MANILA, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- Scientists from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Japan announced on Tuesday the discovery of a rice gene that has the potential to increase the production of modern long-grain indica rice varieties.
The SPIKE gene was found to increase the output of indica rice varieties--considered the world's most widely grown types of rice-- by 13 to 36 percent.
"We discovered the gene, SPIKE, in an Indonesian tropical japonica rice variety," said rice breeder Dr. Nobuya Kobayasahi of the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization-Institute of Crop Science and a former IRRI scientist.
The Philippine-based IRRI said tropical japonica rice is mainly grown in East Asia and accounts for only about 10 percent of global rice output.
Incorporating the SPIKE gene into indica varieties that are very popular and widely used across 70 percent of global rice- growing areas could significantly contribute to food security, it added.
IRRI breeders had earlier observed traits related to higher yield potential such as large panicles and large leaves in several Indonesian tropical japonica rice varieties. But the specific gene responsible for higher yield among these varieties had not been identified.
The discovery of SPIKE means that breeders can now start incorporating the gene into popular indica rice varities. Kobayashi said the gene can improve plant architecture without altering grain quality or growth periods.
IRRI scientists validated the function of the SPIKE gene and it is now being used by breeders of the institute to boost the yield potential of leading local rice varieties.
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