Biotech Updates

Cornell Researcher Works to Reduce Aluminum Toxicity in Rice

May 11, 2012

Cornell University plant breeder Susan McCouch has identified several promising rice varieties that are tolerant to aluminum, the third most abundant element in soil and toxic to plants in acidic conditions. Together with Leon Kochian of the US Department of Agriculture's Robert Holley Center for Agriculture and Health, they found that japonica varieties are twice more tolerant to aluminum than indica varieties. They also discovered plant mechanisms in different varieties that influence their tolerance to aluminum. Some plants can keep aluminum from entering their roots, while others detoxify the metal inside their root cells. McCouch and her team are also trying to find out if crossing different strains could result in new super-tolerant varieties.

McCouch said that insight into aluminum tolerance in rice will also provide a good model to investigate the effects of aluminum toxicity in other cereal crops such as maize and wheat. Aluminum toxicity is a major limitation to crop production and affects about 50 percent of global arable land, including 20 percent of land in North America.

For more information about this research, read the news release from Cornell University's Press Relations Office at