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Crop Biotech Update

IRRI Scientists Develop Phosphorus-efficient Rice

August 24, 2012

Scientists at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) have discovered a gene, PSTOL1, which enables rice to grow bigger and better roots to help absorb more phosphorus. Phosphorus is an important nutrient in the production of food crops, and thus it is necessary to develop phosphorus-efficient crops to achieve food security and reduce fertilizer use.

Dr. Matthyas Wissuwa from Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences identified a major quantitative trait locus associated with phosphorus-deficiency tolerance, Pup1, in conventional rice variety Kasalath. Then, in collaboration with a team of scientists at IRRI led by Dr. Sigrid Heuer, they found a Pup1-specific protein kinase gene, which they labeled as phosphorus-starvation tolerance 1 (PSTOL1).

The team also found that the overexpression of PSTOL1 in modern rice varieties could increase grain yield when exposed to phosphorus-deficient soil. They conducted more analyses and found that the gene enhances root growth at early stages of development, thus allowing plants to get more phosphorus and other important nutrients.

Read the abstract at http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v488/n7412/full/nature11346.html and the press release at http://irri.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=12275:underground-solution-to-starving-rice-plants&lang=en.