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A newly discovered gene could increase rice production by up to a third, according to a study by Chinese scientists, potentially offering a new weapon in the fight against global hunger.
By modifying the plant’s BG1 gene, the researchers said they were able to create one of the largest rice grains on the planet. Strengthening the expression of BG1 could lead to a 33.8 per cent increase in weight per thousand grains, according to Li Jiayang and Chu Chengcai of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology in Beijing.
The genetically modified grain, based on japonica rice, grows to over 8mm in length, longer even than most “long grain” varieties. The grains are also far wider and dwarf all varieties on the market today in terms of mass.
The discovery of BG1 could also potentially be used to boost the production of other commercial agricultural plants, the scientists said. “BG1 exists in … sorghum, medicago, maize and soybean, BG1 may have… roles in improving plant biomass and grain productivity” they wrote in the paper.
But the study left some important questions unanswered. For instance, the exact mechanism of how the BG1 gene regulates plant hormone flow is not fully understood, and possible negative side effects have not been explored. The scientists also did not report the taste of the giant rice.
Their paper was published on August 17, 2015 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Read full, original post: Super rice: newly discovered gene could massively improve rice yields, helping fight world hunger