieties, the institute said.
It conserves more than 114,000 types of rice in its gene
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