Scientists have identified a protein in rice that will enable them to improve rice yields by more than 50%.
Tony Miller, senior scientist at the John Innes Centre in the UK, and researchers at Nanjing Agricultural University in China have developed rice crops that can draw significantly more nitrogen, iron and phosphorous from soil and increase yield by up to 54 percent.
Maintaining the correct pH balance in rice, a crop that feeds almost 50 percent of the world’s population, is key to productivity. Use of fertilisers can make the plant too alkaline or acidic, which will affect plant health and crop yield.
Miller’s team has discovered a protein that helps rice plants buffer themselves against pH changes in their environment.
“Now that we know this particular protein found in rice plants can greatly increase nitrogen efficiency and yields, we can begin to produce new varieties of rice and other crops,” he said. “These findings bring us a significant step closer to being able to produce more of the world’s food with a lower environmental impact.”
According to the World Bank rice is the world’s most important food crop in terms of providing calorific intake.
It provides, on average, more than 20% of human dietary energy. In some countries, such as Bangladesh, Cambodia and Myanmar, this figure is closer to 70%.