Biotech Updates

Researchers to Improve Iron Toxicity Tolerance and Yield of Rice in Africa

September 19, 2018

Iron toxicity is one of the main barriers in increasing rice production, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. Conventional, indigenous rice varieties in Africa have tolerance to iron toxicity, but produce low yields. Thus, scientists from Cranfield University, UK, will conduct a research project to overcome this problem.

The study, led by Prof. Guy Kirk, will evaluate the traits that enable African rice varieties to tolerate iron toxicity and incorporate the traits to high yielding varieties. The team will also try to map areas where the new rice varieties will be most beneficial. The researchers will use techniques in soil chemistry, plant physiology, and molecular genetics, together with plant breeders and agronomists based in West Africa and Madagascar.

"There is widespread recognition of the need to increase sub-Saharan rice production to meet projected increases in demand for rice. Less than 10% of the total inland valley area in sub-Saharan Africa could be sufficient to meet the demand for rice in Africa if we can overcome iron toxicity. But currently, increased production with low-yielding varieties and poor management is destroying large swathes of natural ecosystems in inward valleys. With realistic improvements in varieties and management, we can greatly reduce the amount of land needed and therefore safeguard the vital biodiversity of the African inward valleys," said Prof. Kirk.

Read more from Cranfield University.