Researchers are exploring whether genetic engineering tools may be able to help cut the methane emissions stemming from rice production, Bloomberg reports.
It adds that growing rice produces 34 million tons of methane a year, as the flooded fields needed to grow rice promote the growth of methane-producing bacteria in the covered soil. In a recent Nature Microbiology paper, researchers led by the University of California, Berkeley's Jillian Banfield and Jennifer Doudna combined environmental transformation sequencing (ET-seq) with a DNA-editing all-in-one RNA-guided CRISPR–Cas transposase (DART) system to make species- and site-specific edits within a microbial community, like that of soil.
As Bloomberg writes, this approach could speed up work to better understand the methane-producing microbes and uncover ways to lower methane emissions. "This is all very blue-sky at the present time," Banfield tells it. "First, we want to understand the pieces and how they fit together."
Bloomberg notes that other work, such as from the University of California, Davis's Pamela Ronald on rice genomes, could be combined to bring methane production levels down even further.