Drought Tolerant Lines Improved Through Mutation

Good harvest under drought condition is now possible with the development of five breeding lines that can thrive well even with less water in rainfed areas.

Bred by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), the drought-screened (DrS) lines include DrS 1062, DrS 1085, DrS 1061, DrS 1042, and DrS 1057. The lines, which are identified under moderate to severe drought conditions, were developed from NSIC Rc 9 (Apo).

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NHX transporters from Jerusalem artichoke improves salinity tolerance in rice

The NHX-type cation transporters in plants have been shown to mediate cation exchange for salinity tolerance and potassium homoeostasis. Yang Zeng of Nanjing Agricultural University in China identified and characterized two NHX homologs, HtNHX1 and HtNHX2, from an infertile and salinity tolerant Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus).

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CRISPR-Cas9 Genome Editing in MicroRNA of Rice

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs with roles in plant development and stress responses. Loss-of-function analysis of miRNA genes has been challenging due to the lack of suitable knockout tools. A team of scientists from various universities, led by Jian-Ping Zhou from the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, aim to study miRNA genes, specifically OsMIR528, in rice using CRISPR-Cas9.

Frequencies of mutants T0 lines ranged from 48% to 89% at all target sites. Three independent guide RNAs (gRNAs) all generated biallelic mutations among mutant lines. This demonstrates that CRISPR-Cas9 is an effective tool for knocking out plant miRNAs. However, single-base pair (bp) mutations in mature miRNA regions were found to lead to the generation of functionally redundant miRNAs, while large deletions were found to abolish miRNA function. Analysis found that OsMIR528 is a positive regulator of salt stress.

This work provides guidelines on targeting miRNAs with CRISPR-Cas9 and also brings new insights into miRNA function in rice.

For more information, read the article in Frontiers in Plant Science.

CRISPR-mediated Knockout of SaF/SaM Overcomes the Hybrid Male Sterility in Rice

Hybrids between the indica and japonica subspecies of rice (Oryza sativa) are usually sterile, which hinders the use of heterosis in the inter-subspecific hybrid breeding. The complex locus Sa comprises two adjacently located genes, SaF and SaM, which interact to cause abortion of pollen grains carrying the japonica allele in japonica-indica hybrids. In this study, Yongyao Xie of the South China Agricultural University aims to restore male fertility in indica-japonica hybrids via silencing of SaF or SaM.

RNA interference restored male fertility in indica-japonica hybrids with heterozygous Sa. The team then used CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing to knockout the SaF and SaM alleles of an indica rice line to create hybrid-compatible lines. The resultant alleles did not affect pollen viability and other agricultural traits, but broke down the reproductive barrier in the hybrids. They also found that some rice lines have natural neutral allele Sa-n, which was compatible with the typical japonica or indica alleles in hybrids.

This study provides basis for the generation of hybrid-compatible lines by knocking out the Sa locus or using the natural Sa-n allele to overcome hybrid male sterility in rice breeding.

For more information, read the article in Journal of Integrative Plant Biology.

-Published in ISAAA Crop Biotech Update.  See original article link here.

CRISPR-Cas system: Revolutionizing the genetic blueprint of rice

One of the most discussed scientific events in today’s world is the discovery and application of the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) system in genome editing. CRISPR is simply a specialized bacterial immune system that scientists have modified into a tool for eliminating or manipulating the set of genetic instructions in animals, plants, and even humans. This tool is easy to use and cheap, which adds more value for this technology for rice scientists working on eliminating or modifying unwanted traits and inserting new traits to improve the crop’s yield, resistance to diseases, and ability to thrive under harsh environmental conditions.

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Climate-smart rice helps farmers face climate change

Stress-tolerant rice varieties can help farmers face the challenges of climate change, according to Matthew Morell, Director General of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Morell stressed this during his Millenium Lecture at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai, India on February 10, 2017. Furthermore, he labeled rice as “the engine of food security” since more than half of the world’s population consider rice as their daily staple food. Thus, the efforts of rice scientists to improve rice are vital in addressing hunger and malnutrition in developing countries.

Morell also discussed the climate change-ready rice varieties developed by IRRI and its partners, which produce high yields and at the same time tolerant to flooding, drought, and saline soils.

Read the news article from IRRI.

-Published in ISAAA’s Crop Biotech Update.  See original article link here.

Newton Agham award P620 million in science and innovation grants

The British government, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) are providing over £10 million (approximately P620 million) in grants and collaborative projects in the third year of the Newton Agham Programme.

The science grants aim to help solve core challenges in long term social and economic development in the Philippines, including energy security, disaster response, health care, environmental resilience and food security.

British Ambassador Asif Ahmad said, “While capitalizing on the Philippines and the United Kingdom’s strengths in research and innovation, jointly supporting these projects shall create significant impact on improving living standards and promoting economic growth. Solutions to development challenges are created alongside the advancement of UK and Philippine science and innovation expertise, which are key drivers to economic development.”

The awardees were recognized in a recent reception held at the British ambassador’s residence.

The UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and PhilRice are cofunding research projects on the sustainable production of rice; two projects are working on improving the nutritional quality of rice and the other two focus on creating greater resilience of the rice plant to diseases and environmental stresses due to climate change.

The awards also include eight PhD scholarships and 10 Institutional Links grants cofunded by the British Council and the CHED.

CHED Chairman Patricia Licuanan said, “We are pleased to jointly award, in partnership with the British Council-Newton Fund, grants to our top scholars who are paving the way for the deepening of expertise in science and technology, as well as to our best institutions that the are now working side by side with the foremost universities in the UK, to innovate on solutions in the areas of health care, digital literacy and green energy, among others.”

