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UK, Vietnam Team up to Sequence Rice Genomes for Better Varieties

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council today announced it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Vietnam's Ministry of Science and Technology to sequence the genomes of 30 varieties of rice.

The sequences will subsequently form the basis of a novel genomics platform that can be used by rice growers to breed rice varieties with improved traits. The John Innes Centre and the Genome Analysis Centre, both at BBSRC, will develop the genomic platform, which will be used to enhance rice breeding at various Vietnamese institutions, such as the Agricultural Genetics Institute.

BBSRC is providing up to £250,000 ($409,433) to the effort and MOST is funding up to £100,000.

Rice, a staple food throughout much of the world, is grown in large part in low lying or delta regions that are at high risk for flooding by seawater as sea levels rise, BBSRC said. In other regions, drought is a major threat.

"With this relatively modest investment, we have the potential to make a very big difference – it could lead to the development of new rice varieties able to cope with even more demanding climate conditions and sustain future population growth," David Willets, the Minister for Universities and Science, said in a statement.

Janet Allen, director of research at BBSRC, added that the global population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, and if half the world's population consumes rice as a food staple, as is estimated, yield would have to increase enough to feed an extra 1 billion people by 2050.

"Current trends in yield increase, combined with the threats arising from climate change, means that without research into new varieties, we are facing the threat of a serious food security crisis," she said.

The rice varieties that will be sequenced were chosen for high quality and yield potential, tolerance to submergence, salinity, drought, and resistance to pests and diseases.

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