Rice is the staple food of people in Southeast Asia. While it is seldom served in Western countries' table, rice is eaten in almost every day life of Asian families. And mind you, it's freaking delicious.
People have even found creative ways in cooking it from java rice and paella to mochi
(glutinous rice)! But with its rapid growing demand, it's no-brainer that research on increasing its production is a big help to your Asian neighbors and the other 40%of the population.
So this recent discovery in rice engineering that is expected to result to higher yields in ricefields is indeed a very good news. The engineering process is called C4 photosynthesis which boosts the growth of plants by capturing carbon dioxide and concentrating it in specialized cells in the leaves. This is efficient for the photosynthetic process of the plant's leaves and is actually why sugarcane and corn grow so fast and have higher yields.
The C4 rice, if successful, will be noticeably better than the conventional rice for as early as a few weeks of planting. The C4 rice could also increase yields by 50 percent per hectare with less use of resources like fertilizer and water to produce the same amount of food.
The genius behind this is Paul Quick from the International Rice Research Institute or IRRI in the Philippines. He introduced the C4 gene into a rice plant and it showed the basic version of the supercharged photosynthesis process. But despite the radical genetic changes, the modified rice plant still rely on their natural form of photosynthesis.
So, the researchers need to alter the plants to produce the specialized cells in a certain formation: one set of cells to capture the carbon dioxide, another set of cells that concentrate the carbon dioxide surround the first set of cells- an arrangement called Kranz anatomy.
The thing is, scientists still don't know the genes involved in making these cells, but with new genome editing methods that precisely modify parts of the plant's genomes, it's very possible. As what Thomas Brutnell, a researcher at the Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis said, “Now we have the toolbox to go after this.”
Personally, I'm a fan of rice. So I hope this novel research would be further studied and applied to as much countries as possible. But it doesn't just end there. Scientists noted that this could also soon help increase the production of other plants like wheat, potatoes, soybeans, tomatoes, and apples!