Institutional Links grants develop research and innovation collaborations and support the exchange of expertise among academic groups, departments and institutions in the Philippines and the UK. Science Secretary Fortunato de la Peña highlighted the key principles of the Newton Agham Programme that are part of the Philippine government’s new 10-point economic agenda.

Particularly, he refers to investing in human-capital development, including health and education systems, to meet the demands of business and private sector; improving social-protection programs, for the protection of the citizenry, especially the disadvantaged from instability and economic shocks; and the promotion of science, technology and the creative arts to enhance innovation and creativity toward self-sustaining and inclusive development.

De la Peña said, “These key items of our economic agenda, centered on creating genuine, positive change in our nation through science and technology, underly our renewed and reinvigorated determination to continue support for the Newton-Agham Programme”.

The DOST is cofinancing two research partnership projects with the Research Councils UK, the 15 leaders ininnovation fellows with the UK Royal Academy of Engineering and the DOST Pagasa-UK Met Office partnership on Weather and Climate Science for Service.

The Newton Fund builds scientific and innovation partnerships with 16 partner-countries to support their economic development and social welfare, and to develop their research and innovation capacity for long-term sustainable growth. It has a total UK government investment of £735 million until 2021, with matched resources from the partner-countries.

In the Philippines the program is known as the Newton Agham (Science) Programme to reflect the collaboration between the UK and the Philippines in science, research and innovation.

-Published in BusinessMirror.  See original article link here.

Climate-smart rice key to farmer resilience, says IRRI head

CHENNAI, India – Stress-tolerant rice varieties can help make farmers more resilient against the increasingly destructive effects of climate change, said Matthew Morell, director general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

Delivering the Millenium Lecture at the M.S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) in Chennai on 10 February,  Morell described rice as “the engine of food security,” citing that more than half of the world’s population—or nearly four billion people—eat rice as their daily staple.

IRRI’s research activities, conducted in collaboration with national governments, have resulted in high-yielding improved varieties that saved Asia from famines in the 1960s and 70s.

More recently, with the onslaught of climate change, IRRI and its partners have developed high-yielding rice varieties tolerant of environmental stresses such as flooding, drought, and soil salinity. Morell called the “climate change-ready rice varieties,” which have been deployed in stress-prone areas of India, as an important part of helping farmers become more resilient.

The MSSRF is a nonprofit trust founded by M.S. Swaminathan, World Food Prize awardee in 1987 and former IRRI director general. It serves as a research center on sustainable agriculture and rural development.

-Published in IRRI.  See original article link here.

PHL tackles food security through UK’s Newton Fund

Rice researchers, scientists and funding partners from the Philippines and the United Kingdom, along with those from China, Thailand and Vietnam, converged early this month at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Los Baños, to collaborate and share issues in sustainable rice production.

Thirteen projects funded through the Newton Fund UK-Philippines-China-Thailand-Vietnam Sustainable Rice Programme presented the current outputs of their research which address real-world problems as varied as lowering the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases for rice consumers, to increasing rice plant drought tolerance.

The three-year research projects began in 2016 and will continue until 2019. The Newton Fund Sustainable Rice Programme showcases an innovative mix of regional and country approaches that aim to help solve core challenges in global food security.

About 60 researchers, joined by representatives from the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and each of the country’s funding partners came together to explore ways to collaborate further, including sharing resources, lessons learned and data that can add value to their current projects and strengthen links with their counterparts from participating countries.

Deputy Ambassador to the Philippines Nigel Boud, in his welcome remarks to the delegates, said: “This is the first regional research program that we are running under the Newton Fund and it brings together countries to collaborate on work that is so important, like the sustainable production of rice. It demonstrates the kind of work that we want to be doing in the Newton Programme in the years ahead.”

Together with Dr. Bruce Tolentino, deputy director general of IRRI, the delegates noted the significance of rice research to the country and the region, noting the importance of rice and the regional collaboration being achieved through the projects.

Of the 13 projects, four involve scientists from the Department of Agriculture (DA)-Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice). Two projects are working on improving the nutritional quality of rice and the other two focus on creating greater resilience of the rice plant to diseases and environmental stresses due to climate change.

One PhilRice researcher involved in the projects, Dr. Riza G. Abilgos-Ramos, said: “Our work will help to provide part of the solution in preventing type 2 diabetes and other chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular diseases, by increasing dietary fiber and enhancing rice-grain properties that would help to manage or prevent spikes in blood sugar increase after meals.

“The Newton Fund gives us the chance to do this with experts from different countries and allow us to expand our network in the UK and Southeast Asia.” Ramos is a supervising science research specialist in the Rice Chemistry and Food Science Division of PhilRice. The IRRI visit was highlighted by a tour of the research facilities, group presentations, poster-sharing sessions and clinic sessions.

Representatives from partners DA-PhilRice, Department of Science and Technology (DOST)-Philippine Council for Agriculture Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Chinese Academy of Science, and Thailand National Science and Technology Development Agency were among the delegates.

The Newton Fund builds scientific and innovation partnerships with 16 partner-countries to support their economic development and social welfare, and to develop their research and innovation capacity for long-term sustainable growth. It has a total UK government investment of £735 million up until 2021, with matched resources from the partner countries.

In the Philippines the program is known as the Newton Agham (Science) Programme to reflect the collaboration between the UK and the Philippines in science, research and innovation.

The UK delivery partners and the UK government, through its embassy, works with Philippine science and innovation institutions and funders, such as the DOST and the Commission on Higher Education, to codevelop and implement program that strengthen science and innovation capacity and create solutions to development challenges in the Philippines and in the region.

– Published in BusinessMirror.  See original article link here.