Experts identify fungus-resistant gene in rice
Hong Kong: Researchers in Japan have identified a gene that allows rice plants to fight off a fungal disease called blast, which may open the way for farmers to cultivate hardier plants.Using genetic sequencing, they were also able to separate the gene, Pi21, from a nearby gene that is associated with a "poor flavor," they wrote in a paper published in Science.
Currently, varieties of rice plants that are resistant to blast are also non-sticky and hard, which many Japanese people consider to be of a poor quality.
To test their findings, the team inserted the gene into a superior species of rice and the result was a fungal resistant rice that retained a superior flavor.
"The (blast) resistant rice was good ... the rice was sticky and taste was good," said the leader of the team Shuichi Fukuoka at the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences` Genomics Research Center in a phone interview.
Fukuoka said their finding would be useful in mountainous rice-cultivating areas in Japan where blast can cause serious damage.
The team would also be looking for other disease resistant genes, which it hopes to combine with Pi21.
"We are looking for other disease resistant genes and we want to combine them ... which will make stronger and more durable (rice plants)," Fukuoka said.
First Published: Friday, August 21, 2009, 00:00
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