Advances in rice genetics are key to global food security

Successful rice production is critically important to the food security of millions around the world. New genetics research is establishing the foundation needed to ensure rice resists the pressures of less-than-optimal environmental conditions and destructive pests.

Scientists in Illinois collaborated with colleagues in the Philippines and China to map out potentially favorable genes in hundreds of wild plants related to cultivated rice. Their results indicate some genes with exceptional tolerance to cold growing temperatures and too-salty conditions.

With these results, plant breeders may be able to develop new kinds of rice with improved cold hardiness and greater tolerance to salinity. The research also has begun to identify genes for helping the crop become more resistant to the rice leafroller, one of rice’s most destructive pests.