London: Scientists are developing a salt-resistant rice variety after a huge tsunami last year hit paddy fields in Japan leaving behind a salty sludge.
Farmlands that accumulate salt have lower crop yields, which can threaten food supply, as rice happens to be the staple of billions of people worldwide.
"The beauty of the new method (called MutMap) is its simplicity," said Sophien Kamoun, professor and head of the Sainsbury Lab on Norwich Reserch Park, who co-authored the study which was reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
"By working with cultivars favoured by farmers and already adapted to local conditions, the MutMap method will enable plant scientists and breeders to develop new crop varieties in nearer a year rather than five to 10 years," added Kamoun.
The new method can also improve rice productivity worldwide. Even otherwise, much of the crop is often grown on land that is prone to high levels of salinity.
The new technique also takes advantage of the speed at which sequencing can now be done to screen plant mutants for valuable traits, according to a Norwich and Iwate Research Centre statement.
"Until now, plant breeding has not been able to take advantage of the genomics revolution," said Ryohei Terauchi, professor at Iwate Biotechnology Research Centre, Japan, who led the study.
"MutMap overcomes one of the greatest limitations, which has been the time it takes to identify genetic markers for desirable traits," Terauchi added